The DHL Stormers top the log as the only unbeaten team left in Vodacom Super Rugby 2012 and the Vodacom Bulls smashed an interesting record in Pretoria on Saturday.
These two sides are currently flying the South African flag in the competition. The DHL Stormers occupy first position on the log and the Vodacom Bulls fourth, as top “wild card” side, after their respective victories over the MTN Lions (24-19) and Reds (61-8) during round five.
Unfortunately the Sharks (34-30 against the Waratahs in Sydney) and the Toyota Cheetahs (28-21 against the Crusaders in Christchurch) lost on Saturday.
Waratahs 34 (13) The Sharks 30 (17)
The Waratahs put in a solid second-half performance as The Sharks seemed to lose steam in their 34-30 defeat to the team from Sydney in an entertaining Vodacom Super Rugby encounter at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday morning.
This is one Sharks fans will feel got away from their team as they could not keep their performance up for the full 80 minutes. At times, the KwaZulu-Natalians looked very dangerous, but the home side finished stronger, scoring three second half tries to one in a very even match.
The Sharks were quick out of the blocks, with Lwazi Mvovo crossing in the fourth minute. Keegan Daniel’s try later in the first half put the visitors ahead at the break, but the Waratahs came out stronger in the second stanza.
The home side fought back with two quick tries midway through the second half, but John Plumtree’s men were ahead on the score board going into the final 10 minutes, thanks to Bismarck du Plessis’ earlier second half try and some pin-point goal kicking by Pat Lambie, who slotted six from seven shots at goal to surpass 250 Vodacom Super Rugby career points.
Then their concentration slipped again as young Waratah-winger Tom Kingston broke Sharks hearts with the winning try five minutes from fulltime.
Waratahs – Tries: Brendan McKibbin, Bernard Foley, Tom Carter, Tom Kingston. Conversions: McKibbin (3), Berrick Barnes. Penalty goals: McKibbin (2).
The Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversions: Pat Lambie (3). Penalty goals: Lambie (3).
Crusaders 28 (11) Toyota Cheetahs 21 (3)
The Toyota Cheetahs delivered their best-ever Vodacom Super Rugby performance against the Crusaders in New Zealand when they were pipped at the post by 28-21 by the seven-time champions in Christchurch on Saturday morning.
In their three previous visits to Canterbury, the Toyota Cheetahs lost by respectively 39 points (2010), 48 points (2008) and 36 points (2006). On Saturday, they were still level with the Crusaders with less than five minutes on the clock, but then Israel Dagg scored the winning try for the home side after a period of relentless pressure.
The Toyota Cheetahs however deserve credit – despite struggling in the scrums, they never gave up even though it looked at stages if the Crusaders were going to run away with it. Two second half tries, by Johan Goosen and Robert Ebersohn, kept the visitors in the hunt.
Goosen’s try was a beaut. It started with a turnover deep in the Toyota Cheetahs’ half of the field and ended with the SA Under-20 flyhalf, who is currently at the top of the points’ scorers list for 2012, crossing in the corner after some good handling and running down the left side of the field.
In the end, the Crusaders’ experience probably won them this game – their first back in Christchurch since May 2010, following last year’s devastating earthquakes.
Crusaders – Tries: Israel Dagg, Robbie Fruean, Sean Maitland. Conversions: Tom Taylor (2). Penalty goals: Taylor (3).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Johan Goosen, Robert Ebersohn. Conversion: Goosen. Penalty goals: Goosen (3).
Vodacom Bulls 61 (16) Reds 8 (3)
It was one-way traffic at Loftus Versfeld as the Vodacom Bulls crushed the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champs, the Reds, by 61-8 on Saturday afternoon. It’s the biggest defeat ever by a team that is defending their title and also the joint-seventh biggest victory in this competition.
The home side scored eight tries – seven of those coming in the second half – against a depleted Reds side that struggled with the physicality and intensity displayed by the Vodacom Bulls.
The Reds’ defence was also not up to scratch as they recorded their biggest defeat since the final round robin match of 2007, when they were also slaughtered by the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria (92-3).
It was also the Vodacom Bulls’ biggest victory since that day at Loftus Versfeld and the ninth time since they won the title for the first time in 2007 that they scored 50 points.
The Vodacom Bulls squandered a number of try-scoring opportunities in the first half, but still went into the break 16-3 up. The second half was a completely different story as they almost scored at will. Three of the Pretorians’ tries came in the final 10 minutes, while Morné Steyn slotted all eight his kicks at goal for a personal contribution of 19 points.
The biggest wins in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby are: by 89 points (Vodacom Bulls 92 Reds 3 in 2007), 77 (Crusaders 96 Waratahs 19 in 2002), 64 (Brumbies 73 Vodacom Bulls 9 in 1999 and Brumbies 64 Cats 0 in 2000), 61 (Vodacom Bulls 75 DHL Stormers 14 in 2005 and Waratahs 73 MTN Lions 12 in 2010) and 53 (Vodacom Bulls 61 Reds 8 in 2012, Blues 60 Hurricanes 7 in 2002 and Crusaders 53 Force 0 in 2007).
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Zane Kirchner, Wynand Olivier, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, CJ Stander, JJ Engelbrecht, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Morné Steyn (5), Louis Fouche. Penalty goals: Steyn (3).
Reds – Try: Don Shipperley. Penalty goal: Jonathan Lance.
MTN Lions 19 (7) DHL Stormers 24 (18)
The DHL Stormers had to dig deep to hold on to the first position on the Vodacom Super Rugby log as the only unbeaten side in 2012 when they beat the MTN Lions by 24-19 at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.
It was a game in which the Capetonians dominated early and then took control again towards the end, as the MTN Lions never gave up. The DHL Stormers raced to a lead of 18-0 in the first half hour, but the home team clawed their way back to 18-16 after 60 minutes.
The MTN Lions enjoyed the bulk of the possession. As a result, the DHL Stormers had to make almost three times as many tackles as their hosts, but their defence held firm.
Unfortunately for the MTN Lions their discipline let them down towards the end as two Joe Pietersen penalty goals put any hopes of a victory beyond them. They did get a well-deserved bonus point at the end though, thanks to a dropped goal by Andries Coetzee.
Early in the match the DHL Stormers scored two “milestone tries” – first by Tiaan Liebenberg in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match for the Cape side before Bryan Habana got his 50th try in this competition, making him the first South African and sixth overall to reach this landmark.
The first five players to pass 50 Vodacom Super Rugby tries were Doug Howlett (59 for the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Blues), Caleb Ralph (58 for the Chiefs and Crusaders), Joe Roff (57 for the Brumbies), Christian Cullen (56 for the Hurricanes) and Stirling Mortlock (55 for the Brumbies and Rebels).
MTN Lions – Try: Tian Meyer. Conversion: Butch James. Penalty goals: James (3). Drop goal: Andries Coetzee.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Tiaan Liebenberg, Bryan Habana. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalty goals: Pietersen (4).
Other results – Round 4:
Blues 25 Hurricanes 26 (Auckland)
Melbourne Rebels 30 Western Force 29 (Melbourne)
Brumbies 33 Highlanders 26 (Canberra)