Vodacom Cup wrap
The Steval Pumas, Cell C Sharks XV, GWK Griquas and Toyota Free State XV will host the four Vodacom Cup quarter-finals after the pool phase of the competition came to an exciting conclusion this weekend.
It was an exciting end to the competition in 2014, with a total of 75 tries scored in the eight pool matches at an average of just over nine per match, or one try every eight or so minutes.
While the North Section went pretty much as expected and the Steval Pumas managed the become the only team to go through their pool matches unbeaten, the last round in the South Section saw the log getting a proper overhaul following upsets in Durban and George on Friday evening.
First, the EP Kings, already out of the reckoning before the final round started, saved their best performance of 2014 for last. They easily beat the table-topping Cell C Sharks XV by 27-11 at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban, outscoring their hosts by three tries to one.
Two and a half hours later and 1,220 km to the south-west, the SWD Eagles upstaged the more-fancied DHL Western Province by 23-14 at Outeniqua Park.
The home team dominated proceedings for the first hour, and although the Capetonians scored two converted tries in final 15 minutes to give them a glimmer of hope of winning and moving to the top spot on the log, it wasn't enough to prevent a famous win for the Eagles in the end.
These results, coupled with a massive 77-10 win for the Toyota Free State XV over the Tusker Simba XV at the Free State Stadium, in which Zingisa April scored four tries for the home team, saw the Bloem boys leap-frog WP and SWD to claim home ground advantage in the quarter-finals.
In the final match of the pool phase, the Regent Boland Cavaliers ended their season with a comprehensive victory over the Border Bulldogs in Piketberg. The home team ran in six tries en route to 41-17 win over the team from the Eastern Cape.
In the North Section, the biggest victory of the season was not enough to secure the Vodacom Blue Bulls home ground advantage in the quarter-finals. The team from Pretoria beat their neighbours from the north, the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls, by 116-0 and scored 18 tries in the process at Loftus B on Friday afternoon.
GWK Griquas' comprehensive 32-8 victory over the Leopards XV in Klerksdorp on Saturday afternoon saw them retain second position on the log. This was thanks to the visitors’ fourth try for a vital bonus point, scored at less than five minutes before the end of the match by Burger Schoeman.
The Steval Pumas got revenge in a replay of the 2013 final in Alberton on Saturday afternoon when they beat the Golden Lions by 48-27. The team from Mpumalanga started like a house on fire and scored at almost a point per minute as they went into the break with a remarkable 38-5 lead.
It was the right kind of performance a week before the playoffs for the Steval Pumas, who outscored the Golden Lions by nine tries to five in a match where the two teams' goal-kickers missed a total of 10 out of 15 kicks at goal in windy conditions.
In the only other North Section match played this weekend, the Down Touch Griffons ended the season with a solid 41-17 win over the Valke in Kempton Park on Friday afternoon, with Martin Sithole and Wynand Pienaar both crossing for a brace of tries each.
Vodacom Cup quarter-finals (venues and kick-off times TBC):
QF1: Steval Pumas (North 1) v DHL Western Province (South 4) - Nelspruit
QF2: Cell C Sharks (South 1) v Golden Lions (North 4) - Durban
QF3: GWK Griquas (North 2) v SWD Eagles (South 3) - Kimberley
QF4: Toyota Free State XV (South 2) v Vodacom Blue Bulls (North 3) - Bloemfontein