Bulls surprise Sharks as Super Rugby returns in South Africa
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — The Bulls beat the Sharks 30-17 on Friday on Super Rugby’s return in South Africa following a month-long break for internationals, leaving the Sharks with a likely trip to New Zealand to face the league-leading Crusaders in the playoffs.
Fullback Warrick Gelant scored three tries, with his first two in the space of five minutes in the first half, to lead the Bulls to their surprise win away in Durban.
In the other match Friday, the Southern Kings edged the Jaguares 31-30 at Buenos Aires. The home side led 20-14 at halftime but tired in the second half — many of the Jaguares players have just finished three weeks of test duties with the Argentina national team.
The Jaguares, who scored five tries to the Kings’ four, still could have pulled out a win, but lost a lineout while threatening to score in the final minute. Neither team will make the playoffs.
The three-time champion Bulls have had a poor year — one of their worst in Super Rugby — and it was only their fourth win of the season, their first since April, and their first away from home.
The Sharks had already qualified for the playoffs but are playing for position and to determine their knockout opponents. They remain the lowest-seeded of eight teams set to progress ahead of their final regular-season game against South African conference leaders the Lions in two weeks.
No. 8 Nic de Jager scored the Bulls’ first try at Kings Park after an error from the Sharks at a defensive lineout, and that trend continued as the Bulls pounced on mistakes and turnovers from the Sharks for three of their four tries.
The Sharks had tries from prop Thomas du Toit in the first half and fullback Curwin Bosch in the second, but each time Galant responded almost immediately to put the Bulls back in control.
The Sharks’ loss made it more likely they will face the unenviable task of traveling to Christchurch to face the powerful Crusaders, who have won all 14 of their games so far this season.
However, that scenario is not completely certain.
The Sharks could still improve their seeding for the playoffs but will probably need a bonus-point win over the Lions and New Zealand’s Highlanders to slip up in their final league game against Queensland Reds. Alternatively, the Lions could knock the Crusaders off the top if they win both their remaining games and the Crusaders lose in the last round against defending champions the Hurricanes.