The Griffons are surprise early pace-setters in the expanded Absa Currie Cup First Division after a topsy-turvy second weekend of action in the new eight-team competition, which also saw newcomers the Ford Pumas flex their muscles and defending champions the Regent Boland Kavaliers slip to their second successive defeat.
The Griffons beat the Platinum Leopards 41-20 in Welkom on Saturday for their second successive five-point haul, which sees them top the log with 10 points. The EP Kings are one point behind in second following their 38-15 win over the SWD Eagles in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The Valke's 33-11 away win on Friday against the Border Bulldogs takes the men from the East Rand up to third place on six points, while the Pumas' impressive 33-10 victory over Boland in Nelspruit on Saturday in the weekend's final game sees them grouped with the Eagles and Leopards on five points.
The winless Kavaliers and Bulldogs prop up the table after two rounds and will have to improve rapidly if they are to make a statement in what promises to be, even at this early stage, a very competitive and unforgiving tournament – especially for any side left in the starting gates.
EP Kings 38 (12) SWD Eagles 15 (8)
EP Kings flyhalf George Whitehead, with a personal haul of 23 points, marshalled his side to a solid win over their Southern Kings franchise partners at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. In doing so, he gave the men from Port Elizabeth a solid start to their campaign for Premier Division status after their 25-20 away win over the Kavaliers in Round 1.
Four penalties from Whitehead gave the home side a 12-8 lead at halftime, with the Eagles scoring the only try of the opening stanza through winger Alshaun Bock.
The Kings came out firing after the break, scoring three tries in rapid succession – to fullback SP Marais and flankers Wimpie van der Walt and Cornell du Preez – to build up a 23-point lead and effectively kill off the game with half an hour remaining.
Whitehead got in on the action with the bonus-point try, while the Eagles had to be satisfied with a consolation score by replacement Deroy Rhoode.
EP Kings – Tries: SP Marais, George Whitehead, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez. Conversions: George Whitehead (3). Penalties. Whitehead (4).
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Deroy Rhoode. Conversion: Kurt Coleman. Penalty: Coleman.
Border Bulldogs 11 (6) Valke 33 (19)
The Valke shrugged off their 37-27 home defeat to the Griffons in Round 1 by picking up an invaluable win on the road at the Buffalo City Municipal Stadium in East London.
The Kempton Park-based outfit had their workmanlike pack to thank for the win, the big men up front making sure that the home side's fleet-footed backs were constantly on the back foot and had very little ball to work with.
Flyhalf Karlo Aspeling ran a well-orchestrated show and finished with 13 points as reward for a good night at the office, which included a fine individual effort to open his side's account as early as the fifth minute.
Aspeling was joined on the try-scorers' list by Namibia flanker Jacques Nieuwenhuis, who would finish with a brace, centre Willie Odendaal and replacement hooker Vernon du Preez.
For the outgunned Bulldogs, who lost 46-8 to the Eagles in Round 1, their tireless eighthman Lubabalo Mzwakali was rewarded with a try but as a team the Bulldogs just could not match the power of their East Rand opponents.
Border Bulldogs – Try: Lubabalo Mzwakali. Penalties: Reinhardt Gerber (2).
Valke – Tries: Karlo Aspeling, Vernon du Preez, Willie Odendaal, Jacques Nieuwenhuis (2). Conversions: Aspeling (4).
Ford Pumas 33 (26) Regent Boland Kavaliers 10 (3)
A first-half hat-trick of tries to flanker Jaco Bouwer set up an impressive victory for the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, as the men from Mpumalanga got their campaign back on track following their 32-23 first-round defeat away to the Leopards.
The Kavaliers would have wanted a positive start following their 25-20 home defeat to the EP Kings in Round 1, but they were stunned by the ferocity of the home team's forwards, and in particular a driving maul which they used to telling effect to build up an insurmountable lead by the break.
The alarm bells began ringing for the Bolanders as early as the third minute when Bouwer crossed for his first try, with Pumas flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout also going on for a try and kicking three conversions to open up a 23-point halftime lead.
The visitors improved markedly in the second period, but home skipper JW Jonker made sure there would be no chance of a come-from-behind victory by scoring his side's fifth try with 15 minutes remaining. The Kavaliers' only try came from replacement Jonathan Francke, but by that stage there was only ever going to be one winner in this one-sided contest.
Ford Pumas – Tries: Jaco Bouwer (3), Carl Bezuidenhout, JW Jonker. Conversions: Bezuidenhout (4).
Regent Boland Cavaliers – Try: Jonathan Francke. Conversion: Elgar Watts. Penalty: Watts.
Griffons 41 (16) Platinum Leopards 20 (3)
Wing Reinhardt Erwee was the star of the show at the North West Stadium in Welkom, his 26-point haul giving those 200 diehard Griffons fans in attendance renewed hope that their team have finally turned the corner after a couple of lean seasons.
The Griffons kicked off their season with a come-from-behind 37-27 away win over the Valke in Round 1, and in similar but more familiar surroundings the home side sounded a warning that they are not to be taken lightly by the chasing pack.
Erwee kicked 21 points and bagged another five with an excellent try, but the scoreboard doesn't reflect entirely just how tough the match was against a Leopards side coming off an impressive 32-23 home victory over the Pumas in Round 1.
There were only seven points in it as the match entered the last 15 minutes, the Griffons holding onto a slender 27-20 lead. But Erwee then crossed for a try he converted himself, before centre Werner Griesel's post-hooter effort earned what could yet turn out to be a crucial bonus point.
Griffons – Tries: Japie Nel, Tertius Maarman, Reinhardt Erwee, Werner Griesel. Conversions: Erwee (3). Penalties: Erwee (5).
Platinum Leopards – Tries: George Tossel (2), Juan Pretorius. Conversion: Adriaan Engelbrecht. Penalty: Gerhard Nortier.