· Draw confirmed for next weekend’s four quarterfinals
· Vodacom Bulls romp to superb victory over Emirates Lions
· Late Lukhanyo Am try shatters DHL Stormers’ playoff hope
The Vodacom Bulls and the Cell C Sharks have qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby competition following the weekend’s final round of thrilling round-robin action. They will face the Hurricanes in Wellington and Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday respectively.
The Crusaders clinched the New Zealand Conference winners for the third year in a row and finished as the highest ranked team in the tournament on 58 points from 11 wins. The Jaguares won the South African Conference for the first time with 51 points, also from 11 wins, while in the Australian Conference, the Brumbies took top honours with 48 points.
The last quarter-final host spot is taken by the Hurricanes who finished second in New Zealand Conference (53 points). The remaining quarterfinalists are the Vodacom Bulls (41 points), Cell C Sharks (37), Chiefs (36) and Highlanders (36).
The Cell C Sharks edged the DHL Stormers 12-9 with a last-minute try in Cape Town, while the Vodacom Bulls defeated the Emirates Lions 48-27 in their Jukskei River derby in Pretoria. The Jaguares outgunned the Sunwolves 52-10 in Buenos Aires.
Next weekend’s quarter-final draw (all SA times):
Friday, 21 June:
09h35 Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch Stadium Christchurch
Saturday, 22 June:
00h05: Jaguares v Chiefs, Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
09h35: Hurricanes v Vodacom Bulls, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
12h05: Brumbies v Sharks, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Vodacom Bulls romp to superb victory over Emirates Lions
The Vodacom Bulls romped to a seven-try 48-27 triumph over the Emirates Lions in Pretoria on Saturday evening to finish as the best-placed local side in the South African conference following the last round of the regular season. They will now face the Hurricanes in Wellington in next weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-finals.
The men from Pretoria led 31-19 at halftime on their home turf and always controlled the tempo of the match, which also turned out to be a fitting home farewell for a number of Vodacom Bulls stalwarts who will leave Loftus at the conclusion of the competition.
The home side scored seven tries, five conversions and a penalty goal while their Gauteng neighbours replied with two tries, one conversion and four penalties.
It was a near complete performance from the men in blue, who hit back with a vengeance after conceding a try to Emirates Lions No 8 number eight Hacjivah Dayimani after just 15 seconds of play.
Hanro Liebenberg (looseforward, 2), Lizo Gqoboka (prop) and Burger Odendaal (centre) each scored tries in the first half as Handre Pollard’s team turned on the style in perfect playing conditions. Cornal Hendricks (wing), Pollard (flyhalf) and Manie Libbok (replacement flyhalf) added three more tries to their tally after the break, while Pollard added the extras with his conversions and a penalty.
The Emirates Lions tried their best to stay in the fight and they relied mainly on the boot of Springbok Elton Jantjies, utilised at inside centre on this occasion, to keep them within distance of the rampant home side. In the end, the avalanche of attacks were just too much to handle for the Highvelders.
The Vodacom Bulls thoroughly deserved their convincing win and they have now qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and their playoff against the Hurricanes is one of four quarterfinals to be determined next weekend. The Emirates Lions, who have lost a lot of stalwarts to other clubs and injury, failed to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in four years after reaching the final three years in a row.
Vodacom Bulls 48 (31) – Tries: Hanro Liebenberg (2), Lizo Gqoboka, Burger Odendaal, Cornal Hendricks, Handre Pollard, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Pollard (5). Penalty goals: Pollard.
Emirates Lions Tries 27 (19) – Hacjivah Dayimani, Cyle Brink. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty goals: Jantjies (4).
Late Lukhanyo Am try shatters DHL Stormers’ playoff hope
Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am scored the winning try after the final hooter for the Cell C Sharks to book a place in the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs following their close-fought 12-9 victory over the DHL Stormers on Saturday afternoon in Cape Town.
The result means that the Cell C Sharks, and not their Cape rivals, qualify for next week’s quarterfinals.
The visitors from Durban led 5-3 at halftime through replacement Rhyno Smith’s breakaway try, while DHL Stormers’ Josh Stander replied with a penalty goal.
Stander and his replacement, Jean-Luc du Plessis, each slotted a penalty goal in the second half to edge the DHL Stormers into a slender 9-5 advantage.
With the hooter already gone, the Cape side must have thought that they’ve done enough when they defended a last, desperate attacking rally from the visitors. However, a slipped tackle and some swift running by the very impressive Am resulted in the Springbok centre gliding through the home defence for his dramatic winning try.
DHL Stormers 9 (3) – Penalty goals: Josh Stander (2), Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Cell C Sharks 12 (5) – Tries: Rhyno Smith, Lukhanyo Am. Conversion: Robert du Preez.
The weekend’s other Round 18 Results:
Friday, 14 June
Highlanders 49, Waratahs 12
Rebels 8, Chiefs 59
Saturday, 15 June
Jaguares 52, Sunwolves 10
Hurricanes 29, Blues 24
Brumbies 40, Reds 27
To access the Match Centre for the latest logs and statistics, click here.