Waratahs all set for big Cape Town Super Rugby clash
The Waratahs are back in contention for the Super Rugby playoffs, but face a potentially season-defining game against the Stormers in Cape Town this weekend.
Coming off losses to the Rebels and Brumbies, the Tahs faced a tough challenge from the Western Force in Perth before racing away late to record a confidence-boosting 49-13 win. Israel Folau scored his 30th try to overtake Lote Tuqiri as the team's highest Super Rugby tryscorer.
A try to hooker Harry Scoble on debut saw the Force close the gap to within four points at the 55-minute mark, but Folau's try opened the floodgates for the visitors as Reece Robinson, Angus Ta'avao and Jed Holloway all crossed to blow the margin right out.
With his team still needing to win at least six of their final eight matches to make the play-offs, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said the players did not fear heading to Cape Town to take on the Stormers who lead the South African 1 conference by five points from the Bulls who have a game in hand.
"There's no better place to go to see where you're at in terms of your form," Gibson said. "It's a great challenge for us, and one the guys are in a good head space for.
"We'll relish that opportunity to test ourselves."
While the Tahs' result was a big turnaround from their previous form, it was nothing compared to the what the Cheetahs and Sunwolves produced.
After thrashing the Sunwolves 92-17 the previous weekend, the Cheetahs couldn't back that up against the Rebels in Melbourne, going down 36-14.
And the Sunwolves produced the biggest turnaround in the competition's history, thrilling their home fans at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Stadium by beating Argentina's Jaguares to record a historic first Super Rugby victory.
The win by the Rebels got their campaign back on track after they had been demolished by the Hurricanes in round eight, with the win temporarily moving the Melbourne franchise to the top of the Australian conference.
The Chiefs maintained their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference after a nail-biting 28-27 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Canes dominated the scrum all night, but an off night with the boot by flyhalf Beauden Barrett - he missed four shots on goal in the windy conditions - cost them victory.
SCORES: SHARKS 15 (April 5 pen) HIGHLANDERS 14 (Faddes try; Sopoaga 3 pen) in Dunedin;
REBELS 36 (Hodge 2, Timani, Placid, Ellison tries; Debreczeni 4 con, pen) CHEETAHS 14 (Van Jaarsveld, Blommetjies tries; Marais 2 con) in Melbourne;
SUNWOLVES 36 (Sasakura, Carpenter, Tatekawa tries; Pisi 3 con, 4 pen, Viljoen pen) JAGUARES 28 (Creevy, Amorosino, Boffelli, Isa tries; Hernández con, 2 pen) in Tokyo;
CHIEFS 28 (Tamanivalu 2, Leitch, Seu tries; McKenzie 4 con) HURRICANES 27 (Jane, Coles, Perenara, Barrett tries; Barrett con, drop goal, Woodward con) in Wellington;
WARATAHS 49 (Horne, Phipps, Folau, Robinson, Ta'avao, Holloway tries; Foley 5 con, 3 pen) WESTERN FORCE 13 (Scoble try; Tapuai con, Grant 2 pen) in Perth;
LIONS 45 (Van der Merwe 2, Combrinck 2, Whitely, Skosan, Van Rensburg tries; Jantjies 5 con) KINGS 10 (Vulindlu, Cloete tries) in Port Elizabeth;
STORMERS 40 (Van Wyk, Zas, Groom, Koch tries; Du Plessis 3 con, pen, Thomson con, 3 pen) REDS 22 (Gill, Hunt, Nabuli tries; McIntyre 2 con, pen) in Cape Town