Johannesburg – The Sharks will travel to Cape Town for an all-South African Super Rugby semi-final against the Stormers after they eliminated the Reds in their qualifier in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.
The KwaZulu-Natalians reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2008 when they beat the Reds 30-17. This was only their 11th away victory out of 62 knock-out matches in the history of Super Rugby.
However, the Bulls bowed out of the competition when they were beaten by a brilliant Crusaders team in Christchurch in the fifth playoff match between these sides. The Crusaders won 28-13 and will travel to Hamilton next week where they will face the Chiefs in the first semi-final.
The Hamilton semi-final between the New Zealand Conference winners, the Chiefs, and the Crusaders will kick off at 9.35am (SA time) on Friday.
The semi-final at Newlands between the Stormers, who won the South African Conference and finished top of the overall standings, and The Sharks is scheduled for 5.05pm on Saturday.
To illustrate how little there is to pick between the four teams that will contest the semi-finals, look at the results in their derbies this year. The DHL Stormers beat the Sharks by 15-12 in Cape Town in round two and then lost by 20-25 in Durban in round 14.
The Chiefs beat the Crusaders by 24-19 in Christchurch in round three and recently lost in Hamilton by 28-21 in round 17.
The Sharks ensured a new Super Rugby champion will be crowned this year when they beat the defending champion Reds by 30-17 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.
With their pack setting the tone, The Sharks’ backs followed suit. The visitors from Durban were rampant in the first half and scored their first two tries, by JP Pietersen and Paul Jordaan, in the opening 25 minutes.
Pietersen crossed in the corner after a surging attack upfield by The Sharks that involved superb handling and angled running.
Jordaan, who last month was part of the South African Under-20 squad that won the Junior World Championship, rounded off after another great attacking move where he got the ball on the wing and stepped inside to score untouched under the sticks.
Charl McLeod got The Sharks’ third try when he intercepted and ran 60m to score under the uprights early in the second half. At 27-10, the match was all but sealed by the visitors.
Their defence was also superb and the Reds were not afforded the space to launch any attacks. Will Genia scored their first try very late in the first half and Radike Samo got their second on the stroke of full-time. – Sapa