Bulls boost Super Rugby playoff hopes with draw in Dunedin
DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — Replacement hooker Jaco Visagie scored a try with four minutes remaining to earn a 24-24 draw for South Africa’s Bulls against the Highlanders on Friday, boosting his team’s prospects of a Super Rugby playoff spot.
The Bulls’ second consecutive draw against a New Zealand team — the fifth draw of the Super Rugby season — lifted them to fifth in the overall standings at the start of the 17th round. The Highlanders moved up to ninth, but likely needed a win to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
The Bulls now face the Lions in a South Africa derby in the last round of the regular season, while the Highlanders host the New South Wales Waratahs.
In the other match Friday, the Queensland Reds edged the Auckland-based Blues 29-28 in Brisbane to end a 15-match losing streak against New Zealand opposition.
Scott Higginbotham’s second try in the 77th minute sealed the come-from-behind victory as the Reds held on for only their sixth win of the season. The out of contention Reds finish their season against the Australian conference-leading ACT Brumbies next Saturday in Canberra.
It was a winning home farewell for Reds captain Samu Kerevi. He has signed to play next season in Japan with Suntory.
It was also Higginbotham’s final match with the Reds. He has signed with French club Bordeaux for next season.
Fullback Josh McKay and winger Waisake Naholo scored two tries apiece for the Highlanders, but the New Zealanders weren’t able to hold onto their lead in a tight second half.
The Highlanders took a 7-0 lead in the 12th minute when center Rob Thompson found the Bulls not committing players to breakdowns, bursting through a ruck to spark an attack. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith kicked the ball behind a regrouping defense and center Dylan Sage, going back, couldn’t hold it. McKay pounced for a try.
After the Bulls had a try disallowed by the television official, the Highlanders scored again when Smith kicked for Naholo and the ball sat up for the All Blacks winger in his last match at his home stadium.