Cape Town – The Currie Cup Premier Division will come down to the wire in the final round of pool matches this week following a handful of decisive results at the weekend, which saw the visiting teams secure valuable bonus-point victories in all four matches and two Blitzboks, Ryno Benjamin and Kwagga Smith, score hat-tricks of tries.
It was a particularly satisfying round for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, who sealed their spot at the top of the standings for a home semifinal, and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who also ensured that they would finish in the top four on the log.
In a thrilling penultimate round, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs recorded their seventh straight victory as they defeated the Steval Pumas, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat Boland, DHL Western Province overpowered Griquas and the Xerox Golden Lions outplayed the EP Kings to remain in contention for semifinal berths.
The final pool round next weekend will see the Cell C Sharks take on the Xerox Golden Lions in what promises to be a nail-biting clash, which could see the winning team advance to the semifinal, and the losing team’s season come to an end.
Adding extra spice to the final round, Griquas will have a faint mathematical chance of sneaking into the semifinal if they topple the undefeated Toyota Free State Cheetahs and DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions suffer defeats.
On Saturday, the Xerox Golden Lions recovered from a slow start against the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth to cruise to a bonus-point 71-7 victory as they dominated territory and possession, which kept alive their semi-final hopes.
The hosts conceded several penalties in the opening 15 minutes and the defending champions opted to attack rather than kick at goal, which saw them having to contend with a spirited EP Kings defensive effort.
The Xerox Golden Lions finally broke through for their first try in the 17th minute thanks to a strong maul, but the EP Kings levelled the scores at 7-7 as Sampie Mastriet stretched over the line. That marked the hosts first and last points of the match, as the visitors found their rhythm and scored another three tries to secure their bonus point before the break and a 27-7 lead.
The Johannesburg side ran riot on attack in the second half as they added seven tries to take their total for the match to 11, with captain Kwagga Smith scoring a hat-trick and Howard Mnisi and Jacques Nel each a brace to cap off a fine win.
In Kimberley on Friday evening, a smart decision by DHL Western Province to take advantage of kickable penalty goals at vital times combined with a strong performance in the last 30 minutes of the clash allowed the Western Cape side to secure a rewarding 52-31 victory after entering the break trailing 21-17.
Griquas struck first with a try in the 10th minute, and they added two more before half-time, while DHL Western Province scored two tries and a penalty goal.
Each side added a penalty goal after the break, which allowed Griquas to retain the lead. But this was short-lived as the Capetonians hit their straps and did well to round off their chances, which saw them add four more tries to their tally to only one by the hosts, while flyhalf Robert Du Preez added two more penalty goals.
Du Preez’s five conversions and four penalty goals took his personal total to 22 points.
It was one-way traffic in Nelspruit for log-leaders, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, as they outplayed the Steval Pumas 52-10 to extend their unbeaten run in the competition on Friday evening.
Free State wing Ryno Benjamin crossed the tryline in the seventh minute for the first of the team’s eight tries, which also paved the way for his hat-trick. It was also a rewarding day for flanker Paul Schoeman, who scored a brace.
Such was the Toyota Free State Cheetahs’ dominance they scored five first-half tries, while they limited the hosts to a penalty goal for a 31-3 lead. They continued this fine form in the second half and added three more tries to their total, while the home side crossed the chalk only once in the 71st minute.
The clash between the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Boland in Wellington on Friday afternoon was pretty even for the first hour. However, the visitors’ powerful scrummaging and firepower proved too much for the hosts, especially in the final 20 minutes, and earned them a 48-26 victory.
The Pretoria side started the clash with back-to-back tries in first 24 minutes, but Boland’s determined efforts on attack and defence allowed them to fight back and level the scores at 12-12 before the break.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls forced their way back into the lead with a penalty goal by Tian Schoeman and their third try, but this was cancelled out by back-to-back tries by Boland, which earned them a 26-22 lead and their bonus point try.
However, the visitors took the match by the scruff of the neck in the final quarter and ran in two more tries before Boland received a yellow card, which paved the way for the visitors to add two more to take their try tally to seven for a 48-26 victory.
Currie Cup results and scorers:
EP Kings 7 (7) Xerox Golden Lions 71 (26)
EP Kings: Try: Sampie Mastriet. Conversion: Pieter-Steyn de Wet.
Xerox Golden Lions: Tries: Anthony Volmink, Howard Mnisi (2), Jacques Nel (2), Koch Marx, Kwagga Smith (3), Ruan Ackermann, Sylvian Mahuza. Conversions: Andries Coetzee (3), Jako van der Walt (5).
Griquas 31 (21) DHL Western Province 52 (17)
Griquas: Tries: Andre Swarts, Jonathan Adendorf, JW Jonker, Rudi van Rooyen. Conversions: Andre Swarts (2), Clinton Swart (2). Penalty Goal: Andre Swarts.
DHL Western Province: Tries: Huw Jones, Juan de Jongh, Leolin Zas, Bongi Mbonambi, Nizaam Carr, Werner Kok. Conversions: Robert du Preez (5). Penalty Goals: Robert du Preez (4).
Steval Pumas 10 (3) Toyota Free State Cheetahs 52 (31)
Steval Pumas: Try: Frankie Herne. Conversion: Heinrich Steyl. Penalty Goal: Francois Brummer.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs: Tries: Elandre Huggett, Francois Venter, Paul Schoeman (2), Ryno Benjamin (3), Uzair Cassiem. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga, Niel Marais (5).
Boland 26 (12) Vodacom Blue Bulls 48 (12)
Boland: Tries: Danwel Demas, Theuns Kotze (2), Zandre Jordaan. Conversions: Theuns Kotze (3).
Vodacom Blue Bulls: Tries: Bjorn Basson, Hanro Liebenberg (2), Lizo Gqoboka, Roelof Smit, Tian Schoeman, Ulrich Beyers. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalty Goal: Tian Schoeman. – African News Agency (ANA)