Pretoria:The Vodacom Bulls dealt Jaguares their first defeat in three months when they staged a remarkable comeback to beat the high-flying Argentinean by 43-34 in Pretoria.
The DHL Stormers finished their season on a winning note with a 27-16 triumph over the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town.
The men from Pretoria did their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, a huge favour by preventing the Jaguares from even collecting a bonus point and in doing so, they opened the way for the Johannesburg franchise to possibly win the SA Conference.
The Emirates Lions were not in action this weekend and they now know the destiny of first place on the SA log, and with that home advantage in the playoffs, are entirely in their own hands when they host the Vodacom Bulls next weekend.
A bonus-point win for Swys de Bruin’s team over their neighbours across the Jukskei River will secure top spot on the SA Conference table, irrespective of the result in Durban between the Cell Sharks and the Jaguares.
Although the Cape Town result was obviously bad news for the Cell C Sharks, the Durbanites still have an outside chance of reaching the playoffs, thanks to the Vodacom Bulls’ victory in Pretoria. It means they must now beat the Jaguares in Durban next weekend – preferably with a bonus point – and hope that the Rebels lose to the Highlanders in New Zealand, to grab the last playoff spot.
On Saturday, the DHL Stormers led the Cell C Sharks 21-9 at halftime thanks to tries from Cobus Wiese, EW Viljoen and Raymond Rhule, while Robert du Preez slotted three penalties for the visitors. Although the Durbanites made an enthusiastic start to the second half, they could not do enough to wrestle the result away from the Cape side.
The Vodacom Bulls staged a heroic comeback to wipe out a 19-point deficit in their impressive 43-34 triumph over the Jaguares in Pretoria. The result allowed John Mitchell’s team to snap a three-match losing run while also ending the Jaguares’ impressive run of seven wins in a row. The win also prevented the Jaguares from overtaking the Emirates Lions at the top of the SA Conference.
It was the visitors who made a dream start by scoring two tries in five minutes and then raced into a 19-0 lead before the Pretoria side kicked into gear, with tries from Johnny Kotze, Embrose Papier and Jesse Kriel allowing them to overturn their deficit into a two-point lead at halftime (21-19).
The Argentine side refused to give up and scored again after the break, however, the Vodacom Bulls finally raced away thanks to tries from Jamba Ulengo (2) and Marco van Staden.
With one week to go before the final places for the playoffs are determined, here’s a brief look at the top 10 places on the overall log:
1. Crusaders: 58 points
2. Waratahs: 44 points (+121, 70 Tries, +17 differential)
3. Emirates Lions: 41 points (+58, 71 Tries, +18 differential)
4. Hurricanes: 50 points (+135, 62 Tries, +23 differential)
5. Chiefs: 45 points (+91, 56 Tries, +12 differential)
6. Highlanders: 40 points (-14, 53 Tries, 0 differential)
7. Jaguares: 38 points (+1, 50 Tries, -3 differential)
8. Rebels: 35 points (-15, 53 Tries, -1 differential)
9. Cell C Sharks: 32 points (-15, 47 Tries, -9 differential)
10. Brumbies: 30 points (-38, 50 Tries, +2 differential)
Results and scorers from Round 18:
DHL Stormers 27 (21), Cell C Sharks 16 (9)
DHL Stormers – Tries: Cobus Wiese, EW Viljoen, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Josh Stander (3). Penalty goals: Stander (2).
Cell C Sharks – Try: Kobus van Wyk. Conversion: Robert du Preez. Penalty goals: Du Preez (3).
Vodacom Bulls 43 (21), Jaguares 34 (19)
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Johnny Kotze, Embrose Papier, Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo (2), Marco van Staden. Conversions: Handré Pollard (5). Penalty goal: Pollard.
Jaguares – Tries: Nicolas Sanchez, Pablo Matera (2), Gonzalo Bertranou (2). Conversions: Sanchez (3). Penalty goal: Emiliano Boffelli.
Other Round 18 results:
Crusaders 45, Highlanders 22
Reds 37, Rebels 24
Chiefs 24, Brumbies 19
Hurricanes 42, Blues 24
Waratahs 77, Sunwolves 25