Shaun Goosen takes a look at this past weekend's rugby action.
Win over Lions keeps Sharks in the hunt
The Sharks’ 33-21 win over the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday means they remain in contention for a spot in the Rainbow Cup final. Makazole Mapimpi made a big impression on his return to Sean Everitt’s side, scoring a try and beating 12 defenders — including brutally brushing off a would-be Courtnall Skosan tackle to set up an eventual Phepsi Buthelezi score. There were also two first-half tries for Sharks hooker Kerron van Vuuren off the back of the maul as the coastal outfit proved too strong for Ivan van Rooyen’s charges.
The Durbanites are four points behind the log-leading Bulls in second and can finish top of the standings by beating Jake White’s men this weekend and denying them a bonus point in the process. With no Springboks available to any team for the remainder of the competition though, the Sharks may be at a disadvantage with nine players called up to the national squad. Still, this weekend’s matchup in Durban is set to be a cracker.
Bulls keep home record intact after bizarre Loftus clash
The Bulls have still not lost at Loftus Versfeld in the Jake White era following a 31-27 win over the Stormers on Friday. In what was arguably the match of the Rainbow Cup season and one of the strangest in recent memory, the Bulls won despite the Stormers making 248 tackles to the hosts’ 60 and dominating territory (77%) and possession (73%). The Stormers’ counterattack was lethal, with Edwill van der Merwe’s try on 69-minutes nearly deciding the contest, but Ruan Nortje’s five-pointer with just a minute to go ultimately proved to be the difference in the end.
Worryingly for the Boks, Duane Vermeulen limped off in the first half after being tackled by Pieter-Steph du Toit, with the big No 8’s availability for the British & Irish Lions series now in jeopardy. With the Boks’ participation in the tournament now over, it is hoped that there will be enough time for him to recover.
Brumbies win now makes it 18-2 to New Zealand
The Brumbies’ 12-10 win over the Hurricanes at the GIO Stadium on Saturday was just the second win by an Australian team in the whole of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. With the final round-robin matches set to take place this weekend, the five New Zealand franchises occupy the top five positions on the standings with the top two qualifying for next week’s final. Disconcertingly for the Aussies, a whopping nine points separate their best-ranked team (the Brumbies, five points) from the Kiwi’s last-placed side (the Chiefs, 14-points).
On the weekend there were also wins for the Blues over the Reds in Queensland (31-24), the Crusaders over the Force in Christchurch (29-21), the Highlanders over the Waratahs in Dunedin (59-23) and the Chiefs over the Rebels in Sydney (36-26).