DHL Western Province, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and The Sharks continued their dominance in the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championship this past weekend as they registered convincing victories to remain ahead of the pack.
Western Province defeated the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 32-13 in Stellenbosch, while the Sharks thumped Border 71-20 in Durban and the Vodacom Blue Bulls registered a 48-33 victory against the Leopards in Pretoria.
The bonus-point victory for Western Province allowed them to maintain their four-point lead over the Blue Bulls and Sharks, while the defeat for the Free State has opened the door for the Golden Lions to close in on the fourth spot on the log for a possible semifinal place later in the series.
DHL Western Province 32 (24) Toyota Free State 13 (5)
In Stellenbosch DHL Western Province bounced back from an early try by the Toyota Free State to produce an impressive first-half display in which they outplayed the Free State and scored three tries.
This earned them a promising 24-5 lead at the break.
The visitors stepped up their game in the second half and tightened up their defence, resulting in a much more balanced encounter.
However, penalties at crucial times allowed Western Province flyhalf Tim Swiel to inflate their score. With both sides giving their all, they were each able to cross the tryline only once after the break.
DHL Western Province 32 (24) – Tries: Craig Barry, Eital Bredenkamp, JP Lewis, Sikumbuzo Notshe. Conversions: Tim Swiel (3). Penalties: Tim Swiel (2).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 13 (5) – Tries: Neil Claassen (2). Penalty: Niel Marais.
The Sharks 71 (40) Border 20 (8)
The Sharks started their clash against Border with a blaze as they crossed the tryline six tries in 23 minutes, which placed the visitors under immense pressure from the outset.
Border, however, fought back shortly before half time with a try by Jan Botha to add to an earlier penalty by Angus Cleophas.
But with the team trailing 40-8, they entered the break knowing that it would take a massive effort to overturn the deficit.
The Sharks continued to breach Border’s porous defence after the break and added another five tries to their tally, which shut Border out of the match completely.
With the victory wrapped up, the Durban side let their guard down in the closing minutes, which allowed Border to score two consolation tries in the last three minutes to take their total to 20 points.
The Sharks 71 (40) – Alcino Izaacs (2), Andre Esterhuizen, Garath Meikle (2), Jacques Taylor, Khaya Majola, Kotaro Matsushima, Robert du Preez, Stefan Ungerer, Tyler Fisher. Conversions: Duncan Campbell (2), Robert du Preez (6).
Border 20 (8) – Jan Botha, Leroy Afrika, Shaun Nieuwenhuyzen. Conversion: Shaun Nieuwenhuyzen. Penalty: Angus Cleophas.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 48 (29) Leopards 33 (19)
In Pretoria the Vodacom Blue Bulls held their nerve against a determined Leopards outfit to emerge victorious.
The first half was a tight affair with the teams closely matched on form and tries.
But the Blue Bulls’ bonus point try on the stroke of half time handed them a 29-19 lead at the break.
The second half continued in a similar fashion as both teams put their bodies on the line and earned the rewards as they racked up tries.
But another late try by the Blue Bulls allowed them to outscore the Leopards seven tries to five in total for their fifth victory of the season.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 48 (29) – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Carlo Engelbrecht (2), Damian van Wyk (2), Lwandile Sompontsha, Roelof Smit. Conversions: Kobus Marais (5). Penalty: Kobus Marais.
Leopards 33 (19) – Tries: Adriaan Oosthuizen (2), Jaco Grobler, Louis Vorster, Marnus Tack. Conversions: Warren Gilbert (4).