The Golden Lions and Free State were the most impressive sides on view at the Northern Unions Bondedag held in Rustenburg on Thursday.
But neither side looked totally convincing on a blustery day that did not produce a huge amount of sparkling rugby.
Free State were given a bit of a scare by a feisty Pumas side that tackled as if their lives depended on it, and generally got in between their opponents, preventing them from establishing any sort of rhythm. The Pumas led 10-7 at half-time, and 13-7 15 minutes into the second half, before Free State took control in the final quarter to win 20-13.
Puma flanker Kwagga Smit had a huge game, stealing the ball on a number of occasions and testing the Free Staters with some powerful running. In the end the class of the Free State backs told and they set themselves up for a late try to draw clear, followed by a drop goal from flyhalf Johan Goosen to make the game safe.
Grey College’s Neil Jordaan was named Man of the Match for a storming display and he remains one of the players to watch at this year’s Craven Week.
The Golden Lions turned it on to beat the Blue Bulls 18-3, but it should have been by a lot more. Scrumhalf Vian van der Watt managed to lose control of the ball while in the process of dotting it down behind the posts, throwing away a certain seven points, and flyhalf Marais Schmidt’s goal-kicking form deserted him – he could only slot one out of six attempts.
The Lions loose forwards, Stefan Nel, Fabian Booysen, Ruan Steenkamp and Tiaan McDonald (when he came on in the second half) were largely responsible for the win with their withering defence and sowing up of the loose possession.
Van der Watt redeemed himself with a good individual try in the second half and was named Man of the Match.
The most exciting game of the day was the clash between the Valke and Limpopo Blue Bulls, won 31-25 by the latter. The lead changed hands no fewer than six times in the game as both sides committed themselves to attacking rugby. Limpopo scrumhalf Lukas van Zyl was the Man of this Match and possible the best player on display on the day.
In the final game of the day the hosts, the Leopards, held out under severe pressure to beat the Griffons 20-17. Leopards prop Koos Strauss was named Man of the Match.
Free State 20 Pumas 13
Limpopo Blue Bulls 31 Valke 25
Golden Lions 18 Blue Bulls 3
Leopards 20 Griffons 17
By Gauteng correspondent