South African URC teams lose their winning streak, but Stormers and Lions still prevail in Europe
With the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks all playing in Europe, it was always going to be a challenging weekend for the South African United Rugby Championship (URC) sides. Nevertheless, the Stormers and Lions came out on top while the Sharks and Bulls were outmuscled.
The South African teams entered this weekend of URC action with an eight-match winning streak over their European counterparts this season. The Bulls and Sharks were the first South African teams to fall to defeat from the sides from up north.
The teams from Johannesburg and Cape Town were full value for their victories in Edinburgh and Parma respectively, but the men from Pretoria and Durban came up second best in their clashes in Glasgow and Dublin.
The first South African team in action over the weekend, the Lions, completed their three-match tour with a superb 22-19 victory over Edinburgh in the Scottish capital on Friday evening, ensuring they return to Johannesburg with three wins from as many games on the road in the north.
It was an impressive showing from Ivan van Rooyen’s men who seemed second-best all night against an Edinburgh side littered with international players.
However, the Lions, who boast no current Springboks among their ranks, showed guts and determination in bucket loads – as they have all tour so far – to see out their victory on Friday night.
Brave defence, opportunistic tries and tactical nous from the Johannesburg side laid the foundation for their victory in a match they came into as dark horses.
Mngomezulu boots Zebre
The Stormers are not yet at the polished level they were at last season but were good enough, once again, to beat Zebre 37-20 in Parma.
In a match where URC winning flyhalf Manie Libbok and Springbok playmaker Damian Willemse were on the field, it was junior Springbok captain Sacha Mngomezulu – playing at inside centre – that commanded attention.
The young maverick showed composure beyond his years to record 22 points for his side including a try and seven out of seven attempts from the kicking tee.
He also set up a brilliant try for Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies to show his all-round class and potential.
The bonus point victory sees the Stormers go on an incredible 14-match winning streak in the URC dating back to the second half of last season.
The Stormers travel to Wales to take on Scarlets next week.
John Dobson will be happy with his team’s results thus far in the competition but will be looking to put together a more polished performance in Llanelli.
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Sharks lose grip
The Sharks, playing without seven Springboks, lost 54-34 to a well-composed and experienced Leinster side on Saturday.
The side from Durban were in the fight at various stages of the match, trailing 21-20 at halftime and 28-27 with twenty minutes left on the clock but ultimately ran out of steam against a home side who know how to close out a game.
On the contrary, the Sharks had a gaping hole in the final quarter of the match when Rohan Janse van Rensburg saw red for a high tackle as Leinster took full advantage of the one-man advantage.
There are aspects for Sharks head coach Sean Everitt to be pleased about with Springbok outside back Aphelele Fassi scoring two beautiful tries, breaking the Leinster defence seemingly at will.
His partner out wide Thaakir Abrahams was equally devastating when given an inch of space, scoring one of the best tries of the weekend through a piece of individual brilliance.
However both players were guilty of slipping a few tackles at crucial moments of the match to allow Leinster to negate the pair’s brilliance on attack.
The Sharks now head home after their three match European tour, having claimed two victories on their journey.
They take on Glasgow Warriors next week in Durban.
In a sight rarely seen in rugby, the Bulls were completely outmuscled by Glasgow Warriors’ direct approach to inflict the Bulls first defeat (35-21) of the season in their first match on tour.
The Scottish side, coached by former Cheetahs coach Franco Smith, won the forwards battle – while the Bulls forwards were laborious in getting going – which created space out wide for the exciting Glasgow backs.
Glasgow scrumhalf George Horne had a composed showing, linking play between backs and forwards excellently, as well as going over for a superb individual try early in the second half.
The writing was on the walls for the Bulls at the 40-minute mark when they went into the change rooms trailing 28-7.
The introduction of veterans Morne Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis late in the showing seemed to ignite a Bulls side that looked flat all Saturday evening.
A point to ponder for Bulls director of rugby Jake White whose side come up against a formidable Munster side in Ireland next week.
Two late consolation tries for the side from Pretoria added some gloss to the scoreboard. They were never in the contest. DM