Cape Town - The SuperSport Rugby Challenge delivered some highly competitive matches in Round 5 of the competition, with a number of close results a highlight of the weekend.
Three teams - the Free State XV, Pumas and Western Province - remain undefeated after four matches with the Cape side scoring a 15th consecutive win since the competition started last year.
WP's 50-3 win over the SWD Eagles at the Bridgton Sports Ground in Oudtshoorn on Sunday drew a curtain on a weekend that saw crucial wins for the Blue Bulls and Griquas as well as five tries by Pumas wing, Ruwellyn Isbell.
The former Blitzbok equalled his province’s record for tries in a match by dotting down five times in the Pumas 54-7 win over the Valke at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The home side scored five tries in the second half of the match without allowing the visitors a sniff and looks like the side to beat in the North Section.
In the early match in Oudtshoorn on Sunday, the Blue Bulls also scored an important win over the Golden Lions XV, with a late try by Duncan Matthews securing the 27-20 win.
Scores were tied with a minute to play and Matthews dotted down in a match that looked set to finish in a draw. The men in blue held a 15-10 lead at the break, but credit to the Johannesburg team who kept on attacking. With this win, the Blue Bulls moves into second spot on the North Section log, but with another four matches left in each section, no team can rest on their laurels.
The Central Section also proves highly competitive. The Free State side kept their undefeated record intact with a hard-fought 12-10 win over the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Friday night. The hosts were leading 12-0 at the break and did well to deter the second half onslaught from the Durban side, who scored a converted try and penalty in their fightback.
The other match in this section was just as close. The Griffons scored seven tries to five in Kathu on Saturday, but could only convert one in their 38-37 defeat to the Griquas. A late penalty by Andre Swarts delivered the knockout blow and the win in the final stages of the match.
With WP looking set to top the South Section, the close, but deserving 40-37 win the Boland Cavaliers scored against the EP Elephants in Montagu could prove decisive, as they have now secured second spot on the log. That said, the next month would again deliver some standout rugby with very few guarantees in any of the remaining 30 matches.
Three highly successful Rugby Festivals, at Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele, Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg and today's at the Bridgton Sports Ground in Oudtshoorn, where 13 000 attended, have also introduced a new generation of future stars to new audiences halfway through the competitions.
Results and scorers from Round 5:
Free State XV 12 (12), Sharks XV 10 (0)
Free State XV - Tries: Tertius Kruger, Reinach Venter. Conversion: Ernst Stapelberg
Sharks XV - Try: Tera Mtembu. Conversion: Danrich Visagie. Penalty: Visagie
Griquas 38 (21), Griffons 37 (20)
Griquas - Tries: AJ Coertzen, Kyle Steyn (2), Christopher Bosch, Jonathan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Pieter-Steyn de Wet (3), Andre Swarts (2). Penalty: Andre Swarts
Griffons - Tries: Cody Basson (2), Shirwin Cupido, Neil Claassen, Rodney Damons (2), Vincent Maruping. Conversion: Jaun Kotze
Pumas 54 (19), Valke 7 (7)
Pumas - Tries: Marko Janse van Rensburg, Ruwellyn Isbell (5), Hennie Skorbinski, JP Lewis. Conversions: Chris Smith (6), Justin van Staden
Valke - Try: Anrich Richter. Conversion: Andrew van Wyk
Blue Bulls 27 (15), Golden Lions 20 (10)
Blue Bulls - Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Jamba Ulengo, Johan Grobbelaar, Duncan Matthews. Conversions: Earll Douwrie, Francois Brummer. Penalties: Earll Douwrie
Lions XV - Tries: Vincent Tshituka, Siya Masuku, Conversions: Jeanluc Cilliers, Siya Masuku. Penalties: Jeanluc Cilliers (2)
Boland Cavaliers 40 (26), EP Elephants 37 (20)
Boland Cavaliers - Tries: Rhinus Bothma, Valentino Wellman (2), Charles Mayeza, Rayno Benjamin, Kenan Cronje. Conversions: Elgar Watts (4), Adriaan Carelse
EP Elephants - Tries: Johan van Wyk, Xander Vos, Zingisa April, Henry Brown. Conversions: Ruben de Vos (4). Penalties: Ruben de Vos (3)
SWD Eagles 3 (3), Western Province 50 (15)
SWD Eagles - Penalty: Leighton Eksteen
DHL Western Province – Tries: Craig Barry (2), Duncan Saal, Jaco Coetzee, Justin Philips, Joshua Stander, Steff de Wit, Brendon Esterhuizen, Conversions: Joshua Stander (5)
Log standings after Round 5:
1. Pumas 19
2. Blue Bulls 15
3. Golden Lions 12
4. Valke 6
5. Welwitschias 1
1. Free State XV 19
2. Griquas 17
3. Sharks XV 12
4. Griffons 9
5. Leopards 1
1. Western Province 19
2. Boland Cavaliers 16
3. SWD 10
4. Border Bulldogs 4
5. Eastern Province 3