In the 3rd week of the newly established United Rugby Championship, the domestic sides from South Africa fared much better than the first two weeks, albeit still far from expectation. The Emirates Lions were the only side to have tasted victory up until now. The Sharks and Blue Bulls have now recorded their first wins, and the Stormers came away with a draw against their Welsh opponents.
The Lions beat Zebre in round 1 with a score of 38 - 26 but have found it tough going since then with a loss to Scarlets (36-13) and now with a 13 - 9 loss to Glasgow Warriors in a game that was marred by refereeing blunders causing much frustration for the Joburgers.
The Blue Bulls lost their opening game comprehensively when they went down to tournament favorites Leinster and suffered another defeat to Connacht (34-7). The Bulls turned around their fortunes this weekend with a 29 - 19 win over the Cardiff Blues. They paid a heavy price however as star flyhalf Johan Goosen suffered what looks to be a season ending knee injury.
The Sharks like the Bulls had a tough start and were thoroughly beaten 42 - 17 by Munster before succumbing to Glasgow Warriors 35 - 24. The Sharks were however spared a third loss in a row thanks to Boeta Chamberlain, who scored a hattrick of drop-goals to kick his side to a 27 -13 win over Ospreys. Ruan Pienaar also turned back the clock to put in a strong performance from the base that allowed the Sharks to get onto the front foot.
Stormers lost to Benetton 22 - 18 in round 1 and followed it up with a loss to Munster 34 - 18 and a 20 all draw this weekend to Edinburgh in a game that saw the second forty players without a single point being scored. The Stormers struggles off field seem to be harming their on field performances. They have managed to lure back the likes of Juan de Jongh who played his 100th for them this weekend, but the lack the personnel to truly challenge at this stage.
Its been tough going in the URC so far, but as the South Africans begin to get accustomed to the new tournament they will surely improve. It is also notable that many sides are missing a large contingent of players to national duty at the moment. The British sides will face similar challenges when they travel to South Africa for the return fixtures and compete in full summer temperatures with altitude to boot.
It was great to see the Sharks boys supporting the Blue Bulls in their game on Saturday and the players seemed to be enjoying the tour despite the challenges faced thus far.
Next week sees the Ulster play host to the Lions, whilst Dragons play the Stormers and the Bulls face off with Edinburgh. The Sharks will finish the day off with a game against Cardiff Blues.