The Emirates Lions defeated the Cell C Sharks 27-10 on Saturday in Durban to clinch overall top spot on the Vodacom Super Rugby table, meaning the two sides will meet each again next week in Johannesburg in one of four quarterfinal fixtures.
The DHL Stormers were too strong for the Vodacom Bulls and triumphed 41-33 in an exciting Saturday afternoon encounter at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, while the Toyota Cheetahs bowed out with a 21-20 win over the Southern Kings in their Friday night clash in Port Elizabeth.
With the final round of regular fixtures now completed, the final standings as well as the eight quarterfinalists were confirmed on Saturday evening.
The Emirates Lions, Crusaders, DHL Stormers and Brumbies won through to the playoffs as respective conference winners, while the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders and Cell C Sharks each booked their spot in the playoffs as the four wildcard qualifiers.
In next weekend’s quarterfinal action, the Brumbies welcome the Hurricanes on Friday, 21 July at 11h35 (SA time), while the Saturday line-up sees the Crusaders hosting the Highlanders (09h35), the Emirates Lions entertain the Cell C Sharks (14h30) and the DHL Stormers are at home to the Chiefs (17h00).
Following the Crusaders’ 31-22 loss to the Hurricanes earlier on Saturday, the Emirates Lions had the advantage of knowing that a win in Durban in the very last fixture of regular league action would secure them outright first place on the overall table.
They had to work hard for their 27-10 win, meaning that they are in line to host the 2017 final should they manage to win their next two matches in the knockout stage.
In the earlier Saturday fixture at Loftus, the DHL Stormers had a narrow 22-21 lead at the break but went on to outscore their hosts by six tries to five.
Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Kolisi, Damian Willemse and Seabelo Senatla all scored for the Cape team while the Pretoria side’s tries came through Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews, Piet van Zyl and Jesse Kriel (2).
The Toyota Cheetahs bowed out with a gritty comeback victory over the Southern Kings on Friday night in Port Elizabeth. The Bloemfontein outfit won 21-20 after trailing 12-3 at half-time. They scored their tries through Clinton Swart and Raymond Rhule, while Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu and Lubabalo Mtyanda crossed the line for the Kings.
Southern Kings 20, Toyota Cheetahs 21
Southern Kings 20 – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu, Lubabalo Mtyanda; Conversion: Lionel Cronje; Penalty: Cronje.
Toyota Cheetahs 21 – Tries: Clinton Swart, Raymond Rhule; Conversion: Niel Marais; Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2), Marais.
Vodacom Bulls 33, DHL Stormers 41
Vodacom Bulls 33 – Tries: Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews, Jesse Kriel (2), Piet van Zyl;
Conversions: Tian Schoeman (4).
DHL Stormers 41 – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Kolisi, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla; Conversions: Willemse (3), Kolbe. Penalty: Willemse.
Cell C Sharks 10, Emirates Lions 27
Cell C Sharks 10 – Try: Kobus van Wyk; Conversion: Garth April; Penalty: April.
Emirates Lions 27 – Tries: Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee, Jaco Kriel; Penalties: Elton Jantjies (4).
Other Round 17 Results:
Friday, July 14
Highlanders 40, Reds 17
Rebels 29, Jaguares 32
Saturday, July 15
Sunwolves 48, Blues 21
Chiefs 28, Brumbies 10
Hurricanes 31, Crusaders 22
Force 40, Waratahs 11