|South Africa’s newest provincial rugby competition, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, started in spectacular fashion this weekend, delivering no less than 43 tries in six matches played around the country.
Two of those were took place at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon as part of a new initiative of playing matches on Sunday at community venues as part of a Rugby Festival.
The festival, which included a local club derby, was well attended and hailed a success by all concerned, with an estimated 10,000 spectators packing the Kwazakele-venue.
The first weekend produced some highly entertaining and memorable rugby action, with a number of teams flexing some early season muscle.
The Hino Valke led the pack in the try-scoring stakes, with seven five-pointers in a convincing 50-17 win over the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias in Kempton Park on Saturday, a day of upsets for home teams.
The game was still very tight with only 20 minutes to go, with the hosts leading their Namibian counterparts by just six points, but then the Valke ran in five of their seven tries to comfortably win their North Section match and send the men from Windhoek packing.
Earlier on Saturday, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Cell C Sharks XV and Down Touch Griffons lost their home matches, while on Sunday, the EP Kings could also not press home the advantage of a highly supportive crowd in the Wolfson Stadium.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls came up short to the Steval Pumas at Loftus Versfeld, with the visitors finishing very strong, scored three late tries to secure a 31-23 (halftime 9-13) victory.
In Welkom, the Leopards turned the tables on the Down Touch Griffons, beating the hosts 29-17 in the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom, in a replay of last year’s Currie Cup First Division Final.
This time the Griffons played host to the same side they beat in Potchefstroom last season, but had to concede to the hard-running Leopards, with Gene Willemse scoring a brace for the visitors and flyhalf Schalk Hugo adding 15 points.
In Durban, the Cell C Sharks XV were pressing for a win over Tafel Lager Griquas, but two late scores thwarted their efforts.
The visitors started the second half with a 14-7 lead and could only secure the win in the last five minutes. Tafel Lager Griquas scored their third try of the game against the run of play as nippy back Enver Brandt intercepted a pass on his own goal line and ran more than 90 metres for his try. Debutant centre, Tertius Kruger, then burst over right on the final whistle to seal a bonus point victory for the Kimberley side.
On Sunday, the Border Bulldogs came from behind to edge Boland Cavaliers 28-25 (half-time 14-20) in their opening SuperSport Rugby Challenge Festival match at Wolfson Stadium. Down 20-7 at one stage, Border fought back manfully showing great determination and skill to score a bonus-point victory in front of an enthusiastic Eastern Cape crowd.
DHL Western Province had their work cut out against the EP Kings as well. The visitors from Cape Town survived a tough examination to beat the Eastern Cape team by 30-18 (half-time 10-13) on Sunday.
Round 1 Scorers:
Vodacom Blue Bulls 23 (13), Steval Pumas 31 (9)
Vodacom Blue Bulls 23 (13) – Tries: Sibahle Maxwane, Divan Rossouw. Conversions: Tony Jantjies, Tinus de Beer. Penalties: Tony Jantjies (2), Joshua Stander.
Steval Pumas 31 (9) – Tries: Frank Herne (2), Marko Janse van Rensburg, Devon Williams; Conversion: Kobus Marais. Penalties: Kobus Marais (3).
Cell C Sharks XV 28 (14), Tafel Lager Griquas 7 (7)
Tafel Lager Griquas 28 (14) – Tries: Jason Fraser, Penalty Try. Enver Brandt, Tertius Kruger. Conversions: George Whitehead (2), Andre Swarts.
Cell C Sharks XV 7 (7) – Try: Juan Schoeman. Conversion: Johan Deysel.
Leopards 29 (24), Down Touch Griffons 19 (5)
Leopards 29 (24) – Tries: Gene Willemse (2), Schalk Hugo, Loftus Morrison. Conversions: Schalk Hugo (3). Penalty: Schalk Hugo.
Down Touch Griffons 17 (5) – Tries. Henco Greyling, Khwezi Mkhafu, Niel Claassen. Conversion: Juan Kotze.
Hino Valke 50 (17), Windhoek Draught Welwitschias 33 (20)
Hino Valke 50 (17) – Tries: Etienne Taljaard (2), Dian Koen, Grant Janke, Ernst Ladendorf, Keaton Gordon, Maphutha Dolo. Conversions: Warren Potgieter (6). Penalties: Potgieter.
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias 33 (20) – Tries: Gino Wilson, Lesley Klim, Maharua Katjijeko, Eugene Jantjies, Leneve Damens. Conversion: Theuns Kotze. Penalties: Kotze (2).
Border Bulldogs 28 (14), Boland 25 (20)
Border 28 (14) – Tries: Sonwabiso Mqalo, Penalty Try, Michael Makase, Blake Kyd. Conversions: Oliver Zono (3).
Boland 25 (20) – Tries: Charles Mayeza, Danwel Demas, Marlyn Williams, Zandre Jordaan; Conversion: Elgar Watts. Penalty: Elgar Watts.
Eastern Province 18 (13), DHL Western Province 30 (10)
EP Kings 18 (13) – Tries: Siyanda Grey, Stefan Ungerer, Alshaun Bock. Penalty: Garrick Mattheus.
DHL WP 30 (10) – Tries: Marcello Sampson, Grant Hermanus, Luke Stringer, Jaco Coetzee. Conversions: Brandon Thompson (2). Penalties: Brandon Thompson (2).
Standings after Round 1: