It was a weekend of success for the home sides in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, with three of the four South African sides victorious, until Cardiff upset the apple cart in Durban in the last match of round eight.
In the process, the four teams at the top of the standings have opened up a slight gap on the chasing pack, with the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers – last season’s finalists both of whom collected five log points this weekend – in hot pursuit of two Irish teams, unbeaten Leinster in first and Ulster in second place on the ladder.
The Emirates Lions won their first home game of the season when they beat the Dragons on Sunday afternoon, but the Cell C Sharks were the only team that lost at home this weekend after they were blanked by an impressive Cardiff in Durban in the final match of the round.
With the halfway mark of the regular season moving into view, Leinster lead the race with 38 points from eight games, followed by Ulster (30 points from seven games), the Vodacom Bulls (29 from eight) and the DHL Stormers (29 from seven).
The Emirates Lions occupy seventh position with 19 points from seven games, but the Cell C Sharks have dropped to 12 with 15 points from their six games.
This weekend will see another round of South African v Welsh matches when the Cell C Sharks host the Ospreys on Friday (19h10), the DHL Stormers take on the Dragons on Saturday (14h00) before the Vodacom Bulls face Cardiff (20h00), and on Sunday the Scarlets are away to the Emirates Lions (13h30).
Slick DHL Stormers slay Scarlets in Cape Town
The DHL Stormers kicked off the restart of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with a comfortable 36-19 win over Welsh side Scarlets at a windswept DHL Stadium on Friday evening in Cape Town.
There were tries galore in the entertaining first half, with the defending champions scoring four times and restricting the visitors to just one score.
The hosts got one more after the break to pull clear, but the Scarlets didn't give up and added two more tries to their tally.
DHL Stormers 36 (29) – Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Leolin Zas, Ernst van Rhyn, Dan du Plessis, Hacjivah Dayimani. Conversions: Kade Wolhuter (4). Penalty goal: Wolhuter.
Scarlets 19 (7) – Tries: Ryan Conbeer (2), Tom Rogers. Conversions: Dan Jones, Rhys Patchell.
Vodacom Bulls outplay Ospreys in Pretoria
The Vodacom Bulls scored a convincing 43-26 win over the Ospreys in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, scoring seven tries in the process and showing that they are not a one-trick pony.
The match started 30 minutes late due to a thunderstorm, but that did not impact the hosts at all, nor did it inhibit their style of play, with a number of delightful multi-phase tries scored in the encounter.
The Vodacom Bulls had clear intentions of playing at speed and wearing out the Ospreys defence and succeeded with that, scoring five tries in the first half to hold a 31-14 lead, managing to create space on the outside often. The Welsh visitors had little answer to those tactics.
The Ospreys deserve credit though, as they came back well into the match, but the Welsh outfit will be the first to admit that they were outplayed on this occasion.
Vodacom Bulls 43 (31) – Tries: David Kriel (2), Nizaam Carr, WJ Steenkamp, Elrigh Louw, Ruan Nortje, Zak Burger. Conversions: Chris Smith (3), Morne Steyn.
Ospreys 26 (14) – Tries: Jack Walsh, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Rhys Henry. Conversions: Walsh (3).
Hendrikse guides Emirates Lions to first home win of season
The Emirates Lions outplayed the Dragons by 33-25 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Sunday to secure a first win of the season at home in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, with both sides scoring three tries apiece, but the impact of the host team's flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse proved the difference.
The young pivot scored a try, kicked two conversions and three penalty goals, as well as a drop goal, while his booming boot also kept the Dragons on their heels for most of the match.
The Emirates Lions held a 19-6 lead at the break and will not be happy for the three tries they conceded in the second half.
Emirates Lions 33 (19) – Tries: Ruhan Straeuli, Jordan Hendrikse, JP Smith. Conversions: Hendrikse (2), Gianni Lombard. Penalty goals: Hendrikse (3). Drop goal: Hendrikse.
Dragons 25 (6) – Tries: Sio Tomkinson, James Benjamin, Che Hope. Conversions: JJ Hanrahan (2). Penalty goals: Sam Davies (2).
Clinical Cardiff smash Cell C Sharks in wet Durban
It was a night to forget for the Cell C Sharks as Cardiff delivered a masterclass in wet-weather rugby to win their Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash in Durban by 35-0 (half-time 23-0) on Sunday evening.
The hosts were made to pay for too many unforced errors, indiscretions, wrong options, inferior tactical awareness and being schooled at the breakdowns in what was their first defeat at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in six matches since their 5-21 reverse to Edinburgh in Durban in March.
Rustiness and being bereft of their international stars may be seen as mitigating factors, but the Cell C Sharks can’t use it as excuses for their defeat, and they will need to do some introspection before they host the Ospreys on Friday.
Cell C Sharks 0
Cardiff 35 (23) – Tries: Penalty try, Thomas Young (2), Ben Thomas. Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2). Penalty goals: Evans (3).
Ulster 36 Zebre Parma 15
Benetton 24 Edinburgh 17
Leinster 40 Glasgow Warriors 5
Munster 24 Connacht 17