That winning feeling

SA Rugby magazine selects six of the best South African Super Rugby wins.

Reds 25 Sharks 43
Brisbane, 1996

Queensland were a formidable unit in the first season of Super Rugby, and after beating Gary Teichmann’s Natal team in a Kings Park nail-biter in a league match just a few weeks earlier, they started this semi-final as overwhelming favourites. Even in those days Natal had a reputation for being good travellers, and from an early stage of the semi-final it was clear they were up for it. Their phalanx of Springboks were all in superb form, with Cabous van der Westhuizen scoring a hat-trick and André Joubert a double.

Highlanders 18 Cheetahs 49
Invercargill, 1997

Free State qualified for their first Super Rugby campaign in 1997 (ahead of Western Province) and finished a respectable seventh on the log. Arguably their best performance came against the Highlanders in Invercargill, where they scored seven tries, including two each from Chris Badenhorst and Naka Drotské. After leading 21-15 at half-time, they totally outplayed the hosts in the second spell. It remains the Cheetahs’ only overseas win in Super Rugby.

Stormers 28 Crusaders 19
Cape Town, 1999

The sad part of this game, which was played on a Sunday, was that it saw the end of Bob Skinstad’s finest form as a rugby player. The Crusaders were the champions, the Stormers were rated the form team in the competition, and with Skinstad outstanding as a player and leader, the Stormers were all over the Crusaders. Although there were only nine points in it in the end as the Crusaders launched a late rally, the result was never in doubt. The win established the Stormers as tournament favourites, but then came the late-night car accident that ruined Skinstad’s knee and effectively ended their title aspirations.

Blues 23, Stormers 51
Auckland, 2004

At the time this was easily the most emphatic win scored by a South African team over a major New Zealand franchise away from home. The Stormers had won well in Auckland on their previous visit, and in the early stages of the game there would have been no inkling of what was to come, as the two sides looked evenly matched. However, about a quarter of an hour before half-time, the Stormers suddenly hit a purple patch in which every ball bounced perfectly for them, with Werner Greeff and the rest of the Stormers backs running riot. The visitors finished with eight tries, including two each from Adri Badenhorst and Tonderai Chavhanga.

Force 24 Lions 25
Perth, 2007

This narrow win wasn’t the most polished performance by a South African team in Super Rugby history, but it warrants a mention simply because it broke a long drought for the Lions in Australia. It was Eugene Eloff’s first season in charge, and the Lions were in a confident mood and playing spirited rugby after beating the Crusaders in Jo’burg the previous week. But when the Force took the lead in the second half after the Lions had been in front for much of the way, it looked like a familiar theme would play itself out. That was when André Pretorius stepped up to slot a late pressure penalty that sent the Lions into a celebration rarely experienced by them away from Ellis Park.

Bulls 61 Chiefs 17
Pretoria, 2009

The first South African triumph in the Super 14 had come after a tense struggle between two local sides in 2007, but 2009 was the year where a South African franchise really took the competition by the scruff and underlined their dominance. The Chiefs scored first in the final and for a moment it looked like there may be a deviation from the anticipated script, but the Bulls struck back quickly and three tries in quick succession effectively shut the New Zealand team out of the game. After that it just became a stampede, with the Bulls completely overwhelming the Chiefs as they rattled up the biggest victory margin in a Super Rugby final.

By Gavin Rich

– This article appears in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine