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SYDNEY - South Africa's Bulls and Sharks recorded wins on their Australasian trips to maintain the top two placings in the Super 14 standings as the competition heads to its halfway stage.
The Bulls extended their unbeaten start to the season with a 19-14 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington and the Sharks scored three tries in a devastating 22-minute burst to beat Australia's Western Force 22-10 in Perth.
Morne Steyn kicked four penalties and converted JP Nel's try in the Bulls' five point win in New Zealand in a match where five players were sin-binned and Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann sent off and later suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle.
"It was a great win because the boys showed great character as we played the whole game with 14 men," Bulls captain Fourie du Preez said.
JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane and Rory Kockott scored tries as the Sharks burst into life in the second half.
The South Africans, runners-up to the Bulls two years ago, rebounded from last week's surprise loss to Queensland to take second place on 21 points, one behind the Bulls.
"We were under a lot of pressure this week with a lot of people writing us off, but it just shows the character of this side," Sharks captain Johann Muller said.
Australia's New South Wales Waratahs remained third despite losing 17-13 to the Canterbury Crusaders at Sydney's Olympic stadium.
The Crusaders had won just one of their first five matches but got their faltering Super 14 defence back on track with a deserved win after tries by Isaac Ross and Leon MacDonald.
"That was unbelievable, a great effort from us. We needed an 80-minute performance and the boys stuck at it right to the end," said Crusaders skier Kieran Read.
Waikato Chiefs moved into the top four with a 63-34 demolition of their New Zealand neighbours the Auckland Blues.
All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu scored four of his team's nine tries as the Chiefs racked up the biggest score this season.
"It was probably a complete performance by us tonight," Waikato captain Mils Muliaina said.
New Zealand test flanker Adam Thomson scored two tries in the Otago Highlanders' 32-8 triumph over winless South African Cheetahs at Dunedin.
The Lions also recorded their second win with a 25-17 victory over the ACT Brumbies in Johannesburg to complete a miserable weekend for Australian teams. - Reuter