The PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA got off to a flying start on Saturday afternoon with a drama-filled match in Cape Town when the Cell C Sharks edged the DHL Stormers 33-30, while the Vodacom Bulls defeated neighbours Emirates Lions 24-9 thanks to late surge in their evening encounter at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The four local teams will play each other in a double-round competition before the start of the international season.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi lined-up against his former franchise team-mates at the Cape Town Stadium, where the KwaZulu-Natalians managed to pull off a three-point win thanks to a rousing second-half comeback.
Form was on the side of the Cell C Sharks who had won four of the last six encounters between the coastal rivals and they made it five from seven with a five-try victory.
In the evening fixture the Vodacom Bulls managed to turn their 10-6 halftime advantage into a deserved 24-9 victory over the Emirates Lions thanks to a strong finish. The Pretoria side also had three tries disallowed.
A quick-fire second-half hat-trick by Cell C Sharks lock Reniel Hugo saw the Durbanites get their PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA campaign off to a winning start by beating the DHL Stormers by 33-30 in an eight-try thriller on a glorious sunny autumn day at Cape Town Stadium.
Hugo’s three tries came in the space of only six minutes early in the second half after the home team took a 23-12 lead at the break, with the 21-point turnaround effectively putting the Cell C Sharks in the driving seat for the remainder of the match.
The DHL Stormers had an opportunity to snatch a win late in the match in the visitors’ 22, but a grubber to an unmarked Ruhan Nel (outside centre) on the left wing evaded the Blitzbok speedster and ensured the victory for the Cell C Sharks.
The home team were also shown two red cards – to Seabelo Senatla (wing) for playing an opponent in the air in the 14th minute, and debutant Willie Engelbrecht (No 8) for two dangerous tackles in each half (16th and 48th minutes) – which cost them dearly.
Even though they could replace these two players after 20 minutes according to law trials in use during the competition, the DHL Stormers’ rhythm was severely disrupted.
Afterwards, DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson bemoaned his team’s discipline: “I think we were unlucky to lose, but we know why we did and it’s our own fault.
“When we went to 13 men, I don’t think we ever quite recovered that energy or mindset until the last few minutes, which was a pity because we tried to play certain brand and obviously those cards took it away from us,” said Dobson.
DHL Stormers 30 (23) – Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Rikus Pretorius, Damian Willemse. Conversions: Kade Wolhuter (2), Abner van Reenen. Penalty goals: Wolhuter (3).
Cell C Sharks 33 (12) – Tries: Thomas du Toit, Fez Mbatha, Reniel Hugo (3). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).
Two tries in the closing 14 minutes steered the Vodacom Bulls to an encouraging 24-9 victory against the Emirates Lions in their PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA opener at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.
The match was tighter than the scoreboard reflected as the Vodacom Bulls held a narrow 10-6 halftime lead before breaking away in the final quarter to secure the win.
Jake White’s charges, however, will take comfort from the fact that they were disallowed three tries, which could have earned them a more rewarding win.
Vodacom Bulls captain Nizaam Carr described their win as not pretty, but he was obviously happy with the result.
“We didn’t get to do the things we pride ourselves on, but looking back, the captains’ referral ruled out three tries for us and it’s something we have to get used to,” said Carr.
Emirates Lions skipper Dan Kriel admitted his team could not handle the pressure towards the end of the second half: “I think we worked very hard and were in it for 60 minutes. During the last few minutes, the Bulls capitalised on the pressure they managed to create. Credit to them, they deserved to win in the end.”
Vodacom Bulls 24 (10) – Tries: Chris Smith, Zak Burger, Elrigh Louw. Conversions: Smith (1), Morné Steyn (2). Penalty goals: Smith (1).
Emirates Lions 9 (6) – Penalty goals: Fred Zeilinga (3).