The Bulls dealt the Jaguares their first defeat in three months when they staged a remarkable comeback to beat the high-flying Argentineans by 43-34 in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon, while the Stormers finished their season on a winning note with a 27-16 triumph over the Sharks in Cape Town.
The men from Pretoria did their neighbours, the 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 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 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 Sharks and the Jaguares.
Although the Cape Town result was obviously bad news for the Sharks, the Durbanites still have an outside chance of reaching the playoffs, thanks to the Bulls’ victory in Pretoria.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 18: Bulls v Jaguares@BlueBullsRugby gave their fans something to cheer about in the last game of their home campaign after upsetting @JaguaresARG 43-34 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.#BULvJAG #Week18 #SuperRugby #BullsFamily50K pic.twitter.com/wxgcDttlFC— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) July 7, 2018
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 Stormers led the 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 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 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 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:
For the full standings click HERE
Results and scorers from Round 18:
Stormers 27 (21), Sharks 16 (9)
Stormers – Tries: Cobus Wiese, EW Viljoen, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Josh Stander (3). Penalty goals: Stander (2).
Sharks – Try: Kobus van Wyk. Conversion: Robert du Preez. Penalty goals: Du Preez (3).
Bulls 43 (21), Jaguares 34 (19)
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:
Friday, July 6:
Crusaders 45, Highlanders 22
Reds 37, Rebels 24
Saturday, July 7:
Chiefs 24, Brumbies 19
Hurricanes 42, Blues 24
Waratahs 77, Sunwolves 25
It’s been a crazy round of Super Rugby with upsets everywhere you look.
Here’s a quick wrap of all the action:
Blues 39 Reds 16
This result was perhaps not so surprising but the margin certainly was. Inspired by wanting to send off departing Jerome Kaino in style, the Blues put on one of their best performances of the season and won their first match at Eden Park this year.
It was a match littered with yellow cards – two for the Reds in the first half (Jordan Petaia and Taniela Tupou) and two for the Blues in the second (Matiaha Martin and prop Sione Mafileo).
The result means little in the overall scheme as both teams are well out o the playoff race, with the Blues consigned to last in the NZ conference while the Reds may start to look nervously over their shoulders at the approaching Sunwolves at the bottom of the Australian conference.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 17: Rebels v Waratahs— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 29, 2018
The @MelbourneRebels hosted the @NSWWaratahs at AAMI Park in a hard-fought derby, the visitors sneaking over the line to open up a four-point lead at the top of the Australian Conference. #REBvWAR #SuperRugby #Week17 pic.twitter.com/wxdxAq6yI0
Rebels 26 Waratahs 31
With 11 minutes to go Melbourne led 26 to 17 and look on track for their first ever playoff appearance but then two intercepts in four minutes flipped the game on its head.
First Kurtley Beale snatched up a loose pass only to be hauled in by the Revels defence. However a few phases later NSW flanker Ned Hanigan crashed over.
Then just a minute later Bernard Foley grabbed another intercept and this time could not be caught as he raced away to score a converted try and put NSW five points to the good.
The Rebels threw everything at the Waratahs in the remaining six minutes but Hanigan came up with a crucial turnover to preserve NSW’s lead.
With the Brumbies surprise win over the Hurricanes the Rebels now must beat either the Reds or Highlanders away to clinch their spot in the last eight.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 17: Highlanders v Chiefs— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 30, 2018
Despite being down 42-0 at half time, the @Highlanders fought back brilliantly to deny the @ChiefsRugby a bonus point but couldn’t stop them taking the win in an exciting game of two halves. #HIGvCHI #SuperRugby pic.twitter.com/MykryMnRNP
Highlanders 22 Chiefs 45
This was a madcap game in Suva where the Chiefs rushed to a 42-0 lead at half-time thanks to six converted first half tries.
The Highlanders then hit back with four unanswered tries of their own in the second half but the damage had been done.
The Chiefs may be without stars like Brodie Retallick and Nathan Harris but they just keep finding ways to get the job done.
Veteran No8 Liam Messam had one of his best games for years, Damian McKenzie put on a kicking clinic, centre Anton Lienert-Brown had a bunch of class touches, and fullback Solomon Alaimalo and scrumhalf Toni Pulu feasted on the hosts.
The Chiefs are now a point clear of the Highlanders on the ladder and will still be hopeful of finishing above the mis-firing Hurricanes and hosting a quarter-final. Speaking of the Canes…
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 17: Brumbies v Hurricanes— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 30, 2018
The @BrumbiesRugby keep their Super Rugby finals hopes alive with an upset win 24-12 in a tough game against the @Hurricanesrugby. #BRUvHUR #SuperRugby #Week17 pic.twitter.com/pG9kpw7LzQ
Brumbies 24 Hurricanes 12
No one saw this coming. This was expected to be an easy win for the visiting Kiwis but no one told the Brumbies that.
Down 12-7 at half time to tries to TJ Perenara and the Toulon bound Julian Savea the Brumbies hit back with three tries of their own in the second half to Folau Fainga’a, Rory Arnold and Andy Muirhead, while keeping the All Blacks studded Canes attack scoreless.
The Canberra-based team are now just six points behind the second placed Rebels in the Australian conference and will be hopeful of sneaking into the playoffs although they have tough away games against the Chiefs and Waratahs to come.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 17: Sunwolves v Bulls— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 30, 2018
The @sunwolves grind out a sensational win in a back and forth game against the @BlueBullsRugby in Singapore. Having trailed at half-time they now claim their third win of the year.#SUNvBUL #SuperRugby #Week17 pic.twitter.com/vuUu5LXpHj
Sunwolves 42 Bulls 37
The Japanese side love to keep things interesting. Aussie flanker Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco grabbed a try late on as the Wolves snatched an outstanding triumph over the Bulls in Singapore.
They led 14-0 after tries from Hayden Parker and Keisuke Uchida tries but a Jesse Kriel brace and a third from Handre Pollard put John Mitchell’s men up 21-14 at the interval.
A try to ex-Bull Gerhard van den Heever made sure that the hosts remained in contention in the second stanza and with just two points separating the sides going into the final few minutes, it was the Sunwolves who took the win when Warren-Vosayaco went over.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 17: Sharks v Lions@TheSharksZA close in on securing top spot after defeating the @LionsRugbyCo 31-24 in a top-class game of rugby at Durban on Saturday.#SHAvLIO #SuperRugby #Week17 #OurSharksForever #OurSharks pic.twitter.com/Ou7ZJ2NDM5— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 30, 2018
Sharks 31 Lions 24
Another upset and another match turning intercept.
The conference topping Lions were leading 24-21 when Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo snatched an intercept and sprinted sixty metres to score to put the Durban team in front.
A conversion and a 73rd minute penalty from Robert du Preez then sealed the deal for the Sharks.
The Sharks stay in the hunt for the play-offs on 32 points though they must keep winning and hope that either the Jaguares, Rebels or even Lions in front of them slip up.
It will probably come down to the final week of the regular season when the Sharks host the Jaguares in Durban in the very last match of the preliminary rounds.
SANZAAR has announced the tournament dates for the 2019 Super Rugby competition that will kick-off on Friday February 15 when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in New Zealand. The Final will take place on Saturday July 6.
As there will be no June inbound international matches in 2019 – due to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan later in the year – Super Rugby will run uninterrupted for 21 weeks.
Plus, there will be a uniform start to the tournament in Round 1 with a full round of seven matches to kick-off Super Rugby.
Apart from the Chiefs and Highlanders clash other week 1 highlights include the NSW Waratahs hosting the star-studded Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday February 16, a big South African derby with the Stormers taking on the Bulls in Cape Town and the Jaguares welcoming the Lions to Argentina.
Click HERE for the full 2019 Super Rugby match schedule.
Canes 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ Schedule:— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) June 11, 2018
[Full Draw] https://t.co/TfgBIxqKEw
The tournament’s 15-team, three-Conference format remains the same.
Each team plays 16 regular season conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away). Each team also has two byes.
This is a total of 120 matches in the regular season that will be followed by a seven-match, eight-team finals series. The conferences remain:
Australia Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares
The Finals series will also remain unchanged with each of the three Conference winners qualifying for and hosting a quarter-final.
The team with the most tournament points that is not a Conference winner, regardless of Conference, will host the fourth quarter-final.
This Wildcard team will be joined in the quarter-finals by the next best four Wildcard teams based on tournament points and regardless of Conference.
The released schedule confirms all tournament match dates and kick-off times. However, the match venues will be announced later in the year once teams have determined where their home matches will be allocated.