The Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs claimed important wins to secure home ground advantage for the Currie Cup Premier Division semi-finals, while the Vodacom Bulls and Windhoek Draught Griquas bolstered their respective playoff bids in the penultimate round of the tournament.
The KwaZulu-Natalians beat the Fidelity ADT Lions on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Premier Division log. Joey Mongalo’s charges are two points clear of the Toyota Cheetahs in the standings, and one win away from earning the right to host a potential final.
The Toyota Cheetahs proved too strong for the Airlink Pumas in Nelspruit on Saturday. The Free Staters have moved 10 points clear of their rivals in the standings. No matter what happens in the final round, they will not be caught by the chasing pack.
Indeed, the Airlink Pumas will do well to qualify for the playoffs from here. While Jimmy Stonehouse’s defending champions currently sit in third position, but only five points separate them and the team ranked seventh on the log – namely the Fidelity ADT Lions.
The Vodacom Bulls continued their incredible run when they put 10 tries past the NovaVit Griffons on Friday – with David Kriel scoring a hat-trick. The bonus-point win – as well as the improved points’ difference – sees the men from Pretoria moving up to fourth place.
Windhoek Draught Griquas claimed yet another win against DHL Western Province on Friday, and improved their own chances of advancing to the playoffs. They currently sit in fifth place – just a single log point behind the Vodacom Bulls.
While DHL WP will lament the loss in Kimberley, they did manage to secure a bonus point for scoring four tries. The upshot is that the Capetonians are three log points behind Windhoek Draught Griquas, and four points behind the Vodacom Bulls. If they win their final match and other results go their way, they may sneak into the playoffs.
The Fidelity ADT Lions failed to pick up a bonus point in the loss to the Cell C Sharks. If they win big in their final game against the NovaVit Griffons, and if some of the other teams who are yet to qualify lose their respective matches, they could also potentially advance to the knockout rounds.
Meanwhile, three matches were played in the Currie Cup First Division and Mzansi Challenge on Saturday.
The Valke beat the Leopards 43-35 in a fiercely contested game in Potchefstroom, while the Boland Kavaliers romped to a 68-19 victory over the Border Bulldogs in Mdantsane.
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias proved too strong for Eastern Province in the Namibian capital, and went on to claim an emphatic 47-29 win in their final round match.
The First Division final will be staged on the weekend of 23/24 June between Boland and the Valke, with the table-topping Kavaliers hosting the decider.
Whitehead guides Windhoek Draught Griquas to crucial win
George Whitehead contributed 13 points as Windhoek Draught Griquas beat DHL WP 38-29 in Kimberley on Friday.
Marcel Theunissen scored two early tries as the Capetonians took a 19-14 lead into half-time. At that stage, the visitors appeared to be on course for an important bonus-point victory.
DHL WP realised their four-try objective when Willie Engelbrecht scored in the 60th minute. But Windhoek Draught Griquas scored two further tries through Sean Swart and Sango Xamlashe, and Whitehead showed his nerve to nail several important kicks at the death.
Whitehead’s final penalty goal extended the hosts’ lead to nine points – and ultimately denied DHL WP a second bonus point. The result marks Windhoek Draught Griquas’ sixth consecutive win against the team in the blue and white hooped jerseys.
Windhoek Draught Griquas 38 (14) – Tries: Dylan Sjoblom, Jay Cee Nel, Lubabalo Dobela, Sean Swart, Sango Xamlashe. Conversions: George Whitehead (5). Penalty goals: Whitehead.
DHL WP 29 (19) – Tries: Marcel Theunissen (2), Paul de Wet, Willie Engelbrecht. Conversions: Jurie Matthee (3). Penalty goal: Matthee.
Vodacom Bulls overcome delay to blitz NovaVit Griffons
The Vodacom Bulls claimed a 64-33 win against the NovaVit Griffons in Pretoria on Friday despite a three-hour delay due to a regional power outage.
The match at Loftus Versfeld was brought to a halt for several hours following a power outage in the Pretoria CBD. Nevertheless, the hosts still managed to exact their revenge for a loss suffered to the NovaVit Griffons earlier in the season.
The visitors trailed by six points at half-time, and were very much in the contest at that stage. Thereafter, the men from Pretoria cut loose, with David Kriel scoring a hat-trick and captain Marcell Coetzee bagging a brace.
In the end, the Vodacom Bulls scored 10 tries. Johan Goosen contributed 14 points to secure a result that has certainly boosted the team’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
Vodacom Bulls 64 (26)
Tries: David Kriel (3), Stedman Gans, Nizaam Carr, Cornal Hendricks, Marcel Coetzee (2), Embrose Papier, Mornay Smith
Conversions: Johan Goosen (7)
NovaVit Griffons 33 (18)
Tries: Duan Pretorius (2), Dandre Delport, Penalty try
Conversion: Jaywinn Juries
Penalty goals: Juries (3)
Toyota Cheetahs outgun Airlink Pumas to book home playoff
The Toyota Cheetahs scored four tries to down the Airlink Pumas 24-19 in Nelspruit on Saturday and secure a home semi-final.
After dominating the early stages of the tournament, the Free Staters as well as the men from Mpumalanga lost momentum in later rounds and slumped to some disappointing results. As a result, both teams came into the penultimate round desperate for any sort of victory.
The hosts started well when Corné Fourie crashed over the tryline in the seventh minute. From there, the visitors took control, scoring three tries off the back of a dominant lineout to lead 19-7 at half-time.
Ruan Pienaar nailed a long-range penalty to extend the Free Staters’ lead in the 62nd minute. The defending champions hit back immediately, however, and a cynical offence by Cohen Jasper resulted in a penalty try for the hosts.
The visitors’ excellent defence kept the Airlink Pumas scoreless during the period of sanction. Replacement George Cronje went on to clinch the bonus-point try for the Toyota Cheetahs in the final minute of the game.
Airlink Pumas 14 (7) – Tries: Corné Fourie, Penalty try. Conversion: Tinus de Beer.
Toyota Cheetahs 29 (19) – Tries: Gideon van der Merwe, Rewan Kruger, Marnus van der Merwe, George Cronjé. Conversion: Ruan Pienaar (3). Penalty goal: Pienaar.
Seventh heaven for high-flying Cell C Sharks
The Cell C Sharks overcame a poor start to beat the Fidelity ADT Lions 29-21 in Durban and clinch top spot in the Premier Division standings with their seventh-consecutive win in the competition.
The visitors scored two early tries, and looked to be on course for a famous upset victory. But the KwaZulu-Natalians hit back to score through Fez Mbatha in the 29th minute.
Wing Aphelele Fassi intercepted an ambitious pass right before the break, and raced 50m to score. Lionel Cronjé’s accurate conversion levelled the scores at 14-14.
Ntuthuko Mchunu scored shortly after half-time. The visitors replied via Sanele Nohamba’s converted try to level the scores once more.
The hosts kept pressing, and Mchunu eventually breached the visitors’ defence to claim his second try. Nevaldo Fleurs slotted a late penalty goal to seal the win and deny the team from Gauteng a losing bonus-point.
Cell C Sharks 29 (14) – Tries: Fez Mbatha, Aphelele Fassi, Ntuthuko Mchunu (2). Conversions: Lionel Cronjé (3). Penalty goal: Nevaldo Fleurs.
Fidelity ADT Lions 21 (14) – Tries: Emmanuel Tshituka, Ruan Dreyer, Sanele Nohamba. Conversions: Nohamba (3).