The MTN Golden Lions got the defence of their Absa Currie Cup title off to a promising start when they opened their campaign with a bonus-point 43-20 victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls kicked off the 2012 competition on Friday night when they rallied to beat GWK Griquas 35-20 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
And in the final game of the weekend, played in a bitterly cold and rainy Cape Town on Saturday night, the Sharks came away from Newlands with a second victory in the space of a fortnight when they followed up their Vodacom Super Rugby win over the DHL Stormers with a 25-23 win over DHL Western Province.
Vodacom Blue Bulls (9) 35 GWK Griquas (13) 20
Flyhalf Louis Fouche scored 25 points as the Vodacom Blue Bulls, under coach Pine Pienaar, came from behind to beat a spirited GWK Griquas in Pretoria on Friday in the first match of the 2012 Absa Currie Cup Premier Division.
Griquas were their usual abrasive selves, especially up front, but indiscipline cost them dearly after the men from Kimberley led 13-9 at the break and looked set for an upset.
Former Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer opened Griquas' account with a penalty, after which wing Rocco Jansen rounded off a good move started by fullback Willie le Roux. But Le Roux soon went from hero to villain when he was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on opposite number Jürgen Visser.
The Bulls came out a different team after the break, flanker Arno Botha putting wing Akona Ndungane away while Fouche kept potting his goals to keep Griquas, who did stage a mini-revival capped off with a try to lock Martin Muller, at arm's length.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Snyman, Akona Ndungane. Conversions: Louis Fouche (2). Penalties: Fouche (7).
Griquas – Tries: Rocco Jansen, Martin Muller. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2). Penalty: Brummer. Drop goal: Brummer.
MTN Golden Lions (23) 43 Toyota Free State Cheetahs (6) 20
Flyhalf and man of the match Butch James kicked 21 points as the MTN Golden Lions put yet another miserable Vodacom Super Rugby Campaign behind them with a comprehensive victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs to kick off their title defence in style.
The home side were the only team on the opening weekend to score four tries, and this means they climb to the top of the Premier Division table after Round 1.
For Naka Drotske's outgunned Cheetahs, the form of scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, who has returned from Australia where he played for the Waratahs in Super Rugby, was one of the few positives to take out of this encounter, with the other being the fantastic debut of World Championship-winning SA U20 wing Raymond Rhule, who scored a brace of tries in a losing effort.
Apart from that it was all the Lions, with eighthman Derick Minnie and Andries Coetzee starting the ball rolling with first-half tries as the home side went into the break leading by 17 points. The visitors came out strongly in the second period and, apart from setting up Rhule for his two scores, made too many mistakes to threaten the Lions.
Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck, Hendrik Roodt, Derick Minnie, Andries Coetzee. Conversions: Butch James (3), Guy Cronje. Penalties: James (5).
Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule (2). Conversions: Riaan Smit (2). Penalties: Smit (2).
DHL Western Province (13) 23 Sharks (3) 25
Two tries from ever-improving hooker Craig Burden helped the Sharks to a nailbiting victory over DHL WP at a rain-drenched Newlands – the KZN side's second tight win there in two weeks - to show that, despite Springbok call-ups they have the firepower to challenge for domestic honours.
The home side squandered a 13-3 half-time lead – thanks to a converted try from hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and two early penalties from fullback Joe Pietersen – as the Sharks fought back through three quick tries to centre Paul Jordaan and Burden.
Trailing 23-22 with seven minutes remaining, after WP had scored a second through skipper Deon Fourie three minutes earlier, the visitors landed the killer blow when flyhalf Riaan Viljoen dropped what turned out to be the match-winning goal.
WP – Tries: Tiaan Liebenberg, Deon Fourie. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalties: Pietersen (3).
Sharks – Tries: Paul Jordaan, Craig Burden (2). Conversions: Meyer Bosman (2). Penalty: Bosman. Drop goal: Riaan Viljoen.