Home advantage meant nothing for the Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls as they all went down on the opening day of the 2015 edition of Vodacom Super Rugby – the latter pair in hard-fought South African derbies.
But it merely mirrored an extraordinary trend in the competition with only the Brumbies recording a home win on a weekend in which the six other home teams all went down, largely against the odds.
On the positive side of the equation were the Toyota Cheetahs and the DHL Stormers who upset predictions to come out on top at Growthpoint Kings Park and Loftus Versfeld respectively while the Hurricanes came away with the points from their trip to Johannesburg.
It was a particularly satisfying day for the Vodacom Cheetahs whose 35-29 victory in Durban not only yielded them a bonus point for scoring four tries but was also their first on opening day since 2007.
It put them third on the first day log – trailing the Brumbies and Force on points difference – as they were one of only two teams to score four tries in the first round. The win ended the Cell C Sharks’ happy run in this fixture having beaten the Toyota Cheetahs on opening day in 2011 and 2013.
The DHL Stormers managed to tear up the form book in Pretoria – delivering only the Bulls; second defeat in 20 matches at their Loftus fortress while ending their own dismal form on the road – they won only one away match in 2014.
The form book decreed that the Hurricanes should win at Emirates Airlines Park (Ellis Park) and they duly recorded a sixth successive victory over the Emirates Lions. It ended a run of three successive wins for the Lions – recoded at the back end of last season’s competition – and also the Hurricanes run of losing on the opening day of the past four campaigns.
Emirates Lions 8 (8) Hurricanes 22 (11)
The Emirates Lions dominated proceedings against the Hurricanes in all departments except on the scoreboard where the eventual victory margin flattered the Hurricanes who were though were rewarded for resolute defence.
The Emirates Lions made twice as many line offloads (17 to 9 ) twice as many carries (124 to 68) made twice as many passes (170 to 86) and twice as many metres (408 to 248m) but were outscored in tries two to one as they were unable to convert their possession into points on a night when they also left 13 point untaken from two missed conversions and three missed penalties.
The Emirates Lions’ opening try by Ruan Combrinck (conversions missed) was overhauled by Beauden Barrett’s second penalty in the 28th minute after which the Hurricanes were never headed.
The Hurricanes added insult to the Emirates Lions’ injury by denying them a bonus point by scoring eight points in the final five minutes to deny the home side a bonus point.
- Emirates Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck. Penalty goal: Marnitz Boshoff.
- Hurricanes – Tries: Matt Proctor, TJ Perenara. Penalty goals: Beauden Barrett (4).
Cell C Sharks 29 (16) Toyota Cheetahs 35 (20)
The Toyota Cheetahs produced a performance of pragmatism and skill to upset the odds and run away with a bonus point victory at Growthpoint Kings Park.
They fell behind to a Pat Lambie penalty but sounded a warning of their own when newcomer Jean Cook had scored their first try in the 13th minute. Pat Lambie scored and converted his own try to leapfrog the Sharks back into the lead midway through the first half.
But a second try for centre Francois Venter gave the Cheetahs the half time lead and further scores by replace Carl Wegner (lock) and Boom Prinsloo (flank), left the Cell C Sharks shaking their heads at their own inability to hold onto the ball when opportunities presented.
- Cell C Sharks – Tries: Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Lambie (2). Penalty goals: Lambie (5).
- Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Carl Wegner, Francois Venter, Jean Cook. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2), Willie du Plessis. Penalty goals: Pietersen (3).
Vodacom Bulls 17 (5) DHL Stormers 29 (17)
The Vodacom Bulls powered to a try in the fourth minute by Deon Stegmann, courtesy of a lineout drive, to suggest that they were quite capable of overpowering a more inexperienced pack.
However a mistake by Jurgen Visser allowed Stormers’ newcomer Dillyn Leyds to collect a loose ball and run in untouched to put the visitors in the lead – thanks to Demetri Catrakilis’ conversion – after which the visitors grew in confidence.
SA Rugby Player of the Year, Duane Vermeulen, the new Stormers captain, powered in under the posts for a second try before the break to give the Stormers a 12-point advantage that they had reclaimed by the final whistle.
Three Handré Pollard penalties closed the gap in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but the Stormers’ defence could not be breached and the boots of Catrakilis and replacement Kurt Coleman – who snapped over a drop goal – ensured the Stormers profited from every visit to the Bulls half.
- Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Deon Stegmann. Penalty goals: Handré Pollard (4)
- DHL Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Duane Vermeulen. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalty goals: Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman. Drop goal: Coleman.
Other results – Round 1:
- Blues 18, Chiefs 23
- Brumbies 47, Reds 3
- Crusaders 10, Rebels 20
- Waratahs 13, Western Force
Logs – after Round 1:
|Cell C Sharks||1||0||1||0||29||35||-6||2||4||1||0||1|
Top scorers – after Round 1:
|Patrick Lambie||Cell C Sharks||1||2||5||0||24|
|Demetri Catrakilis||DHL Stormers||0||2||3||0||13|
|Joe Pietersen||Toyota Cheetahs||0||2||3||0||13|
|Handre Pollard||Vodacom Bulls||0||0||4||0||12|