SA teams have the measure of Kiwi opponents in Super rugby

2013-03-11 00:00

THE Sharks were muted in victory, but the Bulls, Stormers and Cheetahs were celebrating long and hard after their weekend Super Rugby wins over New Zealand opponents.

The Sharks were tackled silly by the willing Southern Kings and relied on Pat Lambie’s boot for their points in a tough 21-12 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night.

But there were significant triumphs for the other South African sides. The Bulls’ experience prevailed yesterday as they broke their Auckland duck in beating the Blues 28-21 at Eden Park. The Stormers’ run of defeats ended with a tense 36-34 win over the title-holding Chiefs at Newlands, while the enthusiastic Cheetahs gained arguably the upset of the round by thumping the Highlanders 36-19 in far-off Invercargill.

The Sharks’ attack again failed in Port Elizabeth as they could not turn their advantage in possession and territory into tries.

Still, the Sharks kept their unbeaten record as Lambie booted six penalties and a drop. Kings flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis landed four penalties, with Lambie’s sixth and final penalty in the closing minutes denying the home team a bonus point.

The Sharks were ahead 12-3 at the interval. They turned down numerous kickable penalties as the Kings scrum frequently infringed in the search for tries.

The Sharks lost some of their forward drive when flank Jean Deysel left the field early with an ankle injury, but the Kings also deserve enormous credit for the quality of their defence.

Curiously, the Sharks scrum was penalised by referee Jason Jaftha in the second half and Catrakilis kept the Kings in touch with three penalties before Lambie took the Sharks out of range in the 78th minute.

The Bulls, with influential performances by Springboks Pierre Spies and Morné Steyn, won the try count three to two in Auckland to end the Blues’ winning start to the season.

Tries from loose forward Arno Botha and the two wings, Lionel Mapoe and Akona Ndungane, along with the boot of Steyn (13 points), took the Bulls ahead of the Sharks at the top of the South African conference.

“It was a great team effort,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said later. “It’s not easy to come here and win. In the second half we felt we just had to be clinical and that’s what it was, a clinical performance.”

The Stormers had to resist a fightback from the Chiefs for their exciting two-point win in Cape Town.

Joe Pietersen kicked 21 points while Gio Aplon crossed for two tries in the Stormers’ first win of the season. The Stormers were ahead 33-20 in the second-half before the Chiefs’ revival saw the close the gap to two points.

But a second yellow card for the Chiefs enabled the Stormers to hang on for their win.

The victory was marred by a serious knee ligament injury to Springbok wing Bryan Habana, who is expected to be sidelined for at least two months.

Coach Allister Coetzee and captain Jean de Villiers were clearly relieved with the win. “It’s pleasing when you can turn things around,” said Coetzee. “There was a massive improvement in our execution.”

De Villiers agreed. “It was a massive effort by the team. There was a lot of pride at stake. The Chiefs are a great side, they’re the champions and the result could easily have gone another way.”

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the Stormers deserved their win.

“We lost the collisions and played a big chunk of the game without possession.”

Lappies Labuschagne was superb in the Cheetahs pack and scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius excelled on attack as they ran in 30 first-half points to set up the crucial away win over the Highlanders.

Flyhalf Johan Goosen showed a return to his sublime kicking form of last year and succeeded with all eight of his attempt at goal.

In Canberra, Jake White’s Brumbies warmed up for their game against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday with a crushing 35-6 win over the Waratahs.

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