The top three teams in the North Section of the Vodacom Cup have all but secured their playoff spots, but the South Section is still wide open with only two rounds of pool action remaining.
Two of the Xerox Golden Lions, Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will host quarter-finals this year, with the two teams from Gauteng in the inside lane as they have one game in hand.
The Steval Pumas finished their pool obligations with a solid 28-22 win over the Hino Valke in Nelspruit on Friday evening and the Xerox Golden Lions trounced the Leopards XV by 63-10 in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
One of the Down Touch Griffons, who recorded a good 40-28 win over the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls in Welkom on Saturday, Leopards XV and Hino Valke will probably take the remaining place in the playoffs in their section, but mathematically the FNB Welwitschias and Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls can also still sneak in.
DHL Western Province, who beat GWK Griquas by 21-14 in a re-play of the 2012 final in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon, are now the only unbeaten team left in the South Section.
The Toyota Free State XV and SWD Eagles both recorded good away victories this weekend, over the Border Bulldogs in East London (14-10) and the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth (31-10) respectively.
The teams from Bloemfontein and George looking like the likely candidates to progress to the quarter-finals, although the Cell C Sharks’ big win over the Boland Cavaliers in Empangeni (52-12) means they can’t be written off yet.
Border Bulldogs 10 Toyota Free State XV 14
The Border Bulldogs produced a much-improved display in a hard-fought Vodacom Cup match against the Toyota Free State XV on a crisp, cool evening at Buffalo City Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday, but still went down 14-10 to their visitors from Bloemfontein.
Although the Bulldogs lost their fifth match in a row, they can certainly hold their heads up high as all facets of their game improved beyond recognition.
It was a rip-roaring match with plenty of action, and Border’s lineout work, hard tackling and willingness to throw out long passes drew plenty of applause from the noisy crowd in attendance.
Border Bulldogs – Try: Lindokuhle Welemu. Conversion: Coyi Banda. Penalty goal: Banda.
Toyota Free State XV – Try: Sergeal Petersen. Penalty goals: Daniel Marais (3).
Steval Pumas 28 Hino Valke 22
The Steval Pumas secured their place in the top four of the North Section in the Vodacom Cup after beating the Hino Valke 28-22 in a tight match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening.
It was the Lowvelders’ final pool match and they will now have to wait and see if they will host a play-off match as they can’t finish lower than third or higher than second.
The hosts missed out on the try-scoring bonus point, but still find themselves in the top four in the North Section, while the East Randers will look at the game as one that could have been won, as they lead 15-13 at halftime after producing some impressive play in the first 40 minutes.
Steval Pumas – Tries: Bernardo Botha, JW Bell, Reynier van Rooyen. Conversions: JC Roos (2). Penalty goals: Roos (3).
Hino Valke – Tries: Anrich Richter (2), Friedle Olivier. Conversions: Jaun Kotze (2). Penalty goal: Kotze.
SWD Eagles 31 EP Kings 10
The SWD Eagles strengthened their bid for a Vodacom Cup quarter-final berth with a superb 31-10 victory (halftime 21-5) over the Eastern Province Kings in a South Section clash at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium on Saturday.
The Eagles will be thrilled with the win secured against their more-fancied neighbours. By contrast, the Kings will need some serious improvement if they are to have any hope of competing against Absa Currie Cup Premier Division opposition this season.
They were out-muscled, albeit mainly in the first half, and their tactical kicking was downright poor. Their defence also let them down on occasions. But the Eagles were full value for the win and deserved the four points on the road.
EP Kings – Tries: Luther Obi, Simon Kerrod.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Clinton Wagman, Dwayne Kelly. Conversions: Elrich van Vuuren, Gerhardus Smith. Penalty goals: Van Vuuren (3), Smith.
GWK Griquas 14 DHL Western Province 21
DHL Western Province are now the only unbeaten team remaining in the South Section of the Vodacom Cup thanks to a hard-fought 21-14 win over GWK Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday.
With this victory, DHL WP kept intact a proud record by not losing to the five-time champions since 2002.
The match, played at Diamantveld High School, only kicked into life in the last couple of minutes with tries by WP outside centre Kyle Lombard and a brilliant individual effort by replacement hooker Martin Bezuidenhout for GWK Griquas to ensure a nail-biting last five minutes, with WP leading 18-14.
But yet another penalty at the scrum for WP enabled flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, son of former Springbok and WP wing, Carel, to kick his third penalty for a 21-14 win.
GWK Griquas – Try: Martin Bezuidenhout. Penalty goals: Gouws Prinsloo (3).
DHL Western Province – Tries: EW Viljoen, Kyle Lombard. Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis. Penalty goals: Du Plessis (3).
Cell C Sharks 52 Boland Cavaliers 12
The Cell C Sharks XV are back on the winning track after running in eight tries for a 52-12 (halftime 24-5) thumping of the Boland Cavaliers in a Vodacom Cup South Section match at Empangeni on Saturday.
The Cavaliers began the match in emphatic fashion as flanker Freginald Africa scored the first try of the match straight after the kick-off, but the home team struck back five minutes later to level the scores at five-all with their first touch-down through flanker Khaya Majola.
Thereafter the Cell C Sharks XV took control and brought up the 50-point mark with former Springbok winger Tonderai Chavhanga crossing the line for the home side’s eighth try.
Boland never gave up though and crossed the line for a consolation try through centre Edwin Sass four minutes from time.
Cell C Sharks XV – Tries: Barend Potgieter (2), Marius Louw (2), Cameron White, Khaya Majola, Tonderai Chavhanga, Tyler Fisher. Conversions: Wright (3), Sandile Kubeka (3).
Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Edwin Sass, Freginald Africa. Conversion: Christian Rust
Xerox Golden Lions 63 Leopards XV 10
The Xerox Golden Lions moved back to the top of the Vodacom Cup North Section log after beating the Leopards XV 63-10 at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon, after leading by 14-10 at the break.
The Leopards XV started the match wanting to prove something and were a constant nuisance to the Xerox Golden Lions, who struggled to establish themselves in the first 20 minutes.
However, the momentum shifted in the second half with the home team running in seven more tries as they started to string phases together which proved very difficult for the Leopards XV to defend.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Schalk van der Merwe (2), Ashlon Davids, Jano Venter (2), Mark Pretorius, Ramone Samuels, Mark Richards. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (7). Penalty goals: Van der Walt (3).
Leopards XV – Tries: Juan Language, Wilmar Arnoldi.
Down Touch Griffons 40 Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls 28
A hat-trick of tries by the enterprising flanker, Martin Sithole, and a brace by the centre Vuyo Mbotho set up a 40-28 win for the Down Touch Griffons in their North Section Vodacom Cup clash against the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls at the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom on Saturday afternoon.
However, the home team had to dig deep in the second half after the visitors took the lead by 17-12 at halftime, thanks to a try in the 38th minute by their hard-working flanker, Dwayne Pienaar.
A hailstorm after halftime forced the players off the field for 10 minutes, which might have affected the focus and intensity of the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls. While the home team flourished late in the match with four superb second half tries, the visitors from Polokwane withered in the cold and wet.
Down Touch Griffons – Tries: Martin Sithole (3), Vuyo Mbotho (2), Wynand Pienaar. Conversions: Francois du Toit (5).
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls – Tries: Abraham Boonzaaier, Anton Beswick, Dean Gordon. Penalty goals: Beswick (3). Conversions: Beswick (2).