The Bulls took charge of the race for top spot on the Currie Cup log at the weekend, as their bonus-point win over the Pumas gave them breathing room ahead of the Cheetahs who were upset by Griquas in their clash, while the Lions picked up their first win of the competition against Western Province.
The Bulls were made to dig deep by a 14-man, and at one stage 13-man, Pumas for much of the match, but eventually emerged victorious 31-26 at Loftus on Friday night.
It put them on 47 points at the top of the table, six ahead of the second placed Cheetahs, however with the Cheetahs having a game in hand and the final pool match of the campaign against the two sides, the Bulls still have plenty to do to seal top spot.
It could actually become an extremely tough ask for them to hold onto the spot because if the Bulls beat the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarterfinal next weekend, it means a large number of players will be unavailable for their Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein the following weekend.
“The URC team is probably going to take about 28 players and whoever is left has to compete against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. So it’s going to be a massive ask and we will have to prepare as best we can with what we have got,” explained coach Gert Smal about the predicament.
“But it is also a great opportunity for players to test themselves against a good side like that, especially if they haven’t played Currie Cup or URC before.”
For the Cheetahs they are going to have to pick themselves up and brush themselves off after they were soundly thumped 46-18 by a rampant Griquas team at Griqua Park on Saturday.
The Cheetahs were never in the match from the first whistle with Griquas outscoring them seven tries to three, but they can still claim top spot on the log with home matches against the Pumas and Bulls to close out their pool stage.
“It was a tough one. I think we got a proper hiding. They just outplayed us, they played the conditions better. I think once again discipline let us down. We struggled at set-piece. So all in all just an off-par performance,” said Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar.
“We will take it on the chin. It’s a good learning curve for us. But we knew it was going to be tough. It’s a good Griquas team, so it’s a tough one to take.”
The Lions then put in a monster defensive effort, coupled with some clinical finishing as they claimed a 33-10 win over Western Province at Ellis Park.
It was their first win of the competition at their 11th attempt and was by far their best performance in the competition so far.
Led by flyhalf and man-of-the-match Tiaan Swanepoel, who contributed 18 points through a try, three penalties and two conversions, the hosts were just too good for a battling Western Province that is now out of the running for the play-offs.
“It was extremely important for us to win our last home game for the Currie Cup season. I think the bigger picture is we have been talking the last two or three weeks about laying a foundation to go forward with,” explained Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen.
“As team selection shows we are looking ahead a little bit, so it’s important for us to perform well, learn quickly and show the character that we did in defence. So it was a massive win for us.”