The DHL Stormers will host the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town and the Cell C Sharks will travel to Dublin to face Leinster in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoffs in two weekends’ time following the confirmation of the eight quarter-finalists as the league phase of the competition came to a close on Saturday.
In the other two quarter-finals, Glasgow Warriors will go up against Munster and Ulster will meet Connacht. The dates and kick-off times will be confirmed in due course.
The DHL Stormers succeed in registering a bonus-point 38-22 victory against Benetton in Stellenbosch on Friday to give them the best possible chance of securing a spot in the top two, but their hopes of achieving this were dashed when Ulster beat Edinburgh, which was enough for them to finish in second place.
The Vodacom Bulls, meanwhile, finished the pool stages in sixth position following their comprehensive 62-7 victory against log-leaders Leinster in Pretoria, while the Emirates Lions wrapped up their campaign on a high note with a 50-35 victory against Zebre Parma, also in Pretoria.
In turn, the Cell C Sharks – in eighth place on the standings – were forced to settle for a 22-22 draw against Munster in Durban, but fortunately they were already guaranteed of a quarter-final place when they entered the field.
In a change to last season’s rules, the teams with the highest seeding in each semi-final, will enjoy hosting rights on the weekend of Friday, 12 May, when the final four teams play for a spot in the final. Previously, the winners of quarter-final one and two were guaranteed home draws no matter their ranking.
These results also saw the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls seal their places in the Heineken Champions Cup next season.
DHL Stormers bounce back against Benetton in Stellies
Willie Engelbrecht scored a brace as the DHL Stormers secured a 38-22 bonus-point win (half-time 12-10) against Italian side Benetton in their final Vodacom United Rugby Championship league match in Stellenbosch on Friday.
The defending champions lost 26-24 to Munster last week which was their first defeat on home soil in nearly two years. Determined to make amends for that result – and to atone for last season’s loss to Benetton in Treviso – they set out to deliver a more convincing performance.
Benetton certainly tested the hosts in the early stages, but the Cape side went to the break with a two-point lead. They showed their class in the second half to finish the match with an impressive six tries to two by Benetton to add to a penalty try for the victory.
DHL Stormers 38 (12) – Tries: Angelo Davids, Willie Engelbrecht (2), JJ Kotze, Clayton Blommetjies, Marcel Theunissen. Conversions: Manie Libbok (4).
Benetton 22 (10) – Tries: Alessandro Izekor, Manuel Zuliani, Penalty try. Conversion: Tomas Alboronz. Penalty goal: Alboronz.
Impressive Emirates Lions finish campaign with a flourish
Sanele Nohamba scored 20 points as the Emirates Lions beat Italian side Zebre Parma 50-35 (31-22 half-time) in Pretoria on Saturday to end their Vodacom United Rugby Championship season on a high.
While the quality of the defence left a lot to be desired, both teams showed plenty of enterprise on attack. Wing Simone Gesi scored a first-half hat-trick for the Italians, while Edwill van der Merwe scored two of the Emirates Lions’ five tries during this period.
Jaco Kriel, playing in his final Vodacom URC match, also crossed the line in the first half, and his team went to the break with a healthy 31-22 lead.
Emirates Lions 50 (31) – Tries: Sanele Nohamba (2), Edwill van der Merwe (2), Jaco Kriel, Quan Horn, Andries Coetzee, Rynhardt Rijnsburger. Conversions: Nohamba (5).
Zebre Parma 35 (22) – Tries: Simone Gesi (3), Jacopo Trulla, Juan Pitinari. Conversions: Tiff Eden (2). Penalty goals: Eden (2).
Brilliant Vodacom Bulls bury Leinster at Loftus
The Vodacom Bulls laid down a big marker in the build-up to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoffs with an impressive 62-7 victory (half-time 31-0) over Leinster at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The result – Leinster’s first defeat of the 2022/23 Vodacom URC campaign, albeit with an inexperienced side without their Irish Test stars – temporarily saw the team from Pretoria move up to fifth on the log, but Munster then passed them a few hours later after their draw in Durban.
The hosts’ first-half performance, built on the back of their powerful pack, was probably one of their best yet in the competition as they scored four tries to race into a commanding lead. They continued their dominance in the second half which saw them outscore the visitors nine tries to one.
Vodacom Bulls 62 (31) – Tries: Ruan Nortje, Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), Johan Grobbelaar (2), Canan Moodie (2), Stedman Gans, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Johan Goosen (7). Penalty goal: Goosen.
Leinster 7 (0) – Try: Michael Milne. Conversion: Sam Prendergrast.
Cell C Sharks draw against Munster in Durban
The Cell C Sharks and Munster played to a dramatic 22-22 draw in a thrilling closing Vodacom United Rugby Championship pool match at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban on Saturday night.
The Durban side entered the clash guaranteed of a quarter-final berth after the DHL Stormers defeated Benetton in Stellenbosch on Friday, but this result left them having to settle for eighth place on the standings.
The Cell C Sharks dominated the first half, creating attacking opportunities at will and this saw them score three tries, while they limited the visitors to a penalty goal for their efforts. Munster staged a strong fightback in the second half in which they scored two tries to add to a penalty try, while they shut out the Cell C Sharks whose only points were from a penalty goal.
Cell C Sharks 22 (19) – Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Werner Kok, Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Conversions: Curwin Bosch, Boeta Chamberlain. Penalty Goal: Chamberlain.
Munster 22 (3) – Tries: Penalty Try, Calvin Nash, Conor Murray. Conversion: Ben Healy. Penalty goal: Jack Crowley.