Kings win the battle of the Super battlers

Super Rugby
by AFP

South Africa’s Southern Kings rebounded from last week’s loss to the Jaguares to register their first Super Rugby win away from home since 2013 with a 37-23 victory over Japan’s Sunwolves on Saturday in Singapore.

Despite suffering a heavy injury toll and struggling to cope with Singapore’s stifling humidity, the Kings outmuscled and outsmarted the Sunwolves to triumph in a high-scoring clash between the bottom two sides from last season.

The Kings got two first half tries from replacements Rudi van Rooyen and Chris Cloete against the run of play and two more in the second term from number eight Ruan Lerm and impressive winger Malcolm Jaer as they asserted their dominance.

The Sunwolves, whose only win in their debut Super Rugby season last year was against the Jaguares, showed a marked improvement on last week’s humiliating 83-17 loss to the Hurricanes in Tokyo but coughed up too much ball and kicked away too much possession to mount a sustained challenge.

They did manage a first half try from bustling centre Timothy Lafaele and two late consolation touchdowns from Kenki Fukuoka  and Takaaki Nakazuru but trailed throughout the match.

In Cape Town, the Stormers of battled to a 32-25 Super Rugby victory on Saturday over the Jaguares who were reduced to 13 men for part of the second half.

Outstanding loose forward Pablo Matera and Matias Moroni were yellow carded within a minute just past the hour mark at Newlands.

Stormers were awarded a penalty try soon after for a nine-point lead and the expectations were that the floodgates would open.

But the Buenos Aires-based side responded with a brilliant try by Santiago Cordero which replacement Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias converted.

Seconds before the two sin-binned Argentines returned, SP Marais scored a try for the Cape Town outfit to complete the scoring.

"The Jaguares shocked us with their physicality," admitted Stormers try scorer and man of the match EW Viljoen.

"We were very happy to hear the final whistle sound. It was a really tough match for us."

After a poor debut season, the Jaguares are looking more polished this year despite lacking injured stars Martin Landajo and Juan Martin Hernandez.

Star Nicolas Sanchez returned to fly-half and contributed eight points after missing the opening-round win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend.

"The way the Jaguares forwards carried the ball was outstanding," said SuperSport TV analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett.

In Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs attacked relentlessly in the first half and defended superbly after the break to claim a 34-28 victory over the Bulls on Saturday. 

In a South African derby of contrasting halves, Cheetahs scored four converted tries to turn over 28-14 ahead at the Free State Stadium.

It was a different story in the second half, though, as the Bulls dominated possession and territory and two converted tries in quick succession narrowed the gap to three points.

The Cheetahs held their nerve and Fred Zeilinga completed a flawless goal-kicking performance with his second penalty of the half to double the lead.

Victory was a huge relief for the hosts after starting the season last weekend with an unlucky home loss to 2016 runners-up and fellow South Africans the Lions.   

For the second successive weekend three-time former champions the Bulls paid dearly for a sluggish first half, having begun their campaign with a loss at the Western Stormers.

"Character earned us this victory," said Cheetahs skipper and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, deputising for the injured Francois Venter.

"Our plan was to move the huge Bulls forwards around the heavy field to tire them, and it worked.

"I am disappointed that we left points on the field for the second match in a row. We have got to be more clinical."

Cheetahs host the Japanese Sunwolves next weekend while the Bulls have a bye.