South Africa’s premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup, is just over a third into the league stages and already it appears to be a two-horse race.
The unbeaten Western Province and the second-placed Sharks are clear leaders in the Premier Division, with the third-placed Blue Bulls five log points behind the Sharks and seven adrift of Western Province.
Both Province and the Sharks, delivered compelling performances, against Griquas and the Lions, respectively, at the weekend.
The 50-3 drubbing of Griquas on their home ground, where Western Province have lost the past two seasons, saw the Kimberley side drop to fourth on the log - behind the Bulls, who beat the Leopards 43-38 at Loftus.
Free State’s challenge is still intact after their 45-30 win over the Pumas, and the Sharks remained two points behind Province with a convincing 48-19 win over the Lions in Durban.
Western Province, scoring their first try in the 46th minute only, eventually scored six five-pointers as the home side had no answer after turning to play into the wind in the second half.
Griquas had the better of the first half territorially, but did not have much to offer behind the scrum – and WP initially stayed in front courtesy of Griquas mistakes and the unerring boot of flyhalf Willem de Waal, who was playing in his 100th Currie Cup match and contributed another 20 points to the total.
The WP backline looked sharp and penetrative after the break, but it was their interplay and also their patience in building phases that led to Griquas’ challenge and resolve wilting.
Griquas have a lot to ponder and rectify.
WP, on the other hand, seem to be ready for this coming weekend’s clash against the Blue Bulls, who were good for about 30 minutes in their 43-28 win over a determined and, at times, very good Platinum Leopards side at Loftus.
The Bulls started slowly, whittled away the 10-0 Leopards lead to later take control at 33-10, and then lost concentration as they allowed the game to become loose and their tackling average.
In the end, the Blue Bulls had to hold on for dear life as Griquas came back to make it 43-38.
Allowing the bottom-of-the-log Leopards five tries was indeed a boost for the visitors to Loftus, and while the six Bulls’ tries were very good, they know that there is work to do before the North-South clash at Newlands this weekend.
However, as Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke summed it up afterwards: “There’s nothing that cannot be fixed in a week.”
For the Leopards, there is the knowledge that they can indeed tackle the more glamorous sides.
The Sharks were in total control from the first whistle against the Golden Lions in a match they won 48-19 in Durban.
The main impressions from this match were that the Lions will have to get more possession to allow their running game to become effective, and that the Sharks are a formidable side - with a question mark however in converting their nearly 80 percent possession into tries other than intercepts or long-range turnovers.
Patrick Lambie added another 28 points to his early Currie Cup record and was impressive other than for three handling errors, and Keegan Daniel is playing the rugby of his life. It is time that Lwazi Mvovo and the Bulls’ Gerhard van den Heever get the recognition they deserve at a higher level. With a rejuvenated JP Pietersen, they are the best wings the country has at present.
The Pumas were, as always, competitive, but in the end it was the classier Free State Cheetahs handling and the Pumas’ dropped passes that saw an initial challenge from the home side disappear to a victory of 45-30 that was much easier than the scoreboard suggests with two of their three tries coming in the last 10 minutes when the win had been sealed.
Six tries to the winners, and three to the home side, nevertheless made this a pleasant, if not high-quality match – but the Cheetahs will be happy that they are back on the winning track after their loss to the Sharks last weekend.
This article is courtesy of rugby365.comTweet