Super 14 Week 12: No Kiwi Sides in the Semifinals
The 12th week of the Super 14 was great for South African sides as an all South African final looms as a distinct possibility.
The Highlanders severely dented the Waratahs hops, proving they will not hand any side favors as the desperation semifinal places heat up.
The Stormers could have killed the Crusaders title hopes, as the Crusaders face two tough, must win games.
With three Australian sides in contention there is a strong possibility two South African sides along with two Australian sides meet in the semifinals.
Since super rugby began, there's never been a New Zealand side not qualify for the semifinals.
What is going on with New Zealand rugby?
The Bulls have won 17 games in a row at Loftus.
Can they be beaten at home (although their semi and final will be played in Soweto at Orlando Stadium)?
Highlanders (26) v Waratahs (10)
The Highlanders have a fairly good record in Invercargill and the Waratahs missed out on crucial log points. Conditions were extremely tough for both sides with torrential rain and a chilly wind to contend with.
The Highlanders dealt with conditions better and it was the explosive magic of Israel Dagg that proved to be the difference as he set up tries for Adam Thomson.
It also showed that playing catch up rugby in wet conditions is always tough as the Waratahs could only watch the game slip further and further away, possibly alongside their semifinal aspirations.
Stormers (42) v Crusaders (14)
This match was almost a quarterfinal for both sides and the Stormers dominated showing how good they have become.
The Stormers dominated almost all aspects, while the Crusaders failed to adapt to the referee, and for once Stuart Dickinson was nice to a South African side.
After the early exchanges the Stormers only had two penalties to show for their efforts. A Dan Carter kick charge down allowed the Crusaders to snatch the lead.
So often in the past these sorts of passages turned a match but the Stormers showed great composure and determination to continue implementing their game plan.
In the second half, Jaque Fourie scored one of the individual tries of the season and Newlands went off its rocker.
It was awesome.
It was one of the more dominant performances of the season, and the Crusaders struggled to score until the game was effectively over.
The Stormers defense has been magnificent and funny enough, they were able to score 40 points with only 3 tries.
I'm not sure if Bryan Habana has a serious injury, maybe he was taken off as more of a precautionary measure.
However, the form of Fourie has been magnificent, and the Stormers now have the confidence to go all the way.
Hurricanes (33) v Chiefs (27)
The Hurricanes kept their slim semifinal hopes alive with a rousing second half comeback against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs dominated the first half scoring four tries and leading 24-8.
However, the Hurricanes came out fired up in the second half. They applied relentless pressure allowing them to take the lead with only six minutes remaining.
The bonus point try towards the end of the game may yet be the difference in claiming an unlikely last semifinal spot.
Brumbies (32) v Reds (12)
A fairly comprehensive victory for the Brumbies in a game that was expected to be much closer.
The Brumbies managed to get a four try bonus point while denying the Reds log points.
Injuries to the Reds second row, which has already been depleted, were extremely telling.
The Brumbies were able to dominate the set-pieces, forcing the Reds to play behind the advantage line. This led to better field position and the ability to exert constant pressure.
While the Reds defense has been solid, there are only so many tackles a side can make. I've felt the Reds have gotten away with killing/slowing the ball at the breakdowns, and penalties hurt them.
This result ensures there is a five side logjam in the middle of the pack chasing two semifinal spots. Nobody can feel safe, and what looked like a chance of a home semifinal for the Reds, may now see them miss out.
Cheetahs (36) v Blues (32)
The slim semifinal hopes of the Blues vanished with a loss to the Cheetahs.
The Cheetahs started off the stronger side despite having to travel back from Hamilton, and were rewarded with a try after just two and a half minutes.
The Cheetahs dominated for much of the first half but the Blues came back strong to gain the lead three quarters of the way through the match. The Cheetahs were able to seal a close game, their third win of the competition.
Lions (12) v Force (33)
The Lions equalled the record for most consecutive losses in a season. This time they were hammered by the Force, oh the embarrassment of what was such a proud union only a decade or two ago.
Conditions were wet, but that is no excuse. The Force played smarter rugby, opting to play the territory game.
The match was even at 12-apiece after the first half hour. A try before halftime saw the inevitable defensive lapses we have seen all season from the Lions.
It highlighted the difference between the two sides, which is the Force have remained hungry to win all season.
Despite having limitations in their personnel, they work hard and play to their ability which has seen recent success. The Lions have plenty of talent but are a sorry excuse for a professional rugby side.
Bulls (27) v Sharks (19)
This match took some time, but the Blue machine showed once again it is a patient piece of machinery that wears you down.
The Sharks were never in the match, but thanks to some errors and poor discipline by the Bulls, they were able to open up a 12-3 lead.
Twenty-four unanswered points was the response from the Bulls as they put the match beyond doubt with a strong forward effort and sharp running from the backs. The run allowed them to pull some of their top players off for the last 10 minutes.
They look forward to one last effort at Loftus next week to secure the top spot on the log.
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