Supporters in Johannesburg and Cape Town were made to worry first before smiling as the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers put away their Australasian opponents in an exciting round of 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby action.
The Cell C Sharks, in their second match of their tour Down Under, also showed a lot of character and played with vigour, but in the end it wasn’t enough against a fired-up Hurricanes side in Wellington.
The table-toppers from New Zealand beat the Durbanites by 32-24 on Saturday morning but with less than 10 minutes to go, the result was still in the balance.
On Saturday afternoon, both the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers had to fight their way back into contention after listless first-half performances.
The Gautengers trialled by 20-3 at the break, but played sublime rugby in the second half and in the end beat the Highlanders by 28-23 in a very exciting match.
The excitement levels were not as high in Cape Town, where the DHL Stormers overturned a 16-9 half-time deficit into a 25-24 victory over the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies.
The first penalty goal of the match by Demetri Catrakilis, who kicked 20 points for the DHL Stormers, saw him move to 28 consecutive successful kicks at goal this season.
However, Catrakilis missed the next one, which would have seen him improve the record to 29. As it stands, the DHL Stormers flyhalf now shares the record with former Capetonian pivot Peter Grant (this is since 2002).
The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs had byes this weekend.
Hurricanes 32 (14) Cell C Sharks 24 (10)
The Cell C Sharks delivered one of their best performances of the season, but still came up short against the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning, going down by 32-24.
The ‘Canes scored 11 points in the final seven minutes to deny the Cell C Sharks a famous victory. In the end, the KwaZulu-Natalians didn’t even get a bonus-point for their efforts, something they certainly deserved.
The home team scored four tries to three, with Bismarck du Plessis, Odwa Ndungane and S’bura Sithole dotting down for the Sharks.
The visitors played with massive passion and really got stuck into the Hurricanes, but the home team’s poise and calmness under pressure probably pulled this one through for them.
The New Zealand leg of their Australasian tour is now something of the past and if the Sharks can build on this performance, they could very well taste victory in Australia.
Hurricanes: Tries: Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Jeremy Thrush, Reggie Goodes. Conversions: James Marshall (3). Penalty goals: Marshall (2).
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, Odwa Ndungane, S’bura Sithole. Conversions: Frans Steyn (3). Penalty goal: Steyn.
Emirates Lions 28 (3) Highlanders 23 (20)
A stirring second-half performance was enough for the Emirates Lions to record their seventh victory of the season when they beat the Highlanders by 28-23 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
After ‘losing’ the first half 20-3, with the Highlanders crossing for two tries, the home team ‘won’ the second half 25-3. This was built on yet another dominant scrum performance, while they also stepped up their defence after the break and played with a lot of speed.
The Emirates Lions’ dominance in the second half was huge. They crossed for three tries in the final 40 minutes, by Jaco Kriel (flank), Courtnall Skosan (wing) and Harold Vorster (centre), while Elton Jantjies (flyhalf) added 10 points with the boot.
It was the Highlanders’ first tour match and also their first defeat to a South African team this season, while the Lions equalled their best-ever season performance with their seventh win of 2015 – they also achieved that last year.
Emirates Lions: Tries: Jaco Kriel, Courtnall Skosan, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty goals: Marnitz Boshoff, Jantjies (2).
Highlanders: Tries: Gareth Evans, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2). Penalty goal: Sopoaga. Drop goals: Sopoaga, Ben Smith.
DHL Stormers 25 (9) Brumbies 24 (16)
The DHL Stormers will be the first to admit it was not perhaps their best performance, but they still went back to the top of the South African Conference with a well-deserved 25-24 victory over the Brumbies at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.
Yet again built on the platform provided by an all-conquering scrum, the DHL Stormers had the visitors on the backfoot for most of the afternoon. But the home team will bemoan some silly mistakes and a less-than-perfect line-out which allowed the Brumbies to keep the score board ticking over, to such an extent that the men from ACT led by 16-3 after 30 minutes.
The DHL Stormers, thanks mainly to a masterful kicking display by Demetri Catrakilis, who contributed 20 points with the boot, clawed their way back into the match. Schalk Burger scored a converted try on the hour mark to put the home team in front for the first time in the match (22-16).
The lead was but by three points but restored to six points when Catrakilis slotted his first drop-goal of the season. The Brumbies got their second try with 10 minutes to go through David Pocock, but the easy conversion by Christian Lealiifano hit the upright and the DHL Stormers hung on for a hard-fought win.
DHL Stormers: Try: Schalk Burger. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (5). Drop-goal: Catrakilis.
Brumbies: Tries: Joe Tomane, David Pocock. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalty goals: Lealiifano (3), Jesse Mogg.
Other results – Round 13:
Crusaders 58 Reds 17
Rebels 42 Blues 22
Force 18 Waratahs 11