The DHL Stormers all but secured the South African Shield with a tense victory in Cape Town on Saturday, while the Emirates Lions kept their Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff hopes alive in Pretoria with a second win on the trot, but in both instances the victorious teams had to withstand serious comebacks from their opponents.
The Capetonians showed a lot of character to beat a resurgent Cell C Sharks team by 29-23 at the DHL Stadium as the visitors fought back from 20 points down to come close in the end. With this victory, the DHL Stormers, who finished the match with only 13 players on the field, ensured a clean sweep in their six local derbies this season.
At Loftus Versfeld, the Vodacom Bulls were also forced to claw their way back into the game from 20-3 down to take the lead on the hour, but two penalty goals in the final 15 minutes by Sanele Nohamba – who recorded 24 points in the game – saw the Emirates Lions home by 29-25.
With three rounds to go, the DHL Stormers are in second place on the log with 59 points, sandwiched between leaders Leinster on 71 and Ulster in third on 54.
Glasgow Warriors are in fourth on 49, Munster in fifth (47), the Vodacom Bulls in sixth courtesy of their two bonus points in Pretoria (43), the Cell C Sharks in seventh (41) and Connacht complete the top-eight on 39 points, with the Emirates Lions six points adrift in 11th spot on the log.
The Vodacom URC will now take a break of a few weeks and when the action returns on the weekend of 24 March, all four South African teams will be on tour – the DHL Stormers take on Leinster in Dublin, the Emirates Lions face Benetton in Treviso, the Cell C Sharks are in Llanelli to play the Scarlets, and the Vodacom Bulls have a big game against Ulster in Belfast.
The DHL Stormers had to dig deep for their 29-23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory over a gutsy Cell C Sharks team in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon, with the visitors launching a late comeback after the hosts led by 19-6 at the break.
When the hosts scored their fourth try in the 55th minute to stretch their lead to 26-6, it looked like game, set and match at the DHL Stadium, but the KwaZulu-Natalians refused to give up, answering with three tries in the final 20 minutes but just coming up short in the end.
Under pressure in the set pieces, on the ground and in the air, and with their discipline letting them down, the Cell C Sharks failed to get any meaningful possession in the right areas of the field, with the hosts controlling the game in the first half which gave the majority of the 30,000 strong crowd a lot to be happy about.
DHL Stormers 26 (19) – Tries: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Ben-Jason Dixon, Clayton Blommetjies (2). Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty goal: Libbok.
Cell C Sharks 23 (6) – Tries: Yaw Penxe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Grant Williams. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty goals: Bosch (2).
The Emirates Lions held on with everything they have to shut out a determined Vodacom Bulls outfit for a superb 29-25 victory in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Emirates Lions made the most of their point-scoring chances in the first half as scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba slotted three penalty goals and scored a converted try to add to another by wing Edwill van der Merwe, while they limited the hosts to two tries and penalty goal for a 23-13 lead at the break.
The second half was much tighter as both teams ran hard at one another and this saw the Vodacom Bulls add two tries to their tally, while they limited the Johannesburg side to only two more penalty goals by Nohamba – who scored 24 points in the match – but this proved to be enough to snatch the victory for the Lions.
The victory marked the Johannesburgers’ second in a row which kept them in the playoff race, while the defeat for the Vodacom Bulls piled on the pressure to retain their place in the top eight with only three pool matches remaining.
Vodacom Bulls 25 (13) – Tries: Wandisile Simelane (2), Sbu Nkosi, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalty goal: Steyn.
Emirates Lions 29 (23) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe, Sanele Nohamba. Conversions: Nohamba (2). Penalty goals: Nohamba (5).