While the Lions and Sharks were favoured to win on the weekend, few expected them to each rack up a half century of points against the Jaguares and Southern Kings respectively.
And in so doing they are now well on their way to featuring in the knockout rounds later in the competition.But the biggest winners were probably the Bulls who knocked over the Stormers at Loftus; their defence standing tall in the face of a dominant all-round performance by the Capetonians.
Robbie Fleck’s men have now slipped out of the “top three” spots in the local conference, with the Bulls occupying top place in Africa One.
Nollis Marais’ men were on the back foot for most of the 80 minutes, but the home team had the upper hand in the scrums and line-outs, and they took the few chances that came their way.
The most accomplished South African performance of the weekend again came from Johan Ackermann’s Lions who ran in eight tries in a stunning display of attacking rugby at Ellis Park.
Several players stood out - and would have probably got a few ticks behind their names from new Bok boss Allister Coetzee - but this was again a 23-man effort.“It was fun and enjoyable out there,” said Lions captain Warren Whiteley.
“Everyone played their part, including those guys who were rotated in the week; they were brilliant.”Indeed, the likes of Akker van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Lourens Erasmus and Cyle Brink - players who’ve sat more on the bench than started this season - all enjoyed good outings.
Also, Jaco Kriel, Howard Mnisi and the wings Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan shone with all the ball that came their way. “Everyone stepped up in what was a very good team effort,” added Whiteley.
“We knew the Jaguares would be fired up early on and they were... especially at the breakdowns where they stole a few balls, but by the end the game had really turned in our favour.
“I was pleased with the intensity shown by the players over the whole 80 minutes.”
Whiteley said the key now for his team would be to maintain the standard they’ve set over the last few weeks. “I’m pleased where we are as a team. From here on in everything is in our hands.
We just need to maintain the consistency of our play over the remaining rounds.“The great teams in the history of this competition have performed at a consistently high level and for us to achieve anything we need to play with intent and belief each and every week.
”The Sharks are not too far behind the Lions in Africa Two after demolishing the Kings, who’ve become the first team this year to go through 80 minutes without earning a point.In other key results, the Chiefs and Crusaders stayed on course to end one and two in New Zealand after picking up comfortable wins, while the Reds were the only Australian winners of the weekend.
Bulls 17, Stormers 13;
Sharks 53, Kings 0;
Lions 52, Jaguares 24;
Force 13, Blues 17;
Chiefs 36, Rebels 15;
Reds 35, Sunwolves 25;
Crusaders 29, Waratahs 10
Friday: Hurricanes v Highlanders, Waratahs v Chiefs, Kings v Jaguares
Saturday: Blues v Crusaders, Brumbies v Sunwolves, Stormers v Cheetahs, Bulls v Lions
Sunday: Rebels v Force
Original source: Lions leading the way