Dave Rennie’s Waikato Chiefs made it through to the Super Rugby play-off semi-finals by beating the Stormers 17-11 in Cape Town, where replacement Shaun Stevenson sealed it with a try four minutes from the end.
Damian McKenzie kicked four penalties for the visitors but the Chiefs led only 12-11 before Stevenson’s late score in the right corner.
Rennie, pictured, will head to Scotland to take over from Gregor Townsend as Glasgow Warriors head coach at the conclusion of the Chiefs’ campaign, which now goes on to at least one more match in a semi-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend.
Earlier, Crusaders had edged closer to an eighth Super Rugby title when they beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 17-0 in a quarter-final played in conditions which were among the worst in the tournament’s history.
The Highlanders were delayed in reaching Christchurch by a severe storm which grounded planes and cut the main road between the two South Island cities. They arrived yesterady afternoon local time, just hours before kick-off and after Christchurch had declared a state of emergency because of widespread flooding. The field at AMI Stadium was awash and rain continued throughout the match. The Crusaders’ tries came from Kieran Read and Codie Taylor.
“Before the game a few of the boys were seeing how deep the water was out there,” Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said. “Full credit to both sides, they just got stuck in.
“It wouldn’t have been the prettiest game to watch but both sides just got out there and got on with it and didn’t complain.”
Then the Lions nearly wasted their No 1 seeding, needing a 77th-minute penalty from their own half to edge past the Sharks 23-21.
The Johannesburg-based Lions trailed 14-3 at the break but ran in tries by Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel and Lionel Mapoe in the first 20 minutes of the second half to go 20-14 up.
The Sharks, written off before the game after squeezing into the playoffs as the lowest seed, had scored a first-half try by Kobus van Wyk off a turnover and pounced on nearly every Lions mistake.
There was still late drama to play out, though, with Sharks loose forward Daniel du Preez powering over with 15 to go. Lions wing Ruan Combrinck was left with a shot from inside his own half right at the end to steal the win. He landed it, and the Lions clung on.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes, who beat the ACT Brumbies 35-16 on Friday, complete the semi-final line-up. They will face the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.