Bulls secure SA Conference

The Bulls have booked their place in the Super Rugby quarter finals, while the Sharks and Stormers kept alive their slim chances of reaching the playoffs.

The Bulls have won the SA Conference and booked their place in the Super Rugby quarter finals with an emphatic win over the Kings, and at the same time, the Sharks and Stormers kept alive their mathematical chances of reaching the playoffs by beating the Blues and the Cheetahs respectively.

The Sharks needed a try at the death by Riaan Viljoen (fullback) to beat the Blues for the ninth consecutive time. The Bulls outscored the Kings by six tries to two for their eighth successive victory for the season, and in the final match of the weekend, the Stormers capitalised on an error-strewn performance by the Cheetahs.

Sharks 22 (17) Blues 20 (5)

The Sharks extended their Super Rugby winning streak over the Blues to almost a decade when Riaan Viljoen scored the winning try in the final move of the match.

After 40 minutes The Sharks looked to be cruising to victory as they lead 17-5, thanks to first-half tries by Marcell Coetzee and Charl McLeod, but they went into a lull in the second half and the Blues fought back.

Frank Halai and Rene Ranger scored in the first 10 minutes after the break to draw level and when Baden Kerr added a penalty goal on the hour, the visitors took the lead for the first time in the match.

With 10 minutes to go Pat Lambie missed his fourth penalty attempt which would’ve seen the Sharks draw level and it seemed like the Blues were going to win their first match in Durban since 2004, but Viljoen was not done yet.

The Sharks’ win was set up by a solid performance by their pack, with Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira, who scrummed superbly, walking away with the man of the match award.

Both teams were guilty of making too many unforced errors, but that will not bother fans of the embattled Durbanites, who in the end deserved this win after a tough few weeks off the field. Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo could thus celebrate his 50th match with champagne rather than water.

Sharks – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2).

Blues – Tries: Frank Halai (2), Rene Ranger. Conversion: Chris Noakes. Penalty goal: Baden Kerr.

Bulls 48 (31) Kings 18 (13)

The Bulls will be crowned the SA Conference champions in a fortnight’s time and will contest their seventh Super Rugby playoff match in nine years.

Morné Steyn also became the first player to reach 200 season points by contributing 16 of the home team’s points as they moved up to second position on the combined log.

The Bulls scored six tries – four of them in the first half – to the two by the Kings, both by flanker Wimpie van der Walt. It was a burst of three tries in five minutes towards the end of the opening 40 minutes which ultimately broke the visitors.

At 31-13 at half-time, the game was basically in the bag for the home team, who set up the victory on the back of a very solid set piece and some enterprising play out back, especially in the the Kings’ half.

As with every performance, the Kings deserve credit – they never gave up and managed to disrupt the Bulls at certain times of the match, but they made crucial mistakes on defence.

Bulls – Tries: Louis Fouché, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann. Conversions: Fouché, Morné Steyn (5). Penalty goals: Steyn (2).

Kings – Tries: Wimpie van der Walt (2). Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (2).

Stormers 28 (10) Cheetahs 3 (3)

The Stormers dealt the Cheetahs’ hopes of reaching the playoffs a huge blow at Newlands by keeping things simple and taking the points when they were on offer, while their defence again held firm against a Cheetahs attack that was not particularly sharp.

The visitors enjoyed a lot of territorial advantage, but simply could not breach the Capetonians’ defensive wall. Conversely, the home team took their chances when they had to, with three well-worked tries – two of them after the break – the big difference between the two sides.

Deon Fourie crashed over from a maul in the first half, while Siya Kolisi, named man of the match, ran a great line to round off a good attacking move and Bryan Habana went over in the left hand corner for the home team.

The Cheetahs, whose Sarel Pretorius played his 50th match, could only show one penalty goal, by Riaan Smit, for their efforts as they left Cape Town empty handed, but still in the top six on the overall log with the playoffs a couple of weeks away.

Stormers – Tries: Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalty goals: Pietersen (3).

Cheetahs – Penalty goal: Riaan Smit.

Other results – Round 18:
Chiefs 34 Hurricanes 22 (Hamilton)
Highlanders 12 Crusaders 40 (Dunedin)

Combined Log:
Chiefs Pld:14 W:11 Pts:61
Bulls Pld:14 W:11 Pts:59
Brumbies Pld:15 W:10 Pts:59
Reds Pld:15 W:9 Pts:54
Crusaders Pld:14 W:9 Pts:51
Cheetahs Pld:15 W:9 Pts:46

Waratahs Pld:15 W:8 Pts:44
Blues Pld:14 W:6 Pts:44
Sharks Pld:14 W:7 Pts:42
Stormers Pld:14 W:7 Pts:42
Hurricanes Pld:14 W:6 Pts:39
Rebels Pld:15 W:4 Pts:32
Force Pld:15 W:3 Pts:27
Kings Pld:14 W:3 Pts:24
Highlanders Pld:14 W:2 Pts:22

Next week’s fixtures:
Friday 05 July
09:35 Crusaders vs Chiefs

Saturday 06 July
09:35 Hurricanes vs Highlanders
14:50 Cheetahs vs Blues
17:05 Kings vs Stormers
19:15 Bulls vs Sharks