Adriaan Strauss celebrated becoming the most capped South African player in Super Rugby by scoring three tries to help the Bulls snap a four-match losing streak by beating the Stormers 33-23 in Pretoria on Saturday.
Earlier, the Sharks overpowered the Auckland Blues 63-40 in New Zealand and the NSW Waratahs ground out a 24-17 Australian derby victory over ACT Brumbies in Canberra.
With a repeat of the 2017 final between Golden Lions and Canterbury Crusaders to come in Johannesburg on Sunday, which will complete round 7, Melbourne Rebels, Wellington Hurricanes and Lions top the three conference tables.
Former Springboks skipper and hooker Strauss made his 149th Super Rugby appearance — 97 for the Central Cheetahs and 52 for the Bulls, to overtake another Bull, retired lock Victor Matfield.
The media-shy forward said: “I am privileged to have played so many Super Rugby matches for two great teams and scoring three tries tonight was special.”
He was an unlikely hat-trick hero having managed only 14 tries in 148 previous Super Rugby outings.
Strauss twice scored off rolling mauls and completed his treble by grabbing an overthrown lineout ball from the Stormers to dot down before a 20 000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld stadium.
Stormers, who were fortunate to trail only 19-18 at half-time, had to play 20 minutes a man short as centre Damian de Allende and lock Pieter-Steph du Toit were yellow-carded.
The Du Preez show
The Durban-based Sharks clicked into gear in a celebration for the Du Preez family in a free-scoring win in Auckland.
It was evident the Blues would be punished for their ill-discipline from the moment Robert du Preez landed his first penalty in the third minute at Eden Park.
From the first bullocking run by his younger brother Jean-Luc de Preez, a key figure in several tries, the Sharks exposed the deficiencies in the Blues defence.
Which was all good news for their father, Sharks coach Robert de Preez, who has been under pressure with only one win from their first five matches.
Both sides scored six tries with the 23-point winning margin the result of seven penalties and an extra conversion landed by Robert du Preez.
“We came into this game with our backs against the wall and we really wanted to go out there and enjoy the game,” said skipper Ruan Botha.
“It hasn’t been an easy start to our campaign but we’re trying to get back on track.”
Blues skipper James Parsons said: “Defence wins championships and you just can’t leak 63 points in this championship and expect to win games.”
It was the Blues’ fourth loss in five games and left them bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Waratahs lost Wallaby star Israel Folau with a hamstring injury after only four minutes as they achieved a first win in the Australian capital since 2015.
Initial reports said Folau could be sidelined for up to four weeks.
“He’s a huge weapon at all times and I’m hoping Izzy is not too bad for us and himself — he’s been playing some good rugby,” Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper said.
Another Wallaby star, forward David Pocock, played his 100th Super Rugby match and his first this season after taking a sabbatical year off.
Two tries to giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro helped power the Waratahs to victory.
The Waratahs struggled for much of the first half but Naiyaravoro’s first try after the half-time siren was the turning point as he swatted away Wallaby regular Henry Speight and ran 50 metres to score and give NSW a 13-11 lead.
© Agence France-Presse