South Africa sweep Aussies, Hurricanes stay top of Super 15
South African teams rejoiced this weekend with three wins over Australian opposition as New Zealand’s Wellington Hurricanes preserved a six-point lead at the top of Super Rugby.
The Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs had the weekend off with byes as did Australia’s Melbourne Rebels with only South Africa’s Northern Bulls closing some of the gap with a win.
Australia’s top two contenders, the ACT Brumbies and defending champions New South Wales Waratahs, both went down with the Waratahs to face the Hurricanes in Wellington next weekend.
The Bulls overcame t he Queensland Reds 43-22 in Pretoria to go third in the overall standings and complete a super Saturday for South African sides against Australian opponents.
The Bulls’ triumph followed wins for Western Stormers over the Waratahs in Sydney and Central Cheetahs over Western Force in Perth.
The Brumbies missed their chance to close in on the Hurricanes in a 16-14 loss to the Blues in Auckland, while the Stormers had a strong 32-18 win over the Waratahs.
The improving Otago Highlanders stunned the Canterbury Crusaders, coming from behind to take their New Zealand derby 25-20 in Christchurch to lie fifth overall.
The Golden Lions won again after surviving a stoppage-time scare to defeat Coastal Sharks 23-21 in the all-South African game in Johannesburg to stand just one point outside the top-six playoff spots.
The Cheetahs snapped their five-match losing streak with a 24-15 win over the embattled Force in Perth.
In wet Auckland, the Blues snapped a seven-game drought with a late penalty by Ihaia West securing a two-point win over the Australian conference leading Brumbies.
The Brumbies had a chance to win the match right on full-time only for Nic White’s long-range penalty effort to fall short.
Victory for the Bulls enabled them to bounce back after a lastminute Gauteng derby defeat by the Lions in Johannesburg the previous week.
It was a sixth consecutive defeat for the bottom-of-the-table Reds and a seventh in eight games in the southern hemisphere interprovincial championship.
It was the first time the Highlanders beat the seven-time champion Crusaders in Christchurch since 2008 to keep them firmly in fifth place on the ladder, while the Crusaders dropped out of the top six.
It also brought the Crusaders crashing down to earth after their comprehensive 52-8 win over the Sharks in South Africa last week.
The Cape Town-based Stormers claimed their first win in Sydney since 2007 as they flustered the Waratahs with their straight line defense after trailing 15-13 at half-time.
The Stormers went
the match losing their previous nine matches outside South Africa, but they grew in confidence in a tremendous second-half performance against the ragged Waratahs, with center Damian de Allende scoring a double.
The Lions, after building a ninepoint lead early in the second half, looked set for victory before being rattled by a late Sharks comeback.
Substitute prop Thomas du Toit barged over for a try two minutes from time which fly-half Fred Zeilinga converted.
And Zeilinga had a chance to snatch victory after the full-time siren only to narrowly miss a prodigious 57-meter penalty attempt from close to the touchline.
The Cheetahs trailed at halftime in Perth, but scored the last 16