The action from a local perspective started in Italy on Friday night, when the Cell C Sharks had to dig deep to withstand a ferocious fightback from Zebre Parma to win 42-37.
On Saturday, the Capetonians beat Connacht by 38-15 in Stellenbosch, bagging the bonus point late in their match, while the Vodacom Bulls were made to work very hard for their 33-31 victory over Edinburgh in Pretoria.
In the last match on Saturday, the Emirates Lions took the lead late in their clash against Ospreys in Swansea and then hung on for their third win abroad since the competition started a year or so ago.
In other results from the weekend, the Glasgow Warriors beat Cardiff in Glasgow (52-24), Leinster were too strong for Benetton in Dublin (42-10), and Scarlets came up short against Ulster in Llanelli (55-39).
The final match of the weekend takes place later on Sunday afternoon, when the Dragons host Munster at Rodney Parade (16h00).
The DHL Stormers opened the defence of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship crown with a well-deserved 38-15 win in an entertaining match played at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Saturday afternoon.
The Capetonians led 13-8 at half-time, with a barnstorming try after a powerful run from open play by No 8 Evan Roos setting the tone for the hosts.
Manie Libbok kept the scoreboard ticking over from the tee but with Marvin Orie in the sin bin, Connacht struck from a lineout maul though Dylan Tierney-Martin to reduce the deficit to 13-8 at the break.
The momentum then swung the way of the home side when Irish international Bundee Aki was red carded for a dangerous cleanout on Seabelo Senatla after which the DHL Stormers added three more tries to their tally – by Andre-Hugo Venter, Hacjivah Dayimani and Marcel Theunissen, right before the end of the game – for the bonus point victory.
DHL Stormers 38 (13) – Tries: Evan Roos, Andre-Hugo Venter, Hacjivah Dayimani, Marcel Theunissen. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty goals: Libbok (4).
Connacht 15 (8) – Tries: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Jack Aungier. Conversion: David Hawkshaw. Penalty goal: Conor Fitzgerald.
It was nail-biting until the very end – with the teams’ kickers basically determining the result – as the Vodacom Bulls won their second Vodacom United Rugby Championship match on the bounce by 33-31 (half-time 15-14) over an Edinburgh side that refused to let the Pretoria heat or altitude get to them.
Scotland speedster Darcy Graham grabbed a hat-trick of tries for the visitors, who were in the lead late in the match only to see a difficult penalty goal by Morne Steyn sail through the uprights in the 79th minute.
Moments later, Mark Bennett had the opportunity to win the game for Edinburgh, but he pushed an injury-time penalty attempt from 53m wide. The visitors outscored their hosts by five tries to four and in the end, Steyn and Chris Smith’s accuracy off the tee was the difference.
Vodacom Bulls 33 (15) – Tries: Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (2), Morne Steyn.
Edinburgh 31 (14) – Tries: Charlie Savala, Darcy Graham (3), Damien Hoyland. Conversions: Mark Bennett (3).
The Emirates Lions repelled wave after wave of attacks by the Ospreys at the end of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash in Swansea to clinch a deserved 28-27 victory on Saturday night.
The Welsh side outscored their South African visitors by four tries to three, but Gianni Lombard kicked 13 points – including three penalty goals – to hand the Emirates Lions their first win of the new season.
The Welsh Shield winners from last season started like a house on fire though, with Keelan Giles scoring two tries in the first 16 minutes, but the Emirates Lions stuck to their guns and thanks to a try by Francke Horn and Lombard’s boot, the Ospreys led by 19-13 at the break.
Sanele Nohamba, who snapped up a loose ball to score the visitors’ second try, kept the visitors in the hunt, but Dewi Lake’s try put the hosts back in control.
However, 10 minutes before the end, Edwill van der Merwe finished a great try to hand the Emirates Lions the lead for the first time, which they defended until the end for a famous victory.
Ospreys 27 (19) – Tries: Keelan Giles (2), Rhys Webb, Dewi Lake. Conversions: Jack Walsh (2). Penalty goal: Walsh.
Emirates Lions 28 (13) – Tries: Francke Horn, Sanele Nohamba, Edwill van der Merwe. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (2). Penalty goals: Lombard (3).
“Fear the Fin” is the new slogan of the Cell C Sharks and for a while there, there was blood in the water as Zebre Parma conceded four unanswered tries in the first half before providing a fright of their own with an astonishing second half fightback before the visitors slunk home 42-37 (halftime 28-10) in a Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory in Italy on Friday night.
The visitors ripped the home side to shreds in the first half hour with tries by Reniel Hugo, Kerron van Vuuren, Werner Kok and Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who scored on debut, putting the KwaZulu-Natalians firmly in control.
But Zebre Parma refused to lie down and launched an incredible fightback, scoring five tries in 40 minutes to a solitary effort by Dan Jooste for the visitors.
The hosts seemed to have clinched an unlikely victory late in the game, but an obstruction on Kok at the start of the move had the try ruled out and from the resulting penalty, Boeta Chamberlain made the Cell C Sharks safe with time almost up.
Zebre Parma 37 (10) – Tries: Luca Bigi, Simone Gesi, Taina Fox-Matamua, Gabriele Venditti, Jacopa Trulla. Conversions: Tiff Eden (3). Penalty goals: Eden (2).
Cell C Sharks 42 (28) – Tries: Reniel Hugo, Kerron van Vuuren, Werner Kok, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Dan Jooste. Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain (4). Penalty goals: Chamberlain (3).