Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 19 News List

South Africans do well in Super 12 over the weekend

AP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

South African teams won three of their four matches and two sides -- the Sharks and Stormers -- nestled into strong playoff positions in weekend matches in rugby's Super 12 tournament.

At Durban on Saturday, the Sharks picked up their first victory over New Zealand's Canterbury Crusaders, a 29-25 decision at Kings Park.

The win moved the Sharks into second place, six points behind the leading ACT Brumbies, who beat New Zealand's Otago Highlanders 50-18 Friday.

The Stormers, meanwhile, edged Queensland 21-20 Saturday at Brisbane -- the South African team's first win at Ballymore -- to sit a point behind the Sharks in third place.

The Sharks, Stormers and fourth-place Canterbury (20 points) have played only seven games while the Brumbies have completed eight and will have a bye next weekend.

Four teams make the semifinals and four rounds remain this season.

At Johannesburg, flanker Wikus van Heerden led the Cats to their first win of the season as the last-placed side held off New Zealand's Waikato Chiefs 23-21.

The Bulls weren't able to make it a perfect weekend for South African teams, losing 56-19 Friday to the defending champion Auckland Blues. But the Bulls are tied for fifth with 18 points along with Waikato.

Four teams -- New South Wales and Wellington, which both had weekend byes, and the Highlanders and Blues -- have 17 points, leaving just seven points separating second place from 10th.

The win was a costly one for Auckland after Blues halfback Steve Devine was ruled out for the season with a right knee injury. Devine, who will need surgery, complained of severe pain and loss of feeling in his leg after he tried to hack a loose ball on against the Bulls.

A game-breaking try by Springbok fullback Brent Russell led the Sharks. Flanker Richie McCaw replied late for Canterbury, but a number of errors by the Crusaders gave the Sharks the match.

"We got in front early," said Sharks captain John Smit, "and then we spent the rest of the game blocking holes. It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it."

At Brisbane, the Stormers scored twice in 10 minutes in the second half after the Reds led 15-6 at halftime. Chris Rossouw's kicking was the difference for the South Africans, landing three penalties and a conversion to complement second-half tries by Marius Joubert and Quinton Davids. Stormers' coach Gert Smal was not happy with his team's first match of four in Australia and New Zealand.

"Our game was not up to scratch and it's something we have to work on," said Smal. "It wasn't a good game ... but it was important for us to start with a win."

Fullback Chris Latham said the narrow loss was typical of Queensland's season. The Reds have only two wins in seven matches for 11 points and have only the Cats (7 points) behind them in the standings.

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