7 Jun 2015

Waratahs, Stormers seal finals spots

8:29 am on 7 June 2015

The defending champion New South Wales Waratahs will be in the Super Rugby playoffs after a hat-trick of tries from fullback Israel Folau helped secure a 58-33 thrashing of South Africa's Cheetahs this morning in Blomfontein.

The Waratahs fullback Israel Folau in action against the Cheetahs.

The Waratahs fullback Israel Folau in action against the Cheetahs. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Brumbies and Waratahs bonus point victories in the penultimate round have ensured that New Zealand's Crusaders, who beat the Blues 34-11 in Auckland last night, will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

The Waratahs moved to the top of the Australian conference after the bonus-point win and lead the ACT Brumbies by virtue of having more victories in this year's competition with both teams on 47 points from 15 matches.

Even if they are pipped to top-spot by the Brumbies in the final round of league matches next weekend, the Sydney-based side will not finish lower than sixth in the Super Rugby table, which is enough to secure their passage to the knockout stages.

The Waratahs ran in nine tries against the worst defence in the competition with Folau leading the way with his three scores.

Flanker Michael Hooper, wings Matt Carraro (two) and Taqele Naiyaravoro, centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and first-five Bernard Foley also crossed the tryline.

Foley converted five of those scores and kicked a penalty.

The Cheetahs played their usual attacking game as Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks and centre Francois Venter grabbed a brace of tries each to go with a score from flanker Boom Prinsloo from a driving maul.

Fullback Coenie van Wyk kicked three conversions and first-five Daniel Marais another.

Also this morning the Stormers withstood late pressure from the Lions to secure a 19-19 Super Rugby draw at in Cape Town that ensured they finished top of the South African Conference.

They now need other results to go their way to claim a home semi-final.

The draw gave the Stormers 45 points from 15 games, two behind Australian Conference leaders the Waratahs with one round of fixtures to go.

The Stormers seemed on course for victory when Nizaam Carr crossed for a try from a brilliant counter-attack by fullback Cheslin Kolbe after the teams had been locked together at 12-12 at halftime.

But with the Stormers down to 14 players following a yellow card for prop Steven Kitshoff, the Lions drew level after a touchdown from hooker Malcolm Marx.

The Stormers' other tries came from halfback Nic Groom and wing Dillyn Leyds while first-five Demetri Catrakilis converted one and his replacement Kurt Coleman another.

The Lions, who have now completed their Super Rugby season, needed to win to keep their hopes of a playoff place alive but fell short in a bruising battle that contained plenty of big hits.

Halfback Faf de Klerk and prop Schalk van der Merwe scored their other tries in the first half.

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