The Vodacom Blue Bulls, Cell C Sharks and Toyota Free State Cheetahs kicked off the Currie Cup Premier Division on a high note this weekend as all three teams secured bonus-point victories in an exciting start to the competition.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls defeated DHL Western Province 45-26 at Loftus Versfeld, while the Cell C Sharks outplayed the Steval Pumas 33-10 at the Mbombela Stadium, and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs beat Boland 44-16 in Wellington.
The Xerox Golden Lions, EP Kings and Griquas, meanwhile, had byes.
In Pretoria, the Vodacom Blue Bulls raced to a convincing 24-0 first-half lead against DHL Western Province as they capitalised on their point-scoring chances effectively and delivered a solid defensive effort. The hosts slotted over an early penalty before running in three tries in 16 minutes by Piet van Zyl, Jason Jenkins and Marvin Orie respectively in a stylish display of attacking rugby. They added two more tries after the break to stretch their lead. But DHL Western Province fought back with intent in the last 20 minutes and improved their finishing, which allowed them to force their way back into the match with four tries in 16 minutes for a valuable bonus point and respectable score. The Pretoria side, however, had the last say as they added their sixth try on the stroke of fulltime, which saw the Capetonians go down 45-26.
The strong Cell C Sharks scrum combined with their hard-running backs, meanwhile, set them up for a rewarding 33-10 victory against the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit. The Durbanites made their presence felt early on as they scored a try from a rolling maul and another from a solid run up-field in the first 18 minutes. The Pumas tightened up their defence and used their rolling maul as an attacking weapon, which allowed Frankie Herne to touch down to add to an early penalty by Francois Brummer to trail 14-10 at the break.
The Cell C Sharks, however, dominated proceedings in the second half and added two more tries to stretch their lead to 33-10, while they shut out the hosts with their tenacious defence, which cancelled out the determined attempts to add to their score before the final whistle.
In Wellington, the first half between Boland and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs was hard-fought as both teams threw everything at one another on attack and defence. The Free State side scored a penalty and converted try thanks to a strong run by Sergeal Petersen, who was later denied a second try, for their 10 points. But three penalty goals by Boland fullback Nico Scheepers, allowed them to trail by only a point at the break.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs found their rhythm in the second half and used their point-scoring chances well, which allowed them to score four tries, while flyhalf Fred Zeilinga was in fine form with the boot and slotted over two more penalty goals and converted all the tries for a personal tally of 19 points in the match. Boland fought back in the final quarter, and they were rewarded with a try by wing Danwel Demas, but their constant struggle to breach the defence forced them to settle for a 44-16 defeat.
Currie Cup Premier Division Scorers:
Vodacom Blue Bulls 45 (24) – Tries: Bjorn Basson, Jade Stighling, Jamba Ulengo, Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie, Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (6). Penalty Goal: Tian Schoeman.
DHL Western Province 26 (0) – Tries: Huw Jones, Johnny Kotze, Leolin Zas, Scott van Breda. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3).
Steval Pumas 10 (10) – Try: Frankie Herne. Conversion: Francois Brummer. Penalty Goal: Francois Brummer.
Cell C Sharks 33 (14) – Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Franco Marais, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Botha, Sibusiso Sithole. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).
Boland 44 (10) – Try: Danwel Demas. Conversion: Nico Scheepers. Penalty Goals: Nico Scheepers (3).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 16 (9) – Tries: Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Sergeal Petersen, Shaun Venter, William Small-Smith. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5). Penalty Goals: Fred Zeilinga (3).
Currie Cup Premier Division log after round one:
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Issued by SA Rugby Communications