Cape Town - No less than 56 tries were scored across the rugby fields of South Africa as the SuperSport Rugby Challenge kicked off in impressive fashion this weekend.
On Sunday, 22 of those came from the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth - the venue of the first Rugby Festival, which is unique to the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
In the main match, Western Province started the defence of their title in impressive fashion, beating the EP Elephants 59-12, scoring nine tries to two. The vision of the visiting backs to spot gaps in the EP defence proved decisive, with three of their first half tries coming from such play, to contribute to a 26-7 lead at the break.
The second half saw more excellent tries from the Cape side as they used their bench to good effect.
Earlier on Sunday, the Boland Cavaliers romped home 51-24 (halftime 8-17) against the Border Bulldogs, also at the Wolfson Stadium. It was expected that the East London team would be coming in cold due to their lack of preparation, but their start surprised all.
Two tries in the first half gave them some momentum and when Athenkosi Manentsa scored his second for Border early in the second half, they were still in the match. That competitiveness disappeared quickly though as the heat and lack of preparation then started to affect the Bulldogs efforts.
The Boland side started to score at will, and winger Charles Mayeza bagged himself a hat-trick.
Four matches were played on Saturday.
The Valke scored six tries on their way to a comprehensive 39-7 (half-time 27-0) victory over the Welwitschias at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek.
The visitors all but sealed the result in the first half, with three tries for a 27-0 lead.
Credit to the home side who rallied in the second half, scoring a converted try and only allowing the Valke to dot down twice more, with the last try after the final hooter.
In Kimberley, Griquas winger Enver Brandt scored a hat-trick of tries as his team beat the Sharks XV 50-33 (halftime 29-14) at Tafel Lager Park in Kimberley.
Last year’s losing finalists scored seven tries to add a bonus point to the four for the victory, while the Sharks picked up a bonus point themselves for scoring five tries in the Central Section encounter.
The opening 20 minutes were tight, but once Brandt showed his pace, the home side extended their lead to 15 at the break. The visitors came back strongly in the second half, but could not close the gap in the entertaining clash.
In Nelspruit, it was a dream start to former Maties flyhalf, Chris Smith’s, provincial career. The Pumas pivot kicked 21 points and delivered a polished performance as his side beat the Blue Bulls 36-18 at the Nelspruit Rugby Club.
Smith, who was a member of the 2018 Varsity Cup-winning team from Stellenbosch, landed five penalty goals and converted all three tries as the home side romped away in the second half.
The score was close at the break, with the home side enjoying a slender 20-18 lead, but the visitors could not add to that in the second stanza, with Smith's boot pushing the match further and further away from them.
In Schweizer-Reneke, the Griffons scored seven tries as they beat the Leopards 47-21.
The Welkom team scored three times before the break and four more in the second half. The Leopards could only muster one try in the first half, and although they scored two more in the second half, they Griffons continued to outplay them.
A breakdown of the weekend’s results and scorers:
EP Elephants 12 (7), Western Province 59 (26)
Tries: Alandre van Rooyen, Dries van Schalkwyk
Conversion: Henrique Olivier
Tries: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2), Duncan Saal (2), Tristan Leyds, Grant Hermanus (2), Chad Solomon, Michal Hazner
Conversions: Joshua Stander (5), Grant Hermanus (2)
Boland Cavaliers 51 (8), Border Bulldogs 24 (17)
Tries: Charles Mayeza (3), Zandré Jordaan, Sergio Torrens, Edwin Sass, Clinton Theron, Jovelian de Koker.
Conversions: Elgar Watts (4)
Penalty: Elgar Watts
Tries: Billy Dutton, Athenkosi Manentsa (2)
Conversions: Bangi Kobese (2)
Penalty: Bangi Kobese
Leopards 21 (7), Griffons 47 (19)
Tries: Eugene Hare, Gene Willemse, HP Swart
Conversions: DP de Lange, Schalk Hugo (2)
Down Touch Griffons
Tries: Jean Pretorius (2), Juan Kotze, Arthur Williams, Duan Pretorius (2), Warren Williams
Conversions: Jaun Kotze (6)
Welwitschias 7 (0), Valke 39 (27)
Try: Janre du Toit
Conversion: Eugene Jantjies
Tries: Friedle Olivier (2), Don Mlondobozi, Andre du Plessis, Nazeem Wood, Andries Schutte
Conversions: Du Plessis (2), Errol Jaggers
Penalty: Du Plessis
Pumas 39 (20), Blue Bulls 18 (18)
Tries: JP Lewis, Stefan Ungerer, Nardus van der Walt
Conversions: Chris Smith (3). Penalties: Smith (5)
Tries Jade Stighling, Earll Douwrie
Penalties: Douwrie (2)
Griquas 50 (29), Sharks XV 33 (14)
Tafel Lager Griquas
Tries: Enver Brandt (3), AJ le Roux (2), Jono Janse van Rensburg, Louis Venter
Conversions: Andre Swarts (3), Pieter-Steyn de Wet (3)
Tries: Ilunga Mukendi (2), Grant Williams, Jeremy Ward, Morne Joubert
Conversions: Garth April (3), Courtney Winnaar