A successful conversion by Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok at the death saw the DHL Stormers topple defending champions Stade Rochelais 21-20 in Cape Town, while it was pure disappointment for the Vodacom Bulls as they suffered a 29-28 defeat against Lyon in France.

In the EPCR Challenge Cup, the Emirates Lions capitalised on their chances for a 35-13 victory against the Newcastle Falcons in Johannesburg, while the Toyota Cheetahs shut out the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Bloemfontein in the dying minutes for a narrow 32-29 victory.

With two pool matches remaining in both competitions, the Investec Champions Cup teams will be under pressure to win to stay in the running for places in the top 16, while the Emirates Lions, Toyota Cheetahs and Hollywoodbets Sharks are still in a solid positions to stake a claim for playoff places in the EPCR Challenge Cup.


DHL Stormers topple Stade Rochelais with late converted try

A late try by Andre-Hugo Venter and last-gasp conversion by Manie Libbok earned the DHL Stormers a nail-biting 21-20 victory against defending Investec Champions Cup champions Stade Rochelais in what marked an encouraging start for the Capetonians on their new playing surface at the DHL Stadium on Saturday.

Making the victory even more significant, they were trailing by 13-6 at the break, and suffered four away defeats in a row in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship before defeating Zebre-Parma in Stellenbosch and then, a week later, going down to Leicester Tigers in their opening Investec Champions Cup game last weekend.

Only one converted try was scored in the first half by the French club’s former All Black scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow, with the rest of the points being scored by penalty goals – two by Libbok and the visitors’ Antoine Hastoy.

The DHL Stormers trailed 20-14 in the 51st minute as Ben Loader crossed the chalk following an earlier penalty goal by Libbok and a second try by Stade Rochelais, but the defending champions suffered a big blow with four minutes left on the clock as Joel Sclavi received a yellow card.

Two minutes later, Venter crashed over the line to leave them trailing by 20-19. Libbok stood up to the plate and slotted the conversion to seal the morale-boosting victory for the Cape side.


DHL Stormers 21 (6) – Tries: Ben Loader, Andre-Hugo Venter. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalty goals: Libbok (3).

Stade Rochelais 20 (13) - Tries: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Yann Tanga. Conversions: Antoine Hastoy (2). Penalty goals: Hastoy (2).


Vodacom Bulls suffer heart-breaking defeat in Lyon

The Vodacom Bulls suffered a heart-breaking 29-28 defeat against Lyon after pushing a late penalty goal wide at the Matmut Stade de Gerland in France on Saturday in an Investec Champions Cup match in which they held the lead early in the fourth quarter.

The hosts scored five tries to three by the Pretoria outfit, but the visitors kept the scoreboard ticking with three penalty goals by Chris Smith, who also kicked two conversions.

The Vodacom Bulls wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with Zak Burger scoring a converted try which Smith followed up with a penalty goal for a 10-0 lead early on, and they added another try by Sergeal Petersen and as well as a second three-pointer by Smith, which kept them 18-12 ahead at halftime despite leaking two tries.

Smith extended their score to 21 points when play resumed but back-to-back tries by Lyon in the 45th and 61st minute saw the hosts go three points up.

Springbok flanker Marco van Staden struck again for the Vodacom Bulls, but the home side cancelled it out with a try of their own with nine minutes left to play and that proved to be the last points of the match, sealing 29-28 win for the French outfit.


Lyon 29 (12) – Tries: Ethan Dumortier, Pierre-Samuel Pacheco, Alfred Parisien, Yanis Charcosset, Thibaut Regard. Conversions: Martin Page-Relo, Paddy Jackson.

Vodacom Bulls 28 (18) – Tries: Zak Burger, Sergeal Petersen, Marco van Staden. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (3).


Emirates Lions outplay Falcons for second win

The Emirates Lions showed grit against the Newcastle Falcons as they built on a 14-6 halftime lead for a rewarding 35-13 win at Emirates Airline Park, which marked their second win in the EPCR Challenge Cup in as many weeks.

The Falcons tested the Johannesburgers at times, but the home side made the most of their opportunities when it mattered, with Emmanuel Tshituka scoring a brace and Sanele Nohamba slotting five conversions as the team snatched a bonus point win to stay in the running for a spot in the playoffs.

The Emirates Lions scored two first-half tries to only two penalty goals by the visitors, with the latter losing two players to yellow cards within four minutes in the dying minutes.

The Johannesburgers, however, took control of the scoreboard in the second half with Tshituka touching down twice and Marius Louw once, however, they slipped one on defence, which allowed the visitors from England to take their score into double figures.


Emirates Lions 35 (14) – Tries: PJ Botha, JP Smith, Emmanuel Tshituka (2), Marius Louw. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (5).

Newcastle Falcons 13 (6) – Try: Freddie Lockwood. Conversion: Brett Connon. Penalty Goals: Connon (2).


Toyota Cheetahs make it two in a row in thrilling derby

The Toyota Cheetahs made a telling statement against the Hollywoodbets Sharks in a try festival at the Toyota Stadium where they hung on for a narrow 32-29 victory in the EPCR Challenge Cup.

The Free Staters scored twice in the first half compliments of Marnus van der Merwe and Gideon van der Merwe to add to a conversion and penalty goal by Ruan Pienaar, while they limited the Hollywoodbets Sharks to a converted try for a 15-7 halftime lead.

The KwaZulu-Natalians came out strongly in the second half scoring their second try shortly after play resumed, and added another 14 minutes later by Springbok scrumhalf Grant Williams, while Curwin Bosch added a penalty goal to hand them a 22-18 lead. It proved to be a ding-dong battle for the rest of the stanza as the teams scored one after the other.

The Toyota Cheetahs’ Daniel Maartens struck first with a try in the fourth quarter, and Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi cancelled it out soon after to stretch their score to 29 points, but it was the hosts’ Cohen Jasper who had the final say as he darted around a defender to score the match-winning try, which Pienaar converted to hand them the victory.


Toyota Cheetahs 32 (15) – Tries: Marnus van der Merwe, Gideon van der Merwe, Daniel Maartens, Cohen Jasper. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (3). Penalty Goals: Pienaar (2).

Hollywoodbets Sharks 29 (7) – Tries: Eben Etzebeth, Francois Venter, Grant Williams, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (3). Penalty Goal: Bosch.

Marco van Staden scored one of the Vodacom Bulls' three tries in France.

Marco van Staden scored one of the Vodacom Bulls' three tries in France.

Quan Horn on the attack for the Emirates Lions.

Quan Horn on the attack for the Emirates Lions.

Manie Libbok slotted a tricky conversion to hand the DHL Stormers a nail-biting win.

Manie Libbok slotted a tricky conversion to hand the DHL Stormers a nail-biting win.