The Vodacom Cup competition this weekend delivered on expectations to rise to a new level as the playoff battle intensified, with all but one of the matches featuring big wins as the top teams stamped their authority.
North Section log leaders the Steval Pumas delivered the highest score of the weekend, a phenomenal 88-0 victory against the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls, while DHL Western Province accumulated 65 points and the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Toyota Free State XV both came away 54 points.
Both the North and South sections of the competition now have clear favourites to occupy the eight playoff spots up for grabs.
As things stand the unbeaten Steval Pumas and Cell C Sharks XV remain the front runners to finish at the top of their respective logs, while the Toyota Free State XV, DHL Western Province and the SWD Eagles appear to be South section favourites to advance to the playoffs.
The battle will be tighter in the North section where only three log points separate the second-placed Leopards XV and the Golden Lions in fifth place.
The Steval Pumas scored an impressive 14 tries in their clash against the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls in Polokwane for their 88 points, while their solid defence denied the hosts a single point.
Five of their tries were scored in the first half, with wing Ashwin Scott and flank Jaco Bouwer scoring two each to add to another in the second half for a total of three tries for the match.
Such was the quality of the team effort nine players crossed the tryline during the 80 minutes.
DHL Western Province delivered an equally effective attacking performance for their 65-29 victory against the Tusker Simba XV in Cape Town and earned 11 tries for their efforts.
The Tusker Simba XV put up a brave fight against the hosts with three first-half tries, but they were never going to stop the well-oiled DHL Western Province machine and in-form wing Devon Williams, who scored a hat-trick before the break.
Williams finished the match with four tries, while captain and flank Rohan Kitshoff earned three.
In Bloemfontein the Toyota Free State XV built up a convincing 28-0 lead at the break against the Border Bulldogs, and secured a 54-17 victory in what marked their fourth bonus-point win in five matches.
Flank Wayven Smith and replacement forward Peet Coetzee accounted for four of the Toyota Free State XV’s eight tries. While the team will be pleased with the win, they will be disappointed about leaking three tries in the last 16 minutes of the match.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls were dominant from the outset against the Valke at Loftus Versfeld and entered the break 37-7 up with their bonus point in the bag.
They continued to apply pressure on the Valke in the second half and increased their points tally to 54, while supporting this with a good defensive effort, which left the visitors scoreless in the second half. The victory propelled the Vodacom Blue Bulls into the top four on the north section log.
The Leopards XV also secured a fantastic bonus-point 35-15 victory against the Down Touch Griffons in Welkom, which pushed them into second place on the north section log.
The first half was tight with the Leopards leading only 14-10 at the break. But they found their rhythm in the second half and scored three tries to only one by the home team.
The SWD Eagles pipped the EP Kings 23-21 in George to remain in the top four on the south section log with a favourable lead over their counterparts going into the last two pool rounds.
The teams were neck-on-neck from the start with the Kings taking a 9-6 lead at half time. The Port Elizabeth side built on this in the third quarter. But their hopes of a victory were dashed by two tries followed by a well-timed drop goal by SWD Eagles flyhalf Karlo Aspeling with two minutes to go.
GWK Griquas overcame two yellow cards in their clash against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg to hold on to a 33-18 lead for their fourth victory in the series.
The hosts overpowered the Golden Lions early on and cruised to a 24-6 lead at the break with three tries, while the Lions had to settle for two penalties by Willie du Plessis. But two yellow cards in the second half resulted in the Lions bouncing back with two tries.
GWK Griquas fullback Gouws Prinsloo, however, kept the scoreboard rolling with penalties to keep the team in the driving seat.
The Cell C Sharks XV, meanwhile, registered a 43-27 victory against the Regent Boland Cavaliers in Ceres outscoring the Boland side six tries to three.
Springbok looseforward Keegan Daniel scored two of the Durban side’s tries, while talented flyhalf Tim Swiel slotted over five conversions and a penalty to add to his try for a personal tally of 18 points.
All the Scorers:
Vodacom Blue Bulls 54 (37) Valke 7 (7)
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ryan Nell, Sampie Mastriet (2), Tian Schoeman, Waylon Murray, Wimpie van der Walt (2). Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalty goals: Tian Schoeman (3).
Valke – Try: Devlin Hope. Conversion: Cecil Dumond.
Down Touch Griffons 15 (10) Leopards XV 35 (14)
Down Touch Griffons – Tries: AJ Le Roux, Japie Nel. Conversion: Franna du Toit. Penalty goal: Franna du Toit.
Leopards XV – Tries: Armandt Liebenberg, George Tossel, Malan van der Merwe, Rowayne Beukman, Sthembiso Mhlongo. Conversions: George Tossel, Gerhard Nortier (4).
SWD Eagles 23 (6) EP Kings 21 (9)
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Wayne Khan. Conversions: Karlo Aspeling (2). Penalty goals: Karlo Aspeling (2). Drop goal: Karlo Aspeling.
EP Kings – Tries: Ivan-John du Preez, Ntabeni Dukisa. Conversion: Masixole Banda. Penalty goals: Masixole Banda (3).
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls 0 (0) Steval Pumas 88 (29)
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls – No Points
Steval Pumas – Tries: Ashwin Scott (3), Bernardo Botha, Christo le Roux, De-Jay Terblanche (2), Dewald Pretorius, Hennie Skorbinski, Jaco Bouwer (3), Johan Pretorius, Pule Sibiya. Conversions: Bernardo Botha, Johan Pretorius (3), Justin van Staden (5).
Toyota Free State XV 54 (28) Border Bulldogs 17 (0)
Toyota Free State XV– Tries: Luke Cyster, Neil Claassen, Nicolaas Lee, Peet Coetzee (2), Riaan Smit, Wayven Smith (2). Conversions: Riaan Smit (7).
Border Bulldogs – Tries: Lundi Ralarala, Sipho Nofemele, Wandile Putuma. Conversion: Oliver Zono.
GWK Griquas 33 (24) Golden Lions 18 (6)
GWK Griquas – Tries: Carel Greeff, Ederies Arendse, Ewald van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo (3). Penalty goals: Gouws Prinsloo (4).
Golden Lions – Tries: Penalty Try, Stephan de Wit. Conversion: Willie du Plessis. Penalty goals: Willie du Plessis (2).
Regent Boland Cavaliers 27 (20) Cell C Sharks 43 (15)
Regent Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Arno Fortuin (2), Danwel Demas. Conversions: Christian Rust, Eric Zana (2). Penalty goals: Eric Zana (2).
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Jaco van Tonder, Johan Meyer, Keegan Daniel (2), Sizo Maseko, Tim Swiel. Conversions: Tim Swiel (5). Penalty goal: Tim Swiel.
DHL Western Province 65 (37) Tusker Simba XV 29 (22)
DHL Western Province – Tries: Carel du Preez (2), Christo van Wyk, Devon Williams (4), Johnny Kotze, Rohan Kitshoff (3). Conversions: Gary Van Aswegen (2), Kurt Coleman (3).
Tusker Simba XV – Tries: Fabian Ogutu, Joshua Chisanga, Tony Opondo (2). Conversions: Kenny Andola (3). Penalty goal: Kenny Andola.