Defending Absa Currie Cup First Division champions the Regent Boland Kavaliers slumped to their fourth successive defeat while last year's beaten finalists, the EP Kings, moved to the top of the table after a series of high-scoring fourth-round matches in the expanded eight-team competition.
The unbeaten Griffons made it four from four when they beat the Kavaliers 23-20 in Worcester on Friday afternoon, a result which leaves the Welkom side second on points difference behind the Kings, who had no trouble in beating the Border Bulldogs 56-5 later that evening in Port Elizabeth.
Saturday's action saw the Ford Pumas scrape home 36-35 against the Valke in Nelspruit to move to fourth, while the Leopards, thanks to five tries from wing Allister Kettledas, beat the SWD Eagles 68-35 in Potchefstroom to go third, five points behind the front-runners.
Leopards (40) 68 SWD Eagles (7) 35
Veteran wing Allister Kettledas scored two first-half tries and a hat-trick after the break as the Leopards picked up their third win from four starts this season with a convincing home win over the SWD Eagles.
This match was over as a contest by half-time, the home side leading by 33 points thanks to fine finishing as well as the presence of former Springbok flyhalf André Pretorius, who scored 26 points in a match in which he marshalled his troops with the authority of old.
The Leopards scored eight tries in all while the visitors scored five, which means they will return to George with a bonus point despite slipping to fifth on the table following their second defeat in four games.
Leopards – Tries: Philip de Wet, Joubert Engelbrecht, Johann Laker, Allister Kettledas (5). Conversions: André Pretorius (7), Adriaan Engelbrecht. Penalties: Pretorius (3). Drop goal: Pretorius.
Eagles – Tries: Wayne Khan, Elric van Vuuren, Dumisane Meslane, Baldwin McBean, Alshaun Bock. Conversions: Theuns Kotze (5).
Ford Pumas (13) 36 Valke (20) 35
The Ford Pumas had replacement flyhalf JC Roos to thank for getting out of jail at Mbombela Stadium after he slotted a late conversion to give his team a hard-fought win over the Valke.
The visitors from the East Rand scored two early tries and five in total to suggest an upset was on the cards, but the Pumas pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a handful of minutes remaining when eighthman RW Kember went over for Roos to administer the last rites.
The win sees the Pumas to fourth on the table, three points behind the Leopards as the eight-team log begins to take on a distinctly 'top four, bottom four' look after four rounds.
The Valke stay sixth, with one win from their four matches, with only the winless and battling Boland Kavaliers and Border Bulldogs below them.
Pumas – Tries: RW Kember, Renaldo Bothma, Carl Bezuidenhout, Ashwin Scott. Conversions: Bezuidenhout, JC Roos. Penalties: Bezuidenhout (4).
Valke – Tries: Uzair Cassiem, Karlo Aspeling (2), JW Bell (2). Conversions: Aspeling, Arno Poley. Penalty: Aspeling. Drop goal: Aspeling.
EP Kings (21) 56 Border Bulldogs (5) 5
In the Eastern Cape derby, visitors the Border Bulldogs were no match for their Southern Kings partners the Eastern Province Kings, who ran in eight tries at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
In reply, the Bulldogs, who remain rooted to the foot of the table without a win from their four outings, could manage just a single try from hard-working skipper Gareth Krause. But this was the Kings' night as they moved to the top of the table, ahead of the unbeaten Griffons on points difference.
The platform for victory was laid by the Kings' impressive forward pack, who completely dominated their opponents at the set pieces as well as in the tight loose. The result was a brace of tries to each of eighthman Luke Watson and lock Wayne van Heerden, while Varsity Cup-winning flyhalf Wesley Dunlop kicked 14 points.
Kings – Tries: Wayne van Heerden (2), Wayne Stevens, SP Marais, Scott van Breda, Luke Watson (2), penalty try. Conversions: Wesley Dunlop (7), George Whitehead.
Bulldogs – Try: Gareth Krause.
Regent Boland Kavaliers (17) 20 Griffons (8) 23
The Regent Boland Kavaliers must be wondering what curse has struck them, as the defending champions, so dominant in the latter stages of 2011, slumped to a fourth successive defeat. This time it was at their alternative home ground of Boland Park in Worcester, where 4,000 fans braved the inclement weather to watch what they hoped would be the start of their team's revival.
All the more galling is the fact that the Kavaliers led by nine points at the break, but the home side could not make that advantage count as the impressive Griffons, who displayed once again that winning, like losing, can become a habit, came from behind to record a well-deserved victory.
The Kavaliers looked as if they would hang on for the win and so break their duck, as they led 20-15 late into the game.
But the Griffons had other ideas, flanker Willie Britz going over to level the scores before the competition's top point-scorer, left wing Reinhardt Erwee, kicked what proved to be the winning penalty in the 70th minute to give his team their fourth win in a row – a record that even the side's most die-hard supporters would not have believed possible just a few weeks ago.
Kavaliers – Tries: Elgar Watts, Brendon April, Ashton Constant. Conversion: Watts. Penalty: Watts.
Griffons – Tries: Willie Britz, Tertius Maarman, Derick van Heerden. Conversion: Reinhardt Erwee. Penalties: Erwee (2).