The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48-15 in their opening tour match Down Under.
Saturday saw two cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.
First up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their third successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25-17.
The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35-33. A total of seven tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.
Highlanders 48 (24) Cell C Sharks 15 (10)
The Cell C Sharks started their tour of Australasia on a losing note when they were beaten 48-15 by a determined Highlanders side at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday morning.
Thirty minutes into this fixture, the scores were still level at 10-10, each side having scored a try with Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira burrowing his way over for the visitors.
But two tries late in the first half gave the home side a 14-point gap at the break. The Highlanders capitalised on this lead in the second half with some great skills coupled with too many mistakes by the Cell C Sharks as they crossed for four more tries.
The KwaZulu-Natalians got a second try when Bismarck du Plessis went over with less than 10 minutes to go on the clock, but by then it was game over in the deep south of New Zealand.
Highlanders – Tries: Gareth Evans, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Mark Reddish, Aaron Smith, Brendon Edmonds, Elliot Dixon. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (5). Penalty: Sopoaga.
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalty goal: Zeilinga.
Toyota Cheetahs 25 (18) DHL Stormers 17 (10)
The Toyota Cheetahs scored a memorable 25-17 victory over the DHL Stormers at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, capping off a fine showing by outscoring the Capetonians by three tries to two.
It was a typically tough South African derby and the result was in the balance until Clayton Blommetjies cut through the DHL Stormers’ defence in the 70th minute to put his side up by eight points.
Shortly before that, DHL Stormers replacement flyhalf Kurt Coleman missed two penalty attempts, which could’ve seen the match pan out differently. He also pulled wide an attempt at the death which cost his side a valuable bonus-point.
In the end the Toyota Cheetahs deserved this win. They started the match strongly and led 18-3 after 25 minutes thanks to tries by Michael van der Spuy and Rayno Benjamin, and Joe Pietersen’s boot. The DHL Stormers closed the gap to only eight points when Dillyn Leyds went over for a converted try.
With just over 20 minutes to go, it was 18-17 thanks to a converted try by DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen, but 15 minutes later Blommetjies sealed the win for the home side.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Michael van der Spuy, Rayno Benjamin, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalty goals: Pietersen (2).
DHL Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Duane Vermeulen: Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman. Penalty goal: Catrakilis.
Vodacom Bulls 35 (25) Emirates Lions 33 (13)
The Vodacom Bulls had to withstand a superb second-half fight-back by the Emirates Lions, but in the end the men from Pretoria had enough in the tank as they won this nail-biting Jukskei derby by 35-33 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.
The home team scored three tries in first half, two of them going to Piet van Zyl in the first 10 minutes. The Vodacom Bulls started like a house on fire and almost had their fourth try in the bag before the break.
But the Emirates Lions had different plans after the break and came out firing in the second half. The visitors, whose first try was scored by Faf de Klerk, played great rugby and turned the half-time deficit into a one-point lead (26-25) within 15 minutes of the break.
The home team took back the lead thanks to a converted try by Pierre Spies, while Handré Pollard’s third penalty goal increased the Vodacom Bulls’ lead to nine points with five minutes left.
Yet again the Emirates Lions fought back, this time through a great converted try by Jaco Kriel, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Vodacom Bulls, buoyed by a very strong defensive performance and solid work in the line-outs, outlasted their neighbours, who played with their usual attacking freedom built on a very strong scrum.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Piet van Zyl (2), JJ Engelbrecht, Pierre Spies. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3). Penalty goals: Pollard (3).
Emirates Lions – Tries: Faf de Klerk, Jacques van Rooyen, Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty goals: Jantjies (4).
Other results – Round 12:
Brumbies 10 Waratahs 13
Blues 41 Force 24
Hurricanes 29 Crusaders 23
Rebels 16 Chiefs 15