Three out of four for SA teams in impressive URC round
Stormers jump one position into 10th place but Sharks slip towards the bottom of the log
The Bulls, Lions and Stormers recorded valuable United Rugby Championship (URC) home victories in a rewarding weekend for the domestic sides as the competition begins to heat up with most Rugby World Cup stars back in action.
Only the Sharks were unable to build on their first victory of the tournament last week, with the KwaZulu-Natalians going down 44-10 at Loftus Versfeld against the high-flying Bulls.
The hosts remain in third position on the table after seven rounds, while the Durbanites find themselves closer to the foot of the log in 15th position.
The Lions registered an impressive 49-24 victory against a spirited Dragons outfit at Ellis Park, while the Stormers returned to their winning ways in SA after four defeats on the trot on tour with a morale-boosting 31-7 victory against Zebre Parma in Stellenbosch.
The Lions maintained their ninth place on the log, though they managed to close the points gap and are now tied on 19 points with eighth-placed Connacht.
The Stormers jumped one position into 10th place — a reversal of their recent trajectory and one they will be determined to build on in the coming months.
• The Bulls produced a clinical performance against the Sharks on Saturday, outscoring the visitors six tries to one penalty try and a penalty by the visitors, converting a 27-3 halftime lead into a comfortable victory.
Such was the effectiveness of the home team’s attack that they banked their four-try bonus point on the stroke of halftime through Akker van der Merwe, after a double by Stedman Gans within nine minutes, and a try by Springbok winger Kurt-Lee Arendse. They added two more in the second half, which saw Van der Merwe bank his second of the match.
The Sharks put the first points on the board in the match, courtesy of a penalty by Curwin Bosch, but they struggled to convert their superior territory and possession, as well as a few scoring chances, into points.
• The Lions showed true grit and determination against the Dragons in Johannesburg after playing with 14 men from the 25th minute. The win was their third in their past four outings in the competition as they threaten to claim a top-eight place.
The first half was a fairly tight affair, but two tries by the Johannesburgers to one by the opposition and a conversion and two penalty goals by Sanele Nohamba saw them enter the sheds 18-10 ahead at the break, despite the loss of lock Ruben Schoeman for a charge-down gone wrong.
They found their rhythm in the second half. The Dragons being reduced to 14 men for the second time in the match assisted their cause, which saw them cross the chalk four times in the second stanza, with Quan Horn and Edwill van der Merwe bagging a brace each.
The Dragons fought back with intent in the second half, but the big difference was the Lions’ ability to convert their chances into points.
• The Stormers ensured they put the disappointment of their tour behind them on Saturday as they defeated Zebre Parma at the Danie Craven Stadium, scoring five tries to one from the Italians.
The first half proved to be competitive as both teams threw everything into attack and defence, but few points were scored, with the hosts taking a 12-7 lead thanks to tries by Springbok Evan Roos and Ruhan Nel and a conversion by Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Manie Libbok to only one converted try by the visitors.
The Capetonians, however, hit their straps in the second half, creating point-scoring opportunities and converting them, which saw Courtnall Skosan, Leolin Zas and RWC winner Damian Willemse touch down.
SA Rugby Communications
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