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Highlanders

Deon StegmannBullsThe men from Pretoria, the Vodacom Bulls, started strong and seemed in control of proceedings against the Highlanders. With lock Victor Matfield leading from the front, they were comfortably winning their lineouts and also won key scrum battles more often than not. (Photo of the man sorely missed on the left – Deon Stegmann)

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Super RugbyIt was a disappointing weekend for South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby franchises, with the best result among the four teams that took to the field being a 43-43 draw by the Toyota Cheetahs.

The Vodacom Bulls faced the Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday in their first tour game with the hope of becoming the first domestic franchise to win in the Antipodes this season, but penalties conceded at crucial times allowed the hosts to come away with a 25-20 victory.

The Toyota Cheetahs, meanwhile, built up an encouraging 34-10 half-time lead against New Zealand conference leaders and defending champions, the Chiefs, in Bloemfontein, but they allowed the visitors to fight back strongly after the break and had to settle for a 43-43 draw.

At Ellis Park, the Lions produced a competitive first-half performance against the Crusaders to trail only 6-0 after 40 minutes, but the home side battled to shut out the seven time Vodacom Super Rugby champions in the second half, and went down 28-7.

In the last match of the weekend, the DHL Stormers’ woes continued in their first home game after their Australasian tour, as they suffered their fifth back-to-back defeat after going down 22-11 against the Waratahs in a physical encounter at DHL Newlands.

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BullsDewald PotgieterDeon StegmannThe Vodacom Bulls will limp into Queenstown on Monday to nurse their wounds and get themselves up and ready for Saturday’s second tour challenge against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The Bulls have chosen the holiday resort for a few days before heading to Dunedin on Thursday, and it couldn’t come at a better time as they lost both Dewald Potgieter (torn bicep) and Deon Stegmann (torn groin muscle) on Saturday.

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Super RugbyThe Lions and Vodacom Bulls flew the South African flag in Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend when they scored come-from-behind home victories on Saturday.

The side from Johannesburg scored two late tries to deny the Reds by 23-20 after they were still behind by 20-3 shortly before the break at Ellis Park.

In the process, Lions flyhalf and kicking ace Marnitz Boshoff became the first player this season to reach 100 points when he kicked his second penalty goal in the 40th minute of the match.

In the final match of the weekend, the Cell C Sharks lost their first encounter of 2014 when they went down 23-19 to a determined Vodacom Bulls side at Loftus Versfeld.

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Super RugbyI find this rare. It is usually the Bulls supporters looking for suitable Jacaranda trees to hang the coaches. The Stormers have their way to show displeasure in their team. But for New Zealand coaches to be under early pressure is something rare.

Australian teams played 13 game and won 8 off them , New Zealand team played 13 won 5 and South African teams played 18 games thus far winning 9 off them. This number could have been worse for New Zealand if the Stormers were able to defend their small margin.

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ChiefsAfter a hard-fought triumph over the Crusaders in Round 2, the Chiefs have named a side to face the Highlanders in their first home game of the 2014 Super Rugby season.

The Chiefs coaches have been consistent in their process of giving players a start when depth prevails which will see Pauliasi Manu start at prop and Jamie Mackintosh move to the pine.

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HighlandersHighlanders coach, Jamie Joseph, has named his side to face the Blues in Dunedin in their first Super Rugby game of 2014.

Six players in the starting 15 will make their debut for the Highlanders and they include Kane Hames, Gareth Evans, Shane Christie, Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa and Richard Buckman Shane Christie, Partick Osborne and Richard Buckman has Super Rugby experience at other New Zealand Franchises, whereas Kane Hames, Gareth Evans and Malakai Fekitoa will make their Super Rugby debuts.

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Super RugbyThe Australian and New Zealand teams start Super Rugby a week later than their South African rivals and the New Zealand teams kick the season off with a match in Christchurch between a former champion, the Crusaders and the current Champions the Chiefs.

Here we take a brief look at the New Zealand teams and what could lie ahead for the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.

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