In the last match of the round played on Saturday in Pretoria, the Vodacom Bulls had to withstand a strong second-half fightback to beat Windhoek Draught Griquas by 48-38 in Pretoria.
On Friday evening, the Sigma Lions gave it their all against the Toyota Cheetahs, who did just enough in the end to claw their way back to register a 35-26 bonus-point triumph over their Johannesburg hosts.
And in the round’s opening clash staged on Friday afternoon in Durban, the Airlink Pumas prevailed 20-10 over the Cell C Sharks in order to keep alive their chances of reaching the playoffs.
After the latest round of action, the Vodacom Bulls lead the standings with one point more than the unbeaten Toyota Cheetahs. The men from Pretoria are on 37 points and the Free Staters on 36, but the defending champions have played one more game.
The top teams at the top are followed by the Cell C Sharks in third (24 points after nine games), fourth-placed Windhoek Draught Griquas (21 points after nine games), the Airlink Pumas (19 points after eight games), DHL Western Province (9 points after eight games) and the Sigma Lions (3 points after nine games).
Next weekend, Toyota Cheetahs host Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein while Vodacom Bulls are home in the Jukskei River derby with neighbours Sigma Lions, and DHL Western Province travel to the Lowveld to take on the Airlink Pumas in Nelspruit.
The Vodacom Bulls ran out 48-38 winners over Windhoek Draught Griquas in an action-packed Carling Currie Cup clash of two halves that served up 13 tries at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.
Loaded with several Vodacom United Rugby Championship stars, the defending champions were accurate from the outset, playing with enterprise and at a pace that earned them the four-try bonus-point after just 29 minutes and a commanding 36-5 half-time lead.
Ten minutes into the second half, yellow cards to Lizo Gqoboka and Madosh Tambwe in quick succession breathed new life into the contest with Windhoek Draught Griquas closing the deficit to 41-24 in the 10-minute period they had a two-man advantage through a penalty try and touchdowns by Munier Hartzenberg and Hanru Sirgel.
Despite a try from Harold Vorster, momentum stayed with the never-say-die visitors, who scored two more tries to reduce the gap to 10 before they conceded a yellow card of their own at the end of a breathless battle that saw the Vodacom Bulls finish the round where they started it – at the top of the table.
Vodacom Bulls 48 (36) – Tries: Stravino Jacobs (2), Cyle Brink, Reinhardt Ludwig, Canan Moodie, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Chris Smith (5). Penalty goal: Smith.
Windhoek Draught Griquas 38 (5) – Tries: Sango Xamlashe, Penalty try, Munier Hartzenberg, Hanru Sirgel (2), Chris Hollis. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (3).
The Airlink Pumas defeated the Cell C Sharks 20-10 in Durban on Friday evening to maintain their push for a Carling Currie Cup playoff spot, making the most of their first-half opportunities to lead 17-3 at the break, courtesy of two converted tries by Devon Williams and a penalty goal, while the hosts replied with a sole drop goal.
The KwaZulu-Natalians played better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to stop the men from the Lowveld to record a massive morale boosting win.
The Cell C Sharks made a lot of lineout mistakes, especially in the first stanza, which robbed them of a decent attacking platform and at the same time handing the momentum to the visitors.
The Airlink Pumas had most possession and territory in the opening spell, however, they spilled many promising opportunities by either committing handling errors or taking wrong options.
Cell C Sharks 10 (3) – Try: Fez Mbatha. Conversion: Boeta Chamberlain. Drop goal: Chamberlain.
Airlink Pumas 20 (17) – Tries: Devon Williams (2). Conversions: Eddie Fouche (2). Penalty goals: Fouche (2).
The Toyota Cheetahs somehow gathered enough reserves to grab a hard-fought 35-26 Carling Currie Cup victory over the gritty Sigma Lions at Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg on Friday evening.
The Joburg outfit led 20-14 at halftime, but the Free Staters turned things around in the second half to make it eight wins from eight games, whilst the Highvelders slumped to their ninth loss in a row.
The Toyota Cheetahs outscored their hosts by four tries to two as they registered another deserved bonus-point win on the road, with Ruan Pienaar, their inspirational skipper and scrumhalf, leading from the front as the Free Staters had to fight back on more than one occasion to eventually down a spirited Sigma Lions team who were desperate for their first win of the campaign.
Tiaan Swanepoel, the Sigma Lions fullback, succeeded with six from eight goal kicks attempts for a personal tally of 16 points, while Pienaar managed to kick three penalties and three conversions in his contribution of 15 points to their winning cause.
Sigma Lions 26 (20) – Tries: Stean Pienaar, Lindo Ncusane. Conversions: Tiaan Swanepoel (2). Penalty goals: Swanepoel (4).
Toyota Cheetahs 35 (14) – Tries: Gideon van der Merwe, Marnus van der Merwe, Duncan Saal, Louis van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (3). Penalty goals: Pienaar (3).
Carling Currie Cup First Division
Round five of the Carling Currie Cup First Division also took place on Saturday with all four home teams ending on the winning side.
The defending champions, the Leopards, bounced back to winning ways after two defeats to beat the Valke 25-15 in Potchefstroom; the Zimbabwe Goshawks hosted the Boland Kavaliers in Cape Town and edged the Wellington-based team 23-22 in a thrilling match; the Down Touch Griffons ran out 40-16 winners over the SWD Eagles in Welkom; and the Simbas from Kenya earned a 35-12 triumph over the Border Bulldogs in Alice.
The race to automatic promotion to the Carling Currie Cup Premier Division for the top South African team in the First Division – with only matches involving local sides counting towards this – is building up to be quite tight.
Eastern Province, who had a bye this weekend, still top the promotion barometer on 15 points from three games, but three sides are breathing down their necks on 10 points – the Down Touch Griffons, Valke and Leopards – while the SWD Eagles and Boland Kavaliers are still not out of contention on nine points each.
To access the Carling Currie Cup First Division fixtures, results and logs, click here.