DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21 teams this past weekend booked their semifinal places in the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championship with two rounds to spare, while The Sharks and MTN Golden Lions have an inside lane to secure the other spots in the top four.
As things stand Western Province need only two more points to guarantee the top spot on the log, while the Sharks require only one point to cement their semifinal spot.
However should the fifth-placed Toyota Free State fail to win both their remaining games by big margins, the Sharks will be guaranteed a top-four finish.
With the Lions boasting only a seven-point lead over the Bloemfontein team, they need at least two points from their remaining games to secure a semifinal berth should the Free State win both their matches.
In this past weekend’s games the Vodacom Blue Bulls defeated the MTN Golden Lions 40-25 in Johannesburg, the Sharks thumped the Leopards 33-13 in Durban and DHL Western Province beat Border 74-12 in East London.
MTN Golden Lions 25 (18) Vodacom Blue Bulls 40 (19)
The Vodacom Blue Bulls overcame a tightly-fought first half against the MTN Golden Lions at Ellis Park to register their seventh victory of the season, and their sixth bonus-point win.
So close was the first half the visitors entered the break with a narrow 19-18 lead despite the Pretoria side outscoring the Lions three tries to two.
This was largely thanks to two penalties by Lions fullback Marais Schmidt.
But the Blue Bulls raised their game in the second half, making it tough for the Lions to keep up, and they reaped the rewards with the side increasing their try tally to six.
This was enough to guarantee the victory and ensure that the team remains in contention for an invaluable home semifinal.
MTN Golden Lions 25 (18) – Tries: Jaco van der Walt, Jannie Stander, Stephan de Wit. Conversions: Marais Schmidt (2). Penalties: Marais Schmidt (2).
Vodacom Blue Bulls 40 (19) – Tries: Hencus van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Jacques Rossouw, Roelof Smit (2), Travis Ismaiel. Conversions: Kobus Marais (4), Tony Jantjies.
Border 12 (5) DHL Western Province 74 (38)
In East London DHL Western Province delivered a comprehensive display to outclass Border and extend their lead on the log table to nine points.
Such was the high quality of their performance, they accumulated an impressive 12 tries, with six scored in each half, thanks to their innovative attack and solid defence.
Border gave their all, but with the momentum favouring Western Province, all they could manage were two tries, one of which was converted, for their 12 points.
Border 12 (5) – Tries: Angus Cleophas, Marlyn Williams. Conversion: Wayne Gardner.
DHL Western Province 74 (38) – Tries: Craig Barry (2), Devon Williams (2), Justin Benn, Kobus van Wyk, Patrick Howard (2), Sithembiso Sithole, Stephan Coetzee, Tim Swiel (2). Conversions: Swiel (7).
The Sharks 33 (16) Leopards 13 (13)
In Durban the Leopards put up a good fight against The Sharks to deny the home team a bonus-point victory.
The first half was closely fought as the teams put their bodies on the line in an attempt to take the lead, which resulted in a tight tussle.
Each team scored a try, while flyhalves Robert du Preez and Ryno Smith kicked a brace of penalties to keep the score closely matched.
The Sharks, however, made the most of their point-scoring opportunities in the second half, despite having to work hard for them, which resulted in the team crashing over the tryline twice more.
Duncan Campbell added to this by slotting over their fourth penalty, which pushed the match out of reach for the Leopards.
Their inability to secure the bonus point for four tries, however, left them one point behind the Blue Bulls in third position.
Sharks 33 (16) – Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Hanco Venter, Stefan Ungerer. Conversions: Duncan Campbell, Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Campbell, Du Preez (3).
Leopards 13 (13) – Try: Tiaan Loots. Conversion: Ryno Smith. Penalties: Smith (2).