Super Rugby: Sharks crush Blues; Strauss breaks record

By Associated Press 31 March 2018, 12:00AM

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Center Robert du Preez tallied 38 points as the Durban-based Sharks crushed the Auckland-based Blues 63-40 in Super Rugby on Saturday.

Both teams scored six tries in a match of nonexistent defense but du Preez kicks flawlessly for seven penalties, six conversions, and a try to give the Sharks their fifth win over the Blues in six matches in Auckland.

In Pretoria, South Africa, Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss scored three tries in a 33-23 win over the Stormers. Strauss also celebrated breaking the record for the most appearances for a South African player in Super Rugby.

In an Australian derby, New South Wales Waratahs beat the ACT Brumbies 24-17.

The Sharks had one win from five games — and the Blues one win from four — entering their match but that gave no indication of what was to come in likely the most humiliating home defeat for a New Zealand team.

The Blues were simply incapable of marshaling an organized defense and the Sharks picked them apart, scoring four tries in the second half including the last in the third minute of injury time.

The best aspect of the Blues' performance was their rally at the start of the second half when the Sharks were reduced to 14 men by a yellow card. Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu and flyhalf Stephen Perofeta scored tries which took the Blues into the lead at 28-26.

But they faltered again when the Sharks returned to 15 men, then underlined their ill-discipline by losing a man to the sinbin and forgetting their defensive structure as the Sharks applied constant pressure.

Du Preez goalkicked from all over the field and finished with the second highest personal tally in Super Rugby.

Strauss, the former Springboks captain, scored his three tries in the first 50 minutes at Loftus Versfeld. The Stormers hit back to close it to 26-23 with 15 minutes left.

But the Bulls closed out victory with center Jesse Kriel's score with 10 to go.

Strauss, meanwhile, played his 149th Super Rugby game to overtake former Bulls second-rower Victor Matfield.

At Canberra, the Waratahs lost star fullback Israel Folau in the fourth minute with a hamstring injury. But a two-try performance from Taqele Naiyaravoro led the Waratahs to their third win, reducing the gap behind the Australian conference-leading Melbourne Rebels to six points.

David Pocock had a quiet night in his first match with the Brumbies since 2016 after recovering from knee surgery following a 12-month sabbatical.

It was also the 100th Super Rugby appearance for Pocock, who took over as captain when Christian Leali'ifano was substituted in the 56th minute.

By Associated Press 31 March 2018, 12:00AM

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