Currie Cup

Province victory is the only consistent result

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The only consistency in this weekend’s four Currie Cup Premier Division rugby matches came from Western Province with their win over the Sharks in Durban.

In all three the other matches the first-round results were not only reversed but done so in emphatic fashion. WP’s away win in Durban showed that they really have aspirations this season.

They have now leap-frogged the Sharks to become log leaders, but victories by the Free State Cheetahs, the Golden Lions, and the losses of Griquas and the Blue Bulls have made the run-in to the semi-finals an six-horse race.

WP added to their win in the first round at Newlands and there can be few who would dispute the merit of their 21-9 win although it really wasn’t a match that should be used as an example how to play the game.

The Lions, with a healthy lead at Loftus nearly two months ago only to see the Blue Bulls turn that around to home win, this time did virtually everything right.

They won 20-13, but the Blue Bulls will admit that they were mighty lucky to get 10 of their 13points in the last two minutes to at least salvage a bonus point from their scrappy display.

It was a comprehensive and deserved Lions victory. And in Kimberley, the Free State Cheetahs not only took revenge for their unexpected loss to Griquas in the first round, but with their 58-13 win showed that they are still very much alive in the competition.

In the process, they must have shaken Griquas’ already brittle confidence which was so high after five unbeaten matches, but now reads as a record of won five and lost three, with the losses on successive weekends.

On Friday night log laggers Leopards became better as the night wore on and gave the team second last on the log, the Boland Cavaliers, a good hiding of 50-16 in Kimberley after leading only 17-9 at halftime.

This, too, was a reversal of the first round result.

The Sharks were poor. Expensive flyhalf Martin Juan Hernandez, in his first start, was disappointing, and the breakdown turnovers conceded to a very good Francois Louw didn’t help the Sharks’ cause, either.

What is worrying from a national point of view, however, is that the Sharks were convincingly beaten by a side that also did not impress with quality play.

Too many handling errors from both sides spoiled the match as a spectacle, and the little rugby that was played came from the visitors where young centre Juan de Jongh rubbished the attempts of WP to buy midfielders.

He is a special talent, and with Joe Pietersen they often threatened the Sharks. Up front, WP did well enough to keep Johann Muller’s troops subdued, and nobody was better than WP lock Anton van Zyl. This was a performance of graft and support other players on the field in Durban can learn from.

In Johannesburg, the Lions disrupted the Blue Bulls lineout and both their tries came indirectly from botched Bulls ball in this facet.

The Blue Bulls were fortunate to take a losing bonus point from the match with a converted try and a penalty in the last two minutes after the Lions forwards had dominated the match except for a short period in the second half when the Blue Bulls reverted to their proven forward play It was the first round-match between the two sides all over before the break.

The Lions had the better of the first quarter, with much kicking by both sides evident as they try to play the percentages with some aerial ping-pong.

As in the first round encounter when the Lions led at halftime, they were again ahead at Coca-Cola Park 910-0). But this time there was no comeback as the Lions defended well when they had to, turned over enough ball from the breakdowns and took a number of the vaulted Blue Bulls’ lineout throws.

More attacking play from the Blue Bulls early in the second quarter saw them threaten the Lions goal line and Lions coach Hans Coetzee must have had visions of the first round result. However, good defence – a feature of both teams’ play in a physical match – denied the Blue Bulls points.

The Free State Cheetahs lost their first four matches, and have now won their last four. They were impressive against a Griquas side that again made the most elementary of errors and made things so much easier for their neighbours.

The good finishing by the Free State was a feature of the match as much as the poor and somewhat listless play of the home side. Griquas had dominated territory and possession for the first 20 minutes and in fact led 8-6 after 18 minutes – but then the Cheetahs ran rampant, climbing one place to fifth on the log.

Jongi Nokwe’s pace saw him cross for a hat-trick to add to last weekend’s four in a seven-try-glut by the Free State Cheetahs.

Why only now, Leopards? That is a valid question as they outplayed and outran the Boland Cavaliers 50-16 in Potchefstroom on Friday night for their first win in the Currie Cup Premier Division and also their first log points.

The Leopards scored six tries and are now tied on five points with the Boland, but have a distinct advantage as far as the points differential goes and have therefore moved to second to last on the table.

Outstanding were centre Jevon Bowles, who pushed through two try-scoring grubbers with a busy and good Bom Samaai the beneficiary thereof, and scrumhalf Michael Bondesio.

Up front, the tight five were a good unit with tighthead Philip Lemmer in particular showing why he is an Emerging Springbok.

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