The Vodacom Bulls withstood a ferocious Sigma Lions fightback to regain top spot on the log, with a bizarre try right at the end of the match helping the hosts to beat their neighbours and claim the Jukskei River Derby by 43-37 on Saturday night in Pretoria.
The Toyota Cheetahs are still unbeaten after nine games following a 44-15 win over the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, showing why they are considered one of the strong favourites for the title.
And on Friday evening in Nelspruit, where loadshedding had the final say in an exciting match, DHL Western Province ended their run of seven defeats by beating the Airlink Pumas by 23-17, defending with energy towards the end of the match when most of the lights inside the stadium went off.
When power was restored a few minutes later, the relieved visitors could kick the ball into touch to cap a fine win in the Lowveld. The outcome was a setback for Jimmy Stonehouse’s team, who are positioned just outside the semi-final spots.
With only three rounds remaining, holders Vodacom Bulls (42 points after 10 games) are leading the Toyota Cheetahs by a single point, but the Free Staters have a game in hand. They are followed by the Cell C Sharks in distant third on 24 points from 10 games.
Windhoek Draught Griquas were not in action this weekend, but they are still in fourth position on 21 points from nine games, while the Airlink Pumas are fifth on 20 points from the same number of games. DHL WP improved to 13 points, while the winless Sigma Lions complete the standings on five points after 10 games.
The next round of league matches is scheduled for two weeks’ time, when the Vodacom Bulls host the Airlink Pumas on Friday, 27 May in Pretoria; Windhoek Draught Griquas welcome the Toyota Cheetahs to Kimberley on Saturday, 28 May; and the Sigma Lions entertain DHL WP, also on Saturday, 28 May, in Johannesburg.
The Vodacom Bulls pulled off a nail-biting 43-37 victory over the Sigma Lions at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday evening, thanks to a solid first-half performance in this Carling Currie Cup fixture.
The defending champions went into the halftime break with a 35-17 advantage following some sparkling attacking rugby which produced five converted tries, while their Gauteng neighbours crossed the tryline twice.
However, a dramatic second half produced some exciting attacking rugby, lots of powerful scrums – especially from the visiting side – and brave defence from the home team.
It was the team in white and red jerseys who came charging back with an outstanding second half display, outscoring the hosts by 20-8, to set up a thrilling finish which ended in a somewhat bizarre circumstance when Sigma Lions centre Burger Odendaal unwittingly passed the ball to a grateful Richard Kriel inside his team’s in-goal area, for the Vodacom Bulls replacement centre to dot down for a crucial try.
Vodacom Bulls 43 (35) – Tries: Lizo Gqoboka, Bismarck du Plessis, David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel, Stedman Gans, Richard Kriel. Conversions: Juan Mostert (4), Keagan Johannes. Penalty goal: Johannes.
Sigma Lions 37 (17) – Tries: Ruben Schoeman, Burger Odendaal, Francke Horn, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibusiso Sangweni. Conversions: Hendrikse (3). Penalty goals: Hendrikse (2).
Rosko Specman returned with a vengeance as the Toyota Cheetahs ran the Cell C Sharks ragged to register a 44-15 bonus-point win in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon and continue their flawless run in this year’s Carling Currie Cup.
The recently-wed wizard left the men from the coast clutching at air with his electrifying speed and footwork and sparked two of the home team’s four first-half tries, which set up a comprehensive victory.
Ruan Pienaar and company clicked from the word go, scoring six tries in all, while they also dominated at scrum time. As impressive as their fluidity on attack was the collective work rate of their pack, which saw them beat the Cell C Sharks to the punch.
The Durbanites were competitive for the first 30 minutes and refused to roll over but allowed the Toyota Cheetahs too much time and space on the ball as they fell to a second successive loss to remain in third place.
Toyota Cheetahs 44 (24) – Tries: Victor Sekekete, Marnus van der Merwe, Cohen Jasper, Andisa Ntsila, Mihlali Mosi, Louis van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (3), Siya Masuku. Penalty goals: Pienaar, Masuku.
Cell C Sharks 15 (10) – Tries: Cameron Wright, Dan Jooste. Conversion: Boeta Chamberlain. Penalty goal: Chamberlain.
The Airlink Pumas’ hopes of gaining a Carling Currie Cup playoff spot received a setback on Friday evening when they lost 23-17 against DHL Western Province in Nelspruit.
The Cape side managed to win only their second of nine games so far this season, and this away victory also ended their run of seven consecutive losses. To add to the drama, the stadium lights went off in the last minute of the game with the home side on the attack.
The defeat came at a bad time for the Lowvelders, who defeated the Cell C Sharks 20-10 last weekend in Durban, and who have won their previous two encounters with DHL WP, who led 20-10 at halftime.
In a tightly contested second half, the Airlink Pumas managed to score a converted try whilst restricting the visitors to only one successful penalty kick. However, that was not enough to wipe out the deficit.
The team from Mpumalanga were their own worst enemy, especially in the opening part of the first half, when they conceded a series of penalties, while their problems were compounded by the wayward goalkicking performance by the usually dependable Eddie Fouche.
Airlink Pumas 17 (10) – Tries: Eduan Swart, Corne Fourie, Chriswill September. Conversion: Eddie Fouche.
DHL Western Province 23 (20) – Tries: Godlen Masimla, Neethling Fouche, Sergeal Petersen. Conversion: Tim Swiel. Penalty goals: Swiel (2).
Carling Currie Cup First Division
Frontrunners the Down Touch Griffons beat the Boland Kavaliers 36-31 in Bredasdorp, where the visitors registered win number six of the campaign.
In Brakpan, the Valke were unable to overcome the SWD Eagles, with the visitors victorious by 38-35 in a tight contest.
Defending champions, the Leopards, were also unable to make home advantage count when they slipped to a 34-31 defeat to Eastern Province in Potchefstroom.
In the final game of the weekend, the Zimbabwe Goshawks beat the Border Bulldogs by 18-8 in Mdantsane on Sunday afternoon, while the Black Lion from Georgia and Kenyan Simbas had a bye this round.
The Down Touch Griffons are unbeaten after six games and have increased their lead at the top of the overall standings to 30 points. They are followed by Valke on 22 points, also from six games, and EP, who are third on 21 points from five games.
In terms of the Carling Currie Cup Promotion Barometer, which is the race to the Carling Currie Cup Premier Division for the SA sides, EP have strengthened their grip on the number one place thanks to their vital away win in Potchefstroom.
The Eastern Cape side lead the promotion barometer standings on 20 points after four games, five points more than the second-placed Down Touch Griffons (15 from three games), and six points more than SWD Eagles who are third, on 14 points from five games. The next round of matches take place this coming weekend.