Super Rugby inexperience counts for nothing

Super Rugby inexperience proved to be no barrier for the defending Champion Chiefs, newcomers the Southern Kings and a revamped Blues team who defied Super Rugby predictions at the weekend.

Former Champions the Bulls and Reds were also victorious in their opening matches, winning feisty local derby encounters with bitter rivals the Stormers and Waratahs.

The ACT Brumbies remain at the head of the table with their second win from two outings.

A spate of pre-season injuries disrupted established combinations in the Chiefs ranks, and they started a novice front row and an untried midfield combination Friday against a Highlanders side bristling with internationals.

The lead changed six times before the Chiefs’ desire to defend their title saw them run away with the game at the end to win 41-27 and pick up a four-try bonus point.

The Blues, laden with players getting their first taste of Super rugby, also picked up a bonus point in their four-try, 34-20, win away to the Hurricanes on Saturday.

The Hurricanes, who made the least changes of any New Zealand franchise in the off-season, lacked the cohesion of the Blues who ran away with 15 unanswered points in the closing 10 minutes.

While the Chiefs and Blues may have been short on stars, no team was more unfancied than the Kings – making their debut in the competition after the Johannesburg-based Lions were dumped at the end of last season.

The Kings are not even strong enough to compete in the first tier of South Africa’s Currie Cup and their late elevation to Super Rugby status gave them little chance to woo name players.

Yet they produced a dream start, tipping over the Australian side Western Force 22-10 on Saturday and producing a star of their own in 19-year-old Sergeal Petersen who scored two decisive tries.

“This was a match we had to win so that the public would support us and the players would believe in themselves,” said Andries Strauss, who took over as skipper when Luke Watson was injured.

Morne Steyn kicked six penalties and converted an opportunistic Chiliboy Ralepelle try to give the Bulls a 25-17 win over arch-rivals the Stormers on Friday.

Sacked last year by the Springboks after a steep decline in his goal-kicking success ratio, fly-half Steyn reminded national coach Heyneke Meyer that he is far from finished with a 20-point haul.

In a crunch derby match in Australia, the Reds staved off a determined comeback by the Waratahs Saturday to win 25-17 and record their fourth win in succession over their nemesis.

The Reds shocked the Waratahs as they raced to a 17-3 lead by half-time, only for the Sydneysiders to claw their way back and draw level at 17-all before a late try to Ben Tapuai sealed the outcome.

The Brumbies made it two from two with a bonus-point victory over the Melbourne Rebels Friday, cementing their place at the top of the Australian Conference with an emphatic 30-13 win after downing the Reds 24-6 in the first round.

In the remaining match of the weekend, the l Sharks withstood a brave comeback by the Cheetahs to win by 29-22 Saturday after holding a 21-point advantage with 30 minutes to go.

The Crusaders, who had a bye on the weekend, open their season next Friday against the Blues.

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