The Crusaders and New South Wales Waratahs posted Super Rugby wins in South Africa on Saturday, ending a run of 16 games in which no Australian or New Zealand team had been able to win in South Africa and no South African team had won in Australia or New Zealand.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders beat the Lions 28-7 in Johannesburg to balance their record at three wins and three losses from six games, and the Waratahs beat the Stormers 22-11 in Cape Town to go to 4-3 and to extend the Stormers’ losing streak to five matches.
Defending champions the Chiefs came close to achieving the same feat, converting a try after the final hooter to draw 43-43 with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
For the second week in a row, the Hamilton-based franchise overcame a substantial deficit in the second half to snatch a draw, rallying from 34-10 behind to tie the scores with a converted try in the 82nd minute. A week earlier, the Chiefs scored 16 points in the final 10 minutes to draw 34-34 with the Lions, ending a three-match road trip with a loss and two draws.
The loss came at the hands of the Perth-based Western Force who, on Saturday, scored a try through fullback Jayden Hayward in the 79th minute to beat the Queensland Reds 32-29 extending their winning streak to a club-record four matches. The Force have now beaten the Melbourne Rebels, the champion Chiefs and the 2011 champion Reds during that sequence of two home and two away wins.
The Hurricanes beat the Bulls 25-20 in Napier, New Zealand, for their second straight win, improving their record to 3-3 and rising to 10th place. The Wellington Hurricanes have now won three of their past four games, beating the seven-time champion Crusaders and three-time champion Bulls in their past two matches.
Two-time champions the ACT Brumbies retained a one-point lead over the Waratahs in the Australian conference with a 26-9 win over the Auckland Blues. The Brumbies remain second on the overall championships table, two points behind the Durban-based Sharks, who had a bye in the eighth round.
The Chiefs are a further point back in third place with a record of three wins, a loss and two draws and a four-point lead in the New Zealand conference over the Hurricanes and Dunedin-based Highlanders, who moved to 3-3 with a 33-30 win over the Melbourne Rebels.
After eight rounds, only eight points separate the first-placed Sharks from the 11th-placed Reds on a table made tighter by recent upsets.
The Crusaders revived their flagging campaign with their win over the Lions, overcoming the absence of captain Keiran Read, with a head injury, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and flyhalf Dan Carter.
Stand-in captain Ryan Crotty scored a pivotal try shortly after half-time and had another disallowed on the intervention of a touch judge in an outstanding individual performance.
“The boys were pretty disciplined and stuck to the game plan today, and I think that served us really well,” Crotty said. “We played at the right end of the field and put them under pressure down in their half and scored points on the back of that.”
Kurtley Beale played an important attacking role from fullback in the Waratahs’ win over the Stormers — their first win in Cape Town since 2006.
“He’s got great skills, Kurtley, great vision,” Waratahs captain Dave Dennis said. “Him coming in there at second receiver adds a lot more to our attack, and I was happy with his performance.”