THE LINE-UP FOR the 2014 Super Rugby semi finals has been confirmed after two breathless, brilliant qualifier matches in Canberra and Durban.
The ACT Brumbies gained a measure of revenge over The Chiefs for last season’s Grand final defeat by beating them 27-25 at the GIO Stadium while the Sharks came back from 17-13 down against the Highlanders to win 31-27. The Brumbies’ win sets up an All-Australian semi-final against the Waratahs while South Africa’s remaining team will travel to Christchurch to take on New Zealand’s — the Crusaders.
Brumbies and Chiefs served up a classic in the first of Saturday’s knock-out games. The hosts led 22-3 at one stage, with their pack eviscerating that of the reigning champs. However, tries from Tim Nanai-Williams and Connacht-bound Bundee Aki soon had the Kiwis level at 25-25.
Stephen Larkham’s side responded with a bristling, rolling maul that Jarrad Butler scored from but there was still time for a late try from Chiefs’ Gareth Anscombe. He dived over in the right-hand corner but Aaron Cruden missed the conversion that would have sent the game into extra time.
Over at Kings Park Stadium, later in the afternoon, the Sharks’ pack were key in seeing off a Highlanders team that scored three fantastic tries but still fell short. The home side started the strongest and a Marcell Coetzee try had them ahead before Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa went on a solo run that ended with a superb score.
The visitors were not finished yet and hit the front on the stroke of half-time as they went from one end of the pitch to the other and eventually slipped in loose-head prop Kane Hames to score.
Sharks struck back, after the break, with a blitzing try of their own as substitute Tonderai Chavhanga took a blindside pass and sprinted up the left wing to dive over. Highlanders were not finished yet as Patrick Osbourne’s line break and offload set teammate Phil Burleigh for a simple score. The Sharks regrouped and forced two penalties in the last eight minutes that Frans Steyn knocked over to see his side home.
Crusaders take on Sharks in Christchurch next weekend while Michael Cheika’s Waratahs entertain the Brumbies.