The opening round of the Absa Currie Cup went according to the script.
Once the dust had settled on round one, the defending champions were perched atop the standings, followed closely by Dick Muir’s Sharks on five points.
The Sharks won 33-22 over the Lions in Durban, while Rassie Erasmus’s team ran in eight tries to smash Griquas 55-14 and signal an ominous warning to the chasing pack.
The smart money is on a Sharks v Cheetahs final come October 14 and already they showed their pedigree with the two biggest wins of the weekend. Both teams, playing at home, scored a bonus point for four tries to get the perfect start.
But two other teams also got off to winning starts, albeit a little less emphatically. The Bulls had to dig deep to grind out a gritty 18-16 win over the Valke at Loftus Versfeld. Western Province were the only team to win away from home and had a brace of tries from new captain Luke Watson to thank for the hard-fought 25-18 win in Witbank.
Before the competition even started, the Cheetahs, Sharks, Western Province and Blue Bulls, were seen as favourites to make the semi-finals. And now they are well on their way.
Eugene Eloff’s Lions though put in a solid display that they can definitely build on in coming weeks. They are the only other team likely to challenge for a top four spot by the end of September.
The Valke though will probably like to dispute that as they came bitterly close to trumping the Bulls in their own backyard and John Williams’ charges will give many bigger unions a big run for their money if they can maintain that form.
Conventional wisdom will tell you that neither Griquas, the Pumas or Valke can really trouble the Big Five, but with Springboks missing anything is possible on the day.
This weekend’s matches include Griquas hosting the Pumas on Friday night before Saturday sees three matches, two of which are highly anticipated.
Western Province play the Sharks at Newlands and the Lions and Blue Bulls clash at Ellis Park. In the last game of the day, the Cheetahs travel to Brakpan to play the Valke.
By Andrew Hollely