It was a tough round of Vodacom Super Rugby for the four South African franchises in action this weekend as none of them managed to win their matches against Australasian opposition.
It was the first time in more than eight years that four South African teams lost to sides from the other side of the Indian Ocean on one weekend.
In Round 9 in 2007, on 30 and 31 March, the Toyota Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls all came up short in tour matches Down Under, against the Highlanders, Force and Hurricanes respectively, while the Emirates Lions were beaten at home by the Brumbies.
Round 6 in 2008 and Round 8 in 2014 saw three South African defeats offset by a solitary draw against opposition from Australasia.
Just more than a month ago, in Round 9, four Australian lost on one weekend – three of them against South African opponents – when the Force went down to the Toyota Cheetahs in Perth, the Waratahs lost to the DHL Stormers in Sydney, the Reds were beaten by the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and the Brumbies came up short against the Blues in Auckland.
A similar scenario with New Zealand teams happened 15 years ago, in Round 12 in 2000, when all five of their sides lost to teams from South Africa and Australia.
On Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls had to be happy with a losing bonus point in their first tour match as they went down by 23-18 to the Blues in Auckland.
Saturday kicked off with the Cell C Sharks losing in Sydney to the defending champion Waratahs (33-18), while the Emirates Lions lost in Johannesburg to the Brumbies (30-20) and the Highlanders were too for the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (45-24).
The DHL Stormers had a bye this weekend, as they did way back in 2007 when their four South African counterparts also lost.
Blues 23 (16) Vodacom Bulls 18 (13)
The Vodacom Bulls only have themselves to blame for not kicking their Vodacom Super Rugby Australasian tour off on a winning note when they were beaten by 23-16 by the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning.
It was the Bulls’ eighth successive defeat Down Under, but it was a game they could and should have won against a team that has been struggling this year.
The Men from Pretoria struggled to put points on the board in the first half, where they dominated territory and possession. Despite being in firm control of the match, the Vodacom Bulls actually trialled 16-13 at the break.
The Vodacom Bulls’ defence was a bit shoddy and their kicking game also did not come off in Auckland. They looked dangerous at times and Jan Serfontein scored two good tries for the visitors, but it was not enough on a disappointing evening for the three-time champions from Pretoria.
Blues: Tries: Lolagi Visinia, George Moala. Conversions: Ihaia West (2). Penalty goals: West (3).
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: Jan Serfontein (2). Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalty goals: Pollard (2).
Waratahs 33 (13) Cell C Sharks 18 (6)
Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley scored 23 points as the Cell C Sharks went down by 33-18 against the defending champions from New South Wales in Sydney on Saturday.
The visitors can hold their heads high though – the final score was probably not a fair reflection of the contest and they certainly didn’t have the ball bounce in their direction, while still making too many defensive errors.
The match started in the worst possible way for the Cell C Sharks when Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper went over in the first minute, but the Durbanites never gave up.
Two well-worked tries in the second half by Odwa Ndungane – following some quick thinking by Lionel Cronje who cross-kicked a penalty and caught the home team napping – and Frans Steyn saw the Sharks close the gap to 20-18 with 20 minutes to go.
They were still in it late in the game, but Foley scooped up the ball in the 80th minute following another handling error by the Sharks to give the Waratahs their eighth successive home win over the team from KwaZulu-Natal.
Waratahs: Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Teqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley. Conversions: Foley (3). Penalty goals: Foley (4).
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Odwa Ndungane, Frans Steyn. Conversion: Steyn. Penalty goals: Steyn (2).
Emirates Lions 20 (6) Brumbies 30 (22)
The Emirates Lions ran into some strong Brumbies defence at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg as they went down by 30-20 to the Australian Conference leaders.
The same thing that has been happening to the Lions in recent weeks, happened again on Saturday – despite a solid start, they found themselves behind on the score board at the break.
The Brumbies scored three quick tries midway through the first half, with the home team not converting their opportunities into points.
This week however, the visitors held out in the second half and despite tries by Jaco Kriel and Andries Coetzee late in the game, the Lions simply never had enough left in the tank to trouble the Brumbies, who took a full-house of five log points home from Johannesburg.
Emirates Lions: Tries: Jaco Kriel, Andries Coetzee. Conversions: Elton Jantjies, Jaco van der Walt. Penalty goals: Jantjies, Ruan Combrinck.
Brumbies: Tries: Tevita Kuridrani, Ita Vaea, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane. Conversions: Lealiifano (2). Penalty goals: Lealiifano, Jesse Mogg.
Toyota Cheetahs 24 (3) Highlanders 45 (26)
The Highlanders started like a house on fire as they kept their unbeaten record in South Africa against the Toyota Cheetahs intact with a 45-24 victory at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.
The visitors from New Zealand had their try-scoring bonus-point in the bag after half an hour, with debutant Ryan Tongia crossing for a brace of tries in the first 20 minutes. Ten minutes into the second half the Highlanders had scored six tries and were leading by 38-3.
That was roughly when the Cheetahs finally woke up from their slumber.
Three tries in seven minutes by Ryno Benjamin, Carl Wegner and Francois Venter gave their supporters a little bit of hope that they might claw their way back into the match, but the founds another gear late in the match as Ben Smith dotted down for their seventh try to put the result beyond any doubt.
Toyota Cheetahs: Try: Carl Wegner, Francois Venter, Ryno Benjamin. Conversions: Francois Brummer (3). Penalty goal: Brummer.
Highlanders: Tries: Aaron Smith (2), Ben Smith, Gareth Evans, Patrick Osborne, Ryan Tongia (2). Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (4), Marty Banks.
Other results – Round 14:
Reds 46 Rebels 29
Hurricanes 22 Chiefs 18