Upsets throw Vodacom Super 14 playoff battle wide open

PUBLISHED: April 21, 2008

Surprise results over the weekend have thrown the race for playoff places in the 2008 Vodacom Super 14 wide open.

Four of the top six teams before the start of round 10 were beaten, allowing some of the challengers to make up valuable ground on their rivals. The shock results included defeats for the top two teams, the Crusaders and the Sharks who, after nine rounds of play, remained unbeaten.

The Crusaders slumped to their first loss of the 2008 campaign, going down 5-18 against a spirited Chiefs combination. The Chiefs’ win was inspired by flyhalf Stephen Donald, who controlled the game from pivot, preventing the Crusaders from stamping their usual authority. Despite the loss,the Crusaders remain six points clear at the top of the standings.

The Sharks’ first defeat came at the hands of the Brumbies as they went down 21-27 in Canberra. The Sharks’ first defeat of the season reduces their lead over the chasing pack to just one point and piles on the pressure for their final two tour games against the Waratahs and the Crusaders. The win moves the Brumbies one place up the log to eighth.

The Waratahs moved from fourth to third place with a 26-3 bonus point win over the Auto & General Lions whilst the Vodacom Stormers beat fellow challengers the Hurricanes at Newlands to move into fourth place ahead of the Chiefs.

After a tight first half in Sydney in which the Lions were competitive, the Waratahs took control in the final 40 to hand the Lions an eighth successive loss and keep them rooted to the bottom of the log.

The Stormers, who started the day in seventh position, dominated the first half of a closely fought encounter with the Hurricanes to change sides at 10-0. By the 55th minute the Stormers had doubled their lead before the Hurricanes struck back with two well-crafted tries. The Stormers defence was tested in the final 10 minutes but held firm to deny the ‘Canes a bonus point.

The Western Force’s semi-final hopes suffered a serious blow after they were beaten 29-12 by the Reds, their third loss in four matches. The result sees them slip from 6th to 9th position and with much to do to stay in the hunt.

Champions the Vodacom Bulls bounced back from their bad run of form with a 47-17 win over the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. In a much improved showing the Bulls ran in six tries to lift themselves out of the bottom three but it is probably too late for them to have any hope of a place in the last four.