Bulls and Cheetahs it is …

It was only the Stormers who dropped the ball on the scoreboard, but while the other 3 wins look good on paper, do we have a side that can take the trophy?

Tank Lanning

The Bulls moved up to second spot on the overall log, but left the scoring of the bonus point try in their 35-18 win over the struggling Highlanders in Pretoria very late indeed!

On Friday afternoon the Sharks managed to finish a disappointing tour of New Zealand and Australia on a high when they beat the Force in Perth, while the Cheetahs caught the Reds on an off-day in Bloemfontein, with Piet van Zyl scoring a brace of tries.

The Stormers’ tour Down Under ended in heartbreak after they lost in the last few minutes to the Rebels in Melbourne.

All five sides have now concluded their Australasian tours, with the Cheetahs doing the best, winning three of their four matches for a haul of 12 log points.

The Kings won 1, drew 1 and lost 2 to return with 7 log points, while the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls all collected 6 points on tour.

Match reviews:

Rebels 30 (13) Stormers 21 (14)

The Stormers’ tour of Australasia ended in despair as they became the first SA Super Rugby team to lose to the Rebels. It was due mainly to a late controversial penalty try awarded to the Rebels when Martin Bezuidenhout held Nick Phipps back, which, according to the TMO, prevented a probably try.

Sure they might have won the game had they not conceded the penalty try, but for a side that topped the log last year to be scrapping with the Rebels a year later shows the enormity of the demise. And when will skipper Jean de Villiers learn to take the 3 points on offer? Win the game first, then think about bonus points …

Excluding the penalty try, the Capetonians outscored their hosts by three tries to two, but their discipline again let them down big time, with Jason Woodward slotting a number of penalty goals which kept his team in the mix.

Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham got the first try of the match, in the 12th minute, but the Stormers’ Louis Schreuder and Bryan Habana dotted down to ensure they went into the break leading 14-13.

Two locks got in on the try-scoring action after the break – first Hugh Pyle put the home team back in front, but then big Andries Bekker took a pass from fellow lock Eben Etzebeth to go over in the corner and fullback Joe Pietersen’s conversion moved the Stormers back into a 1 point lead.

The final 20 minutes were pretty intense, until the penalty try and Woodward’s third penalty goal in the dying moments of the match meant the Rebels got their first win in 12 matches over opposition from the Republic.

The scrum was iffy, one moment excellent, the next average, the lineout misses were costly, as were the mistakes in general play. Van Aswegen did not look the part when he came on, and the Stormers just looked like a side that had no idea about the type of game they were trying to play.

Rebels – Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Hugh Pyle, Penalty try. Conversions: Jason Woodward (3). Penalty goals: Woodward (3).

Stormers – Tries: Louis Schreuder, Bryan Habana, Andries Bekker. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3).


Force 13 (10) Sharks 23 (7)

The first half of this game should be used as a method of torture; such was the dullness on offer!

A relatively strong second half performance, though, ensured the Sharks put a five-match losing-streak behind them when they beat the Force in Perth on Friday.

A classic it wasn’t, and even hard core Sharks fans would admit their team were still not close to their best, but a win is a win and this was a much-needed victory.

Pat Lambie kicked 13 points with his trusty right boot, missing 2 out of 7 attempts in the end. Sharks captain Keegan Daniel and Riaan Viljoen scored good tries for the visitors, who only conceded one, shortly before the break.

Viljoen’s try, with less than 20 minutes left on the clock, was crucial. He stepped this way past a few defenders and beat one tackle before diving over for the try which broke a 13-13 deadlock at a time when both sides were pressing hard.

Lambie’s third penalty, in the 73rd minute, put the Sharks ahead by 10 points, and that is how it stayed until the end.

Force – Try: Kyle Godwin. Conversion: Jayden Hayward. Penalty goals: Hayward (2).

Sharks – Tries: Keegan Daniel, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalty goals: Lambie (3).


Bulls 35 (23) Highlanders 18 (6)

As much as the scoreline suggests complete dominance from the home side, for much of the second half, it was the Highlanders who looked the better side, and the side most likely to score … it was a strange old game.

Mistakes and more mistakes almost cost the Bulls dearly, but they managed to do what they set out to do, and overcome the struggling Highlanders.

After scoring their first try in second minute when JJ Engelbrecht, looking bloody good at outside centre these days, went over and their third, by Pierre Spies in his 100th Super Rugby match, shortly after half-time, the Bulls seemed to be cruising.

However, they struggled to get their fourth try for a crucial bonus point which saw them move up to second on the log. In fact, it only happened in the 78th minute when Jano Vermaak sniped around the blind side for this very crucial try.

The Bulls’ defence was good and they kept the Highlanders out until late in the game, while their pack also smothered the visitors with some typical power-rugby, but their handling largely let them down in this scrappy match.

There were also a couple of lucky bounces for the Pretorians, and they will need to up their game to get past better opposition, but it was their fifth successive victory since returning to SA from their Australasian tour, and winning is definitely a habbit!

Bulls – Tries: JJ Engelbrecht, Akona Ndungane, Pierre Spies, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Morné Steyn (3). Penalty goals: Steyn.

Highlanders – Tries: Fumiaki Tanaka, Tamati Ellison. Conversion: Hayden Parker. Penalty goals: Colin Slade (2).


Cheetahs 27 (18) Reds 13 (6)

Two sublime first-half tries by nippy scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who must have caught Heyneke Meyer’s eye by now, ensured a vital win against the Reds, who, after a few unlucky bounces early in the game, seemed to lose a little interest!

After last weekend’s disappointing home defeat to the Hurricanes, the Cheetahs bounced back in fine fashion against one of the leading teams in the competition.

The two Van Zyl tries, in the 3rd and 24th minutes, ensured the Cheetahs played most of the match on the front foot as they kept the Reds at bay.

Flyhalf Elgar Watts, who was successful with 6 out of 7 kicks at goal for a personal haul of 17 points, and looked more and more comfortable at this level as the game progressed, regularly added to the Cheetahs’ points tally, taking advantage of the Reds’ ill-discipline within striking range.

Their defence was also very good yet again – the Reds, one of the top six teams in the competition, could only score one try, and that came in the 78th minute of the match when Ben Lucas went over in the corner.

The Cheetahs definitely play the best brand of rugby out of all the SA sides, always willing to give it a go, and having added a more steely defence, and class players in key positions, they are now contenders. But this win was not quite as convincing as the scoreline suggests, and had the Reds scored early in the match, this might not have gone as well as it did for the Bloem boys.

Cheetahs – Tries: Piet van Zyl (2). Conversion: Elgar Watts. Penalty goals: Watts (5).

Reds – Tries: Ben Lucas. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalty goals: Cooper (2).


Other results – Round 14:

Hurricanes 12 Chiefs 17 (Wellington)

Crusaders 23 Blues 3 (Christchurch)

Waratahs 28 Brumbies 22 (Sydney)


Super Rugby log:

Chiefs Pld:12 W:9 Pts:48

Bulls Pld:11 W:8 Pts:46

Brumbies Pld:12 W:7 Pts:46

Reds Pld:13 W:8 Pts:44

Crusaders Pld:11 W:7 Pts:42

Blues Pld:11 W:6 Pts:41

Cheetahs Pld:12 W:8 Pts:40

Waratahs Pld:12 W:7 Pts:38

Hurricanes Pld:12 W:6 Pts:34

Sharks Pld:12 W:6 Pts:33

Stormers Pld:11 W:4 Pts:30

Rebels Pld:12 W:3 Pts:28

Kings Pld:11 W:3 Pts:24

Force Pld:13 W:2 Pts:19

Highlanders Pld:11 W:1 Pts:16


This week’s fixtures:

Friday 24 May

09:35 Chiefs vs Crusaders

11:40 Rebels vs Waratahs

Saturday 25 May

09:35 Blues vs Brumbies

11:40 Force vs Highlanders

15:00 Kings vs Cheetahs

17:05 Stormers vs Reds

19:10 Sharks vs Bulls