Blues 20-41 Chiefs, Blues 32-29 Hurricanes
The Auckland-based side came unstuck in their first hit out against the Chiefs at Whangarei before edging out the Hurricanes in Albany. Significantly, returning fly-half Daniel Bowden sustained a foot injury in the opening match, which has ruled him out of their tournament opener against the Chiefs in Albany on February 14. Speaking after the win over the Hurricanes Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said: “The set piece was still quite good although we need to be more accurate and need to work harder on our defence as we were broken open a few times. That said it was encouraging and now we can continue to work hard and look forward to giving our fans something to cheer about here at North Harbour next weekend.”
Western Force 31-21 Brumbies, Brumbies 19-24 Highlanders
The big news for Brumbies fans is that Wallabies openside flanker David Pocock made a successful try-scoring return in their first game against the Western Force in Perth. In their second match, the Canberra-based outfit surrendered an early lead before losing to the Highlanders in Wagga Wagga. Tries from Wallabies Tevita Kuridrani (2) and Henry Speight gave two-time Super Rugby champions that lead before poor defending allowed the visitors back into the game.
Bulls 30-13 Cheetahs, Bulls 39-26 Saracens
The Bulls got their pre-season campaign underway with a hard-fought victory over the Cheetahs in Polokwane on January 24. The visitors gave a good account of themselves and were competititve during the first half but the Bulls took control of proceedings after the break with replacement scrum-half Piet van Zyl leading the way with a brace of tries.In their second friendly, the men from Pretoria travelled to London where they scored six tries in their victory over Aviva Premiership side Saracens. This match was highlighted by the long-awaited return from injury of regular Bulls skipper Pierre Spies, who made a 30 minute cameo off the replacements bench. The Springbok number eight scored one of the Bulls' six tries.
Bulls 30-13 Cheetahs, Stormers 39-31 Cheetahs
The Cheetahs held their own for large parts of their opening match against the Bulls before falling off the pace in the second half. That match came at a cost for the Cheetahs as their new signing, former Southern Kings wing, Sergeal Petersen broke his jaw and will be sidelined for at least six weeks. They also slipped up against the Stormers in an entertaining affair at Newlands in which the homeside outscored them by five tries to four.
Blues 20-41 Chiefs, Waratahs 38-36 Chiefs
The Chiefs hit the ground running against the Blues which really impressed their coach Dave Rennie. “Considering it was our first hit-out we were pretty happy. We played a real positive brand of footy with good continuity,” he said. As the scoreline suggests, their next match was a close affair against the Waratahs in Campbelltown. The match was the first run with the Chiefs for Super Rugby centurion and former New Zealand wing Hosea Gear while fellow All Black, centre Sonny Bill Williams also made his first appearance for the Chiefs since his return from rugby league.
Crusaders 26-29 Highlanders, Hurricanes 41-31 Crusaders, Reds 35-12 Crusaders
The seven-time champions have gained a reputation as being slow starters to the tournament and judging from their pre-season form that will again be the case in this year's competition. Their first clash against the Highlanders in Timaru came at a price when scrum-half Willi Heinz suffered a broken leg which could rule him for the rest of the season. The men from Christchurch suffered another setback in their second clash when Matt Todd injured his ankle but he should not be sidelined for too long. They were under the cosh from the outset in their final hit out agains the Reds, who led 28-0 at half-time.
Crusaders 26-29 Highlanders, Brumbies 19-24 Highlanders, Rebels 25-24 Highlanders
The Highlanders have impressed during their pre-season programme. After eding out the Crusaders in their first match they came back from a 19-0 deficit to beat the Brumbies before suffering a narrow loss to the Rebels in Melbourne. Jamie Joseph's charges were in front for most of that match but Dom Shipperley managed to find his way through the Highlanders' defence in the final minute to seal a one point victory for the Rebels.
Hurricanes 41-31 Crusaders, Blues 32-29 Hurricanes
New coach Chris Boyd got his reign off to a superb start when his side beat the Crusaders in their opening pre-season trial match at Eketahuna. The 'Canes stayed true to their expansive style and were rewarded with six tries with new recruit Jason Woodward contributing 13 points via try and four conversions. They came unstuck in their next match against the Blues but Boyd will be happy with his side's effort as they scored five tries.
Lions 45-0 Leopards/NWU-Pukke, Lions 33-0 Leopards/NWU-Pukke
The men from Johannesburg's pre-season matches were both played on the same day against mixed sides from the Leopards Vodacom Cup teamand North West University's Varsity Cup side. Lions coach Johan Ackermann divided his squad into two teams and they had little trouble seeing off the opposition and did not concede a point in either fixture.
Reds 13-28 Rebels, Rebels 25-24 Highlanders
The Rebels enjoyed a perfect record during their pre-season programme and coach Tony McGahan expressed his delight after their opening win over the Reds in Cairns. "It was an excellent hit out for us against a really strong Reds team away from home," he said. "The result was well deserved for the players as they have put in a lot of work throughout the pre-season, and we were really pleased to be able to use 28 different members of the squad." Dom Shipperley's heroics – when he scored a try in injury time – secured them victory over the Highlanders in their second clash.
Reds 13-28 Rebels, Reds 35-12 Crusaders
After trailing the Rebels 7-3 at half-time in their first match, the Reds fell away badly after the break before suffering defeat. Veteran flanker led the way with a brace of tries in that match. Their next encounter saw code hopper Karmichael Hunt being played at fly-half for 50 minutes of their victory over the Crusaders. The Reds outscored the Crusaders by five tries to two and Hunt added goalkicking duties to his his new position and slotted four conversions.
Toulon 10-12 Sharks
The Sharks travelled to France to take on the undisputed European champions in a battle of the hemispheres and came out on top. There was plenty of rain during the match which meant that the Durban-based franchise didn't employ their new expansive game-plan and instead played conservatively. In the end, penalties from Pat Lambie (3) and Fred Zeilinga proved enough to get them over the line.
SWD Eagles 3-34 Stormers, Stormers 39-31 Cheetahs, Stormers 45-7 Boland Cavaliers
The men from the Cape registered a convincing win over Vodacom Cup side the SWD Eagles in their opener in George but had a sterner test against the Cheetahs at Newlands in their second match. They suffered a double blow when Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth and fellow second-row, Puma Manuel Carizza were ruled out of the opening weeks of the tournament with chest and shoulder injuries respectively. Coach Allister Coetzee then named a makeshift team for their final warm-up game against Boland which they won comfortably.
Waratahs 38-36 Chiefs
The Waratahs broke with the traditional trial game format to play three 30 minute matches against three of Sydney’s clubs in Randwick, Sydney University and Parramatta early in February before hosting the Chiefs in their only proper pre-season match. That clash proved a thriller in Campbelltown with Rob Horne leading the way for the champions with a hat-trick of tries.
Western Force 31-21 Brumbies, Western Force 38-19 Asian Pacific Dragons
After scoring five tries in their opening win over the Brumbies in Perth, the Force continued their good work with a 38-19 victory over the Asia Pacific Dragons. The Force controlled that second match from start to finish and led 26-7 at half-time through four tries to Luke Morahan, Chris Alcock, Marcel Brache and Pek Cowan. Western Force boss Michael Foley said that he was pleased with the result, "I thought we played some really good rugby up front. Again a lot of the systems we've been working on were evident. There were things in that game that we could still control that maybe we didn't do well enough and I think the breakdown stands out for me as one. We were scrappy in that area and we allowed them to create messy ball for us."