The seventh round of this pulsating tournament, which yielded 197 tries in 33 matches so far, delivered some telling results with log leaders, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, suffering their second defeat in as many matches, this time to the Toyota Free State U21s.
DHL Western Province flexed their muscles again after beating the Vodacom Blue Bulls last week, as they beat the Leopards in Potchefstroom to continue their surge, while the Xerox Golden Lions kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Cell C Sharks.
Only the Leopards are out of the playoff race, but such is their competitiveness, that they can still throw a spanner in the works in the remaining two weeks.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls and Toyota Free State were first and second on the log going into their match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, and after a 14-try feast, the visitors sneaked a 52-47 win after leading 24-13 at the break.
The result closed the gap between the two sides on the log, with the Pretoria team now only top thanks to a better points' difference. The men from Bloemfontein scored eight tries to six, with Cohen Jasper (fullback) bagging no less than four of those.
Jasper has now scored 11 tries in seven outings and tops the try-scoring stakes, with team mate, Conan le Fleur (6) and Caleb Dingaan (Cell C Sharks, 6) a distant second.
Le Fleur was also on the scoresheet against the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who rallied late, but trailed throughout the match and could not catch up on the strong start their opponents had.
Visiting DHL Western Province improved to third on the log after outplaying Leopards 47-19 at Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Sunday.
It was a tight first half and the Leopards were right in it at the break, leading 19-14 and outscoring the Cape side by three tries to two. It was one-way traffic in the second half though as the visitors scored five unanswered tries to romp to a very convincing win.
In fact, they 'won' the second half 33-0 as they totally outplayed the home side with clinical finishing the order of the day. Blitzbok Angelo Davids scored twice in the rout and Abner van Reenen kicked six of seven conversions as DHL WP started to flex their muscles towards the business end of the tournament.
The Xerox Golden Lions scored a crucial victory over the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday afternoon, beating their coastal foes 29-14.
Strong defence by the Joburg team limited the visitors to two tries only, while their attack saw them bag four tries and a crucial bonus point as they moved within two points of the KwaZulu-Natalians, currently in the fourth and final play-off spot.
This weekend, DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks will contest the third place on the log at DHL Newlands on Friday, while Toyota Free State should be confident of their result against the Leopards when they meet at Old Greys in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Xerox Golden Lions host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Johannesburg on Saturday, knowing that the Pretoria side will be hurting after two losses in a row.
Results and scorers:
Leopards 19 (19), DHL Western Province 47 (14)
Leopards - Tries: Sylvester Hassien, Andre van der Berg, Lincoln Daniels. Conversions: Van der Berg (2).
DHL WP - Tries: Jessie Johnson, Prince Orderson, Angelo Davids (2), David Kriel, Schalk Erasmus, Gift Dlamini. Conversions: Abner van Reenen (6).
Vodacom Blue Bulls 47 (13), Toyota Free State Cheetahs 52 (24)
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Tries: Ewart Potgieter, Sabastian Jobb (2), Marnus Potgieter, Willem Steenkamp, Keagan Johannes. Conversions: Vaughen Isaacs (4). Penalty goals: Isaacs (3).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Luyolo Dapula, Elrigh Louw, Phil Krugell, Conan Le Fleur, Cohen Jasper (4). Conversions: James Mollentze (5), Lubabalo Dobela.
Xerox Golden Lions 29 (14), Cell C Sharks 14 (7)
Xerox Golden Lions - Tries: Tinus Combrinck, Shaun Williams, Luke Rossouw, Shaun Baxter. Conversions: Keagan Lailvaux, Ulrich Maritz.
Cell C Sharks - Tries: Evan Roos, Sicelo Tole. Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain, Ralph Koster.
Standings after Round 7:
- Vodacom Blue Bulls, 37 points
- Toyota Free State, 37
- DHL Western Province, 21
- Cell C Sharks, 18
- Xerox Golden Lions, 16
- Leopards, 8
Meanwhile, EP Elephants and Phakisa Pumas remained the only unbeaten sides after three rounds of the SA Rugby Under-20 Provincial Championship.
The SA Rugby Under-20 Provincial Championship results are:
Griquas 15 (10), Leopards 58 (25).
Griquas - Tries: George Olivier, Ranaldo Appolis, Rowie Malgas.
Leopards - Tries: Keenan Twigg, Anelka Barends, Meyer Kriel (2), Zinedibe Robinson (2), Gerald Pulane, Jaco Gerber. Conversions: Robinson (6). Penalties: Robinson (2).
Phakisa Pumas 26 (6), Limpopo Blue Bulls 25 (18)
Phakisa Pumas - Tries: Darryl Wellman, Maxwell Osborne. Conversions: Riekert Barnard (2). Penalties: Barnard (4).
Limpopo Blue Bulls - Tries: Renaldo Kuppen, Zihan Coetzee, Kevin Slow. Conversions: Brandon Melamed (2). Penalty: Melamed. Drop Goal: Melamed.
Boland 17 (12), EP Elephants 24 (16)
Boland - Tries: Mikyle Hanse, Boyka Lewis, Mac-John Daniels. Conversion: Lloyd April.
EP Elephants - Tries: Johan Lombaard, Duane Hanekom. Conversion: Lombaard. Penalties: Lombaard (4).