It was a rewarding weekend for the South African franchises in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship as all four sides secured valuable home wins in what could mark the start of a strong resurgence by the domestic teams up the table.
The Cell C Sharks were the first side to make the most of their home ground advantage as the European teams played on local shores for the first time this season, beating the Scarlets 37-20 in Durban on Friday where they bagged a full house of points in the process.
The Vodacom Bulls built on this with a hard-fought 29-24 victory against Munster in Pretoria on Saturday, where they found themselves hanging on with everything they have in the dying minutes after Bismarck du Plessis (replacement hooker) was red carded, but in the end flyhalf Chris Smith’s accurate goal kicking – with five penalty goals and two conversions – saw them snatch the victory.
The Emirates Lions racked up their first win of the year on Sunday after building on a 24-13 halftime lead against Cardiff in Johannesburg to earn a bonus-point 37-20 victory, and the DHL Stormers wrapped up the full house of victories shortly after as they cruised to a 55-7 win against Zebre Parma in Cape Town thanks to a nine-try romp, which included a hat-trick by wing Seabelo Senatla.
These results saw the Cell C Sharks power their way into sixth place on the log (with 31 points), the DHL Stormers finished the weekend in eighth position (29 points) and the Vodacom Bulls in 10th place (27 points), while the Emirates Lions are currently in 14th position (17 points).
With the SA teams snatching a combined total of 19 out of 20 log points over the weekend, there is no doubt that this will boost their confidence with another five rounds of home matches remaining against their European counterparts in the seven remaining weekends of round-robin play.
Cell C Sharks shut out Scarlets for valuable home win
The Cell C Sharks staged a dramatic second-half comeback against the Scarlets to secure a morale boosting 37-20 victory at Hollywoodbets Kings Park, scoring three tries and a penalty try to claim the bonus-point victory and their sixth of the season, while they limited the visitors to two tries.
The first half was a tight tussle with neither team able to breach the defence despite their best efforts to run hard at the opposition and get close to the tryline, and this resulted in the sides entering the break tied at 6-6 with two penalty goals apiece.
The Scarlets scored the first try in the second half compliments of Aaron Shingler from an attacking lineout, but Cell C Sharks wing Aphelele Fassi cancelled this out in the 55th min after gathering a beautiful grubber from Jaden Hendrikse (scrumhalf) from the ruck and Curwin Bosch (flyhalf) added the hosts’ second try from a charge down for a 23-13 lead.
Cell C Sharks 37 (6) – Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Curwin Bosch, Marius Louw, Penalty Try. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Joaquín Díaz Bonilla. Penalty goals: Bosch (3).
Scarlets 20 (6) – Tries: Aaron Shingler, Steff Evans. Conversions: Sam Costelow, Dan Jones. Penalty goals: Costelow (2).
Vodacom Bulls dig deep to outlast Munster in Pretoria
The Vodacom Bulls hung in for dear life to beat Munster by 29-24 (half-time 26-3) in a typical game of two halves at Loftus Versfeld to record their fifth Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory of the season, but the men from Pretoria were left ruing a slew of errors which almost cost them.
Seemingly cruising towards a comfortable bonus point win at the break, the hosts struggled in the second half, while Johann van Graan’s young and inexperienced Munster side, missing a number of Irish internationals, fought back bravely to almost snatch an unlikely victory.
It wasn’t to be however, as the Vodacom Bulls – playing with 14 men for the last 10 minutes of the game after Du Plessis was red carded – defended bravely to ensure they take the points on offer, with Smith’s flawless kicking display the big difference.
Vodacom Bulls 29 (26) – Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Walt Steenkamp. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (5).
Munster 24 (3) – Tries: Alex Kendellen, Damian de Allende, Jack O’Donoghue. Conversions: Ben Healy (3). Penalty goal: Healy.
Emirates Lions hold out Cardiff for first win of the year
The Emirates Lions secured their first win of the year in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship on Sunday, as they held on in a tense clash against Cardiff at Emirates Airline Park to secure a 37-20 bonus-point victory.
The Johannesburgers built up an encouraging 24-13 lead in the first half with Edwill van der Merwe (wing) scoring a brace to add to a try by Morne van den Berg (scrumhalf) and a penalty goal by Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf), while they limited the hosts to a converted try and two penalty goals by Jarrod Evans (flyhalf).
The second half was a tougher affair as both teams tried hard to breach the defence, and in the end each team only managed to breach the tryline once compliments of Cardiff No 8 James Botham and Emirates Lions flank Vincent Tshituka, while Hendrikse slotted two more penalty goals to see the team to a rewarding victory.
Emirates Lions 37 (24) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe (2), Vincent Tshituka, Morne van den Berg. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (4). Penalty Goals: Hendrikse (3).
Cardiff Rugby 20 (13) – Tries: James Botham, Aled Summerhill. Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2). Penalty Goals: Evans (2).
Nine-try DHL Stormers sink Zebre in Stellenbosch
Seabelo Senatla scored a hat-trick of tries as the DHL Stormers surged into playoff contention in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with a brilliant 55-7 (half-time 33-0) bonus-point victory over Italian club Zebre Parma in Stellenbosch on Sunday evening.
Apart from Senatla’s exploits, fellow wing Leolin Zas and hooker Scarra Ntubeni got two tries apiece in a convincing and dominant victory by the Capetonians.
The first half at the Danie Craven Stadium was pretty much one-way traffic as the DHL Stormers ripped their opponents to shreds, but they also defended well and backed it up with a strong set piece.
When Zebre Parma’s Asaeli Tuivuaka (wing) was red carded for foul play five minutes from the end, the DHL Stormers didn’t need another invitation and Ntubeni was driven over from the ensuing lineout for his second try, and Senatla closed the proceedings with his third try.
DHL Stormers 55 (33) – Tries: Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas (2), Seabelo Senatla (3), Scarra Ntubeni (2). Conversions: Libbok (4), Tim Swiel.
Zebre Parma 7 (0) – Try: Erich Cronje. Conversion: Carlo Canna.