Bulls and Cheetahs in finals mix

The Bulls moved to the top of the log and the Cheetahs made Super Rugby history on a weekend where the top 6 were finalised with a round of action left to play.

Tank Lanning

The Bulls needed a missed Riaan Viljoen penalty in the final seconds of what would be better described as a war than a rugby match, to go top of the log after the Chiefs took a whipping from the form side of the tournament right now. Yep, those Crusaders are going to be a tough lot to beat.

The weekend’s results:

Bulls 20 – 19 Sharks

Kings 12 – 24 Stormers

Cheetahs 34 – 13 Blues

Hurricanes 44 – 49 Highlanders

Crusaders 43 – 15 Chief

A spectacular outcome for the Cheetahs who get into the finals series for the first time ever after finding their scrum and lineout against the Blues, and putting together a performance that we have become more used to this season. With Pierre Spies out for the season, and doubts as to when Duane Vermeuelen will make it back, Philip van der Walt must be a serious Bok no. 8 contender! Next week’s bye means the Cheetahs will finish on 54 log points. It’s the same amount of point the Reds are currently on, meaning they will finish the season in fifth or sixth on the log, depending on the result in the Teds last game against the Tahs.

In PE it was not particularly pretty as the Kings did what they do best – defend like absolute Trojans while putting their bodies on the line to spoil whatever ball the opposition does get their hands on. The Stormers struggled to come to terms with this in your face physicality, but did manage to eke out a less than impressive win.

For the Bulls, things are a bit clearer, although they can still drop down to third position on the overall standings. The Chiefs (away to the Blues) and Brumbies (away to the Force) can still pass them on the log, meaning the three-time champions simply have to beat the Stormers at Newlands next weekend to ensure they finish the season first on the log.

At 22 years and 262 days old, Pat Lambie became the youngest South African and third youngest player ever to play in 50 Super Rugby matches. The youngest is Kurtley Beale (21 years, 128 days), followed by James O’Connor (22 years, 246 days). Lambie replaced Quade Cooper (22 years, 327 days) in third place on the list.

Match reviews …

Cheetahs 34 (19) Blues 13 (10)

The Cheetahs will contest a Super Rugby playoff for the first time in two weeks’ time! The home team finished very strongly and scored two of their three tries in the final 10 minutes, which was well-deserved after they squandered numerous try-scoring opportunities earlier in the match with some over-eagerness in the strike zone.

In the end these missed opportunities won’t matter though, as they head into a bye next weekend before they depart for their qualifier.

After a few opportunities where the Cheetahs came within scoring range, they finally crossed the try-line when Phillip van der Walt crashed over from tighthead on the Blues’ 5m-line.

It was just reward for the home team’s strong scrum, which set the tone for the victory, as well as their play in the lineouts and at the breakdowns, where the Cheetahs’ loose forwards played out of their skins. It was so very different to last week, where the Stormers basically strangled them up front.

Ultimately the Bloem pack simply had too much fire-power for the Blues. In the final 10 minutes the visitors’ defensive wall finally broke when replacements Sarel Pretorius and Boom Prinsloo crashed over. Riaan Smit (flyhalf) had a superb outing with the boot, contributing 19 points.

Cheetahs – Tries: Phillip van der Walt, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo. Conversions: Riaan Smit (2). Penalty goals: Smit (5).

Blues – Tries: Jamison Gibson-Park. Conversion: Baden Kerr. Penalty goals: Kerr (2).


Kings 12 (9) Stormers 24 (11)

Two tries by Stormers captain and flank Deon Fourie was the difference as the Stormers’ got their first away win in South.

When this game started, the Stormers’ slim lifeline of qualifying for the playoffs had already been cut by the impressive Cheetahs, so both teams had only pride to play for at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The first half was a battle of attrition, with the Stormers playing the most rugby and the Kings’ defence holding out in the face of a few strong onslaughts by the Capetonians.

On a number of occasions the Stormers opted for lineouts instead of kicking at goal from penalties in the first half, but they only got their first try – from a maul by Fourie – in the 39th minute after throwing away a few other chances.

The second half was a rather drab affair until Fourie smashed his way through a few weak tackles to score shortly before the final whistle, which could not have come sooner.

Kings – Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (4).

Stormers – Tries: Deon Fourie (2). Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty goals: Jantjies (3), Joe Pietersen.


Bulls 20 (13) Sharks 19 (8)

The Sharks tried hard to rain on the Bulls parade, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Bulls surged to the top of the Super Rugby standings in an industrially tough match.

Both sides crossed for two tries each but a Butch James moment of madness, something we have become used to, sadly, and terrible goal kicking probably cost the Sharks a famous victory in a dramatic derby at Loftus where the duel between the two packs of forwards was one that would’ve had experts nodding sagely.

Apart from the yellow cards to Bismarck du Plessis and Butch James, who took over the captaincy from Keegan Daniel following a few late changes to their line-up, the visitors from Durban fluffed 16 points in missed kicks at goal.

Where Pat Lambie, who rounded off a superb try in the eighth minute which started almost on their own tryline, and Riaan Viljoen missed six kicks at goal between them, Morné Steyn was successful with all four his attempts at the posts.

It was a very tough match and a typical South African derby. Although The Sharks played for nothing more than pride, they never looked like giving up and played with heaps of passion, sadly lacking earlier in the season.

After going into the break leading by 13-8, the Bulls saw their lead disappear as the Sharks scored all the points in the first 20 minutes of the second half to take the score to 19-13. With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, the home team’s replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak scored what turned out to be the match-winning try.

The Sharks had a late chance to scoop the win, but Viljoen’s aim was out and the Bulls could celebrate as they moved to the top of the log.

Bulls – Tries: Bjorn Basson, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2). Penalty goals: Steyn (2).

Sharks – Tries: Pat Lambie, Odwa Ndungane. Penalty goals: Lambie (3).


So the log looks like this:

Bulls Pld:15 W:12 Pts:63

Chiefs Pld:15 W:11 Pts:61

Brumbies Pld:15 W:10 Pts:59

Crusaders Pld:15 W:10 Pts:56

Reds Pld:15 W:9 Pts:54

Cheetahs Pld:16 W:10 Pts:54


Stormers Pld:15 W:8 Pts:46

Waratahs Pld:15 W:8 Pts:44

Blues Pld:15 W:6 Pts:44

Sharks Pld:15 W:7 Pts:43

Hurricanes Pld:15 W:6 Pts:41

Rebels Pld:15 W:4 Pts:32

Force Pld:15 W:3 Pts:27

Highlanders Pld:15 W:3 Pts:27

Kings Pld:15 W:3 Pts:24


Next weekend’s fixtures:

Friday 12 July

09:35 Crusaders vs Hurricanes

11:40 Rebels vs Highlanders

Saturday 13 July

09:35 Blues vs Chiefs

11:40 Waratahs vs Reds

13:45 Force vs Brumbies

17:05 Sharks vs Kings

19:10 Stormers vs Bulls