UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Stormers and Bulls get their URC campaigns started in victorious fashion
There were victories for the Stormers and Bulls in the opening weekend of URC action, while the Sharks lost to the defending champions.
South Africa claimed two wins in the first weekend of United Rugby Championship action (URC).
With most of South Africa’s collective rugby focus on the Springboks’ semifinal victory over England on Friday, the third season of the URC got under way with positive results for the country’s most successful sides in the competition.
The 2021/2022 finalists, the Bulls and the Stormers, started their campaigns with entertaining victories.
In a north-south clash between the Lions and Stormers, it was the latter who came out on top with a tightly fought 35-33 win at Ellis Park.
The Stormers were cruising for large portions of the match, with Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2) and Springboks Joseph Dweba and Herschel Jantjies going over for tries to open up a comfortable 35-14 lead with three-quarters of the match played.
But in typical Lions fashion, the men from Johannesburg refused to give up and saved their best and most exciting attacking rugby for the final 20 minutes.
Ruan Venter went over off the back of a powerful rolling maul before replacement scrumhalf Morné van den Berg and burly loose forward Francke Horn dotted down to make it 35-31, but it was too late to complete the comeback after Sanele Nohamba converted the final try.
The Lions were bitterly unlucky to not have had a fourth try in their 20-minute frenzy, but fullback Quan Horn was adjudged to have been held up over the tryline by Evan Roos.
The Lions meet Edinburgh in Edinburgh next week in their first match of a four-match European tour, while the Stormers face Scarlets at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch next Saturday.
Bulls run away
On the other side of the Jukskei River, the Bulls secured a runaway 63-21 win over Welsh outfit Scarlets at Loftus Versfeld.
It was a comprehensive bonus point victory in sunny conditions on Sunday afternoon.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen had a flawless display off the kicking tee, slotting all nine conversions from the nine tries scored by the Bulls.
“I think it’s a great start to the campaign. Compliments to the guys behind the scenes, the management, and the guys that didn’t play today, it really showed its benefits,” said Bulls skipper Marcell Coetzee after the clash.
“We had a tough pre-season, and luckily we could execute what we wanted to implement today. So, all in all, very happy.”
The Bulls scored a few thrilling length-of-the-field tries, while loose forward Cameron Hanekom and replacement back Stedman Gans each scored a brace for the home side.
“We just have to remain calm and stick to our systems,” the Bulls captain continued.
“At times we made it hard for ourselves. We gave away soft penalties or made silly errors, trying to force things out of the 22.
“But when we just stuck to the system, we managed to close them down. [I’m] very happy with the bonus point win and then not conceding a [four-try] bonus point for them.”
The Bulls head to Europe for a four-week tour starting with a clash against Ulster next week.
Meanwhile, the Sharks succumbed to a 34-21 loss to defending champions Munster at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick, Ireland. The men from Durban’s next task is against perennial table-toppers Leinster. DM