Waratahs back on track as Brumbies, Rebels stumble
A win against the Stormers in Cape Town has put the Waratahs within two points of the lead on the Australian Super Rugby conference table, after the Brumbies and Rebels again stumbled.
Favoured by having to play just one game in South Africa - one of numerous quirks in a lop-sided draw - the Tahs now face the Cheetahs and Bulls at home in the next two weeks and could conceivably be on top of the table by that point.
Their resurgence has coincided with the Rebels and Brumbies hitting flat spots, the Brumbies beaten 23-10 by the Highlanders in a cold and wet Invercargill on Saturday night, and the Rebels going down 36-30 against the Blues in Auckland.
It was the second consecutive loss by the Brumbies, who started the season in a blaze of glory with three straight wins, but have now lost three of their past four games.
The Rebels still lead the Aussie conference, but in a familiar theme with the local teams, have lost all three of their games against New Zealand opposition.
The Waratahs left it late to get the points against the Stormers, a 78th minute try by the under-fire Michael Hooper and conversion by Bernard Foley setting up the 32-30 victory.
Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer last month said Hooper's lack of on-ball presence made the incumbent Wallaby openside flanker the fifth-best Australian No.7 in Super Rugby, behind David Pocock (Brumbies), Liam Gill (Reds), Sean McMahon (Rebels) and Matt Hodgson (Force).
Following the win over the Stormers, Hooper said it was "fantastic to win at Newlands".
"We capitalised on limited possession to triumph and this success is a step in the right direction," he said.
Meanwhile, scans have confirmed the worst for Reds centre and Wallabies hopeful Samu Kerevi, who broke his hand in the win over the Cheetahs.
He will have surgery tomorrow and is expected to miss three to four weeks.
CHIEFS 24 (Tamanivalu, Leitch tries; Cruden con, 4 pen) SHARKS 22 (Cooper, April, Ralepelle tries; April 2 con, pen) in New Plymouth
BULLS 42 (Serfontein 2, Strauss 2, Liebenberg tries; Brummer 4 con, 3 pen) WESTERN FORCE 20 (Hodgson, Godwin tries; Prior 2 con, 2 pen) in Perth
BLUES 36 (Parsons, Kaino, Faumuina, West, Li, Visinia tries; West 2 con, Francis con) REBELS 30 ( Hodge, Reid, Fainga'a, Naivalu tries; Debreczeni 2 con, 2 pen) in Auckland
HIGHLANDERS 23 (Sopoaga, B Smith tries; Sopoaga 2 con, 3 pen) BRUMBIES 10 (Mann-Rea try; Leali'ifano con, 2 pen) in Invercargill
REDS 30 (Frisby 2, Browning tries; McIntyre 3 con, 3 pen) CHEETAHS 17 (Cassiem, Rhule tries; Zeilinga 2 con, pen) in Brisbane
WARATAHS 32 (Beale, Folau, Horne, Hooper tries; Foley 3 con, 2 pen) STORMERS 30 (Du Toit 2, Burger tries; Du Plessis 3 con, 3 pen) in Cape Town
HURRICANES 50 (J Savea 2, Jane 2, Proctor, Goodes, Aso tries; Barrett 6 con, pen) LIONS 17 (van der Merwe, Mapoe, Kriel tries; Jantjies con) in Johannesurg
JAGUARES 73 (Senatore 3, Hernández, Cordero, Sánchez, Creevy, Montero, Alemanno, Boffelli, Landajo tries; Sanchez 9 con) KINGS 27 (Cloete, Watermeyer, Bholi, Sykes tries; Watts 2 con, pen) in Buenos Aires.