Absa Currie Cup pacesetters the Xerox Golden Lions and Vodacom Blue Bulls continued with their unbeaten run over the weekend, while 2014 winners DHL Western Province returned to winning ways after suffering two losses in a row.
The Golden Lions are top of the Premier Division log standings thanks to a 37-21 win over the embattled Eastern Province Kings. Despite racing into a 19-0 lead very early on, the Kings rallied back with a spirited performance and the Lions could only seal their success with a late surge on Saturday evening in Johannesburg.
Thanks to their bonus-point win at home, the Golden Lions now top the log with 25 league points, one more than the Blue Bulls, who triumphed 24-17 over a resilient Toyota Free State Cheetahs on a cold and wet Friday evening in Pretoria.
Western Province turned on the style in the second half to score a much needed bonus-point 33-15 victory over the ORC Griquas at DHL Newlands on Saturday after suffering two consecutive defeats. The Cape side have 15 points and remains in third spot.
At Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban, the Cell C Sharks held off a tremendous effort from the Steval Pumas to make it two wins in a row thanks to their close-fought 27-26 win over the visitors. The Sharks are fourth on the log and just two points behind WP.
Xerox Golden Lions (27) 37 Eastern Province Kings (14) 21
Playing at home in the late Saturday fixture, the lively Golden Lions stamped their authority on proceedings from the outset. A penalty try was followed by flanker Kwagga Smith’s fourth of the season and then another five pointer through centre Stokkies Hanekom gave them a 19-0 lead.
The Kings bounced back with tries from right wing Siyanda Grey and No 8 Paul Schoeman, who scored from a lineout drive. Minutes later, however, flank Stephan de Wit was on hand to take a pop pass from Lions captain, Howard Mnisi, for his side’s bonus point try on the half hour.
After halftime the Kings struck first when Schoeman scored his second try from a driving maul. It then took Lions all of 30 minutes to score again – a penalty by replacement flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff. Right wing Ruan Combrinck scored their fifth try after the siren.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Penalty try, Kwagga Smith, Stokkies Hanekom, Stephan de Wit, Ruan Combrinck; Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (2), Marnitz Boshoff; Penalties: Jaco van der Walt, Marnitz Boshoff
Eastern Province Kings – Tries: Siyanda Grey, Paul Schoeman (2); Conversions: Karlo Apseling (3)
DHL Western Province (13) 33 ORC Griquas (9) 15
Griquas suffered two yellow cards, one in each half, and Province took full advantage. Livewire eighthman, Carel Greeff, was sin-binned midway through the first half for a dangerous high tackle on his counterpart, Nizaam Carr, who had to leave the field some minutes later.
Province defended aggressively and Griquas could only land five penalties via the boot of centre Clinton Swart. WP scored four tries through Nic Groom (scrumhalf), Rynhardt Elstadt (flank), Jaco Taute (centre) and Robert du Preez (replacement flyhalf). Flyhalf Kurt Coleman kicked two conversions and three penalties.
Coach John Dobson will be grateful for the full-house of points after suffering two defeats on the road to the Cheetahs and Blue Bulls. The win moves the Capetonians into third on the log, with 15 points from five games while the Griquas are still seeking their first Premier Division victory in 2015.
DHL Western Province – Tries: Nic Groom, Rynhardt Elstadt, Jaco Taute, Robert du Preez; Conversions: Kurt Coleman (2); Penalties: Coleman (3).
ORC Griquas – Penalties: Clinton Swart (5).
Cell C Sharks (10) 27 Steval Pumas (13) 26
Winger Wandile Mjekevu played a key role in the Cell C Sharks’ narrow 27-26 victory over the Steval Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday afternoon in Durban. He scored two tries forced a penalty late in the game to help swing the result in the Sharks’ favour.
A clever break by Springbok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach led to the first try of Mjekevu, with fullback Joe Pietersen converting. The Pumas levelled matters when lock Marius Coetzer crashed over for a converted try. That gave the Pumas good momentum and JC Roos put his side in front shortly thereafter as he kicked a penalty as a result of a yellow card to Reinach.
The second half did not start well for the Pumas as hooker Jacques Momberg received a yellow card for a professional foul. The Sharks took advantage and centre Paul Jordaan burst over for his converted try, followed by a second Mjekevu try. Mjekevu then forced a penalty near the end that led to Pietersen kicking the winning goal. The Pumas came within striking distance in the dying minutes, but Van Staden missed a crucial kick.
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Wandile Mjekevu (2), Paul Jordaan. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3). Penalties: Pietersen (2).
Steval Pumas – Tries: Marius Coetzer, JW Bell. Conversions: JC Roos (2). Penalties: Roos, Justin van Staden (2).
Vodacom Blue Bulls (11) 24 Toyota Free State Cheetahs (7) 17
The inclement weather did not stop the two teams from trying an expansive game. The Cheetahs had the upper hand in the first half as they had the majority of the possession. The decision by the Blue Bulls to include Springbok Marcel van der Merwe and debutant Pierre Schoeman in the front row paid dividends as their scrum held up well.
The teams scored a try on either side of the halftime break with the Blues Bulls going over first through centre Burger Odendaal. The visitors replied when centre Ryno Benjamin broke through to score. The scoreboard was only troubled again in the 66th minute when replacement flyhalf Louis Fouché slotted a penalty goal for the home side.
Centre Dries Swanepoel then scored the Blue Bulls’ second try after a few deft offloads. Cheetahs’ scrumhalf Shaun Venter was denied a try after he knocked on but replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn made no mistake moments later. Fullback Clayton Blommetjies converted to hand the visitors a vital bonus point.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Dries Swanepoel; Conversion: Louis Fouché; Penalties: Tian Schoeman (2), Fouché (2).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Ryno Benjamin, Sias Ebersohn; Conversions: Fred Zeilinga, Clayton Blommetjies; Penalty: Zeilinga.