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Currie Cup
Sharks continue to set the pace
ESPNscrum
September 18, 2010
Western Province centre Jean De Villiers dives over to score, Pumas v Western Province, Currie Cup, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, South Africa, September 17, 2010
Jean De Villiers goes airborne on his way to scoring © Getty Images
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Natal Sharks consolidated their status as Currie Cup pacesetters with a 30-16 bonus-point victory over Free State in Durban on Saturday afternoon.

Willem Alberts, Odwa Ndungane, Charl McLeod and Rory Kockott all crossed the line for the Sharks, while Pat Lambie added two penalties and two conversions. Free State, in contrast, were restricted to just to a solitary try from Francois Uys and 11 kicked points from Meyer Bosman and Louis Strydom.

Bosman gave the underdogs an early lead but the Sharks were rewarded fully when they opted to go for a try instead of a shot at goal with Alberts beating Strydom and Bosman to the line. The Sharks allowed Free State to stay in the game by giving away some soft penalties which were punished, but Ryan Kankowski set-up Ndungane to score after 28 minutes.

Uys' try after the break kept Free State in touch but the Sharks opened their second half account after 66 minutes when McLeod took a quick tap and exposed a sleeping Free State defence to touch down. Aware the bonus point was there for the taking, the Sharks aggressively chased another score. And it came when Kankowski and Keegan Daniel combined to put replacement scrumhalf Kockott away for try number four.

Western Province kept up their charge towards the Currie Cup semi-finals with a crushing 62-10 victory over the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday night.

Allister Coetzee's men made mincemeat of a Pumas side that two weeks ago defeated the Blue Bulls, scoring eight tries in a wholly one-sided contest. Springboks Gio Aplon and Francois Louw, who are not covered by the national conditioning programme, both scored twice, while returning centre Jean De Villiers was on target with an acrobatic effort.

Juan de Jongh was another Springbok to profit with five points and the rout was completed by winger JJ Engelbrecht and replacement Paul Bosch.

The Blue Bulls hung on to defeat the Golden Lions 24-21 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

In a game dominated by strong defence the Bulls were able to sneak home despite a late comeback from John Mitchell's Lions, who trailed 24-9 at one point in the second-half.

After Jacques Louis-Potgieter and Elton Jantjies had traded three penalties apiece to leave the score locked at 9-9 at the start of the second-half, the Bulls stole the advantage following the sin-binning of Wikus van Heerden for a high tackle. No.8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze capitalised with a try and his five-pointer was swiftly followed by a brilliant solo effort from centre Stefan Watermeyer.

Doppies la Grange hit back with a try for the Lions before Potgieter saw yellow, allowing Waylon Murray to make it a three-point game. The visitors were unable to make further inroads however, leaving the Bulls with a vital win in the context of their title defence.

In Kimberley, the Griquas made hard work of defeating the Leopards, coming from behind to snatch a 29-20 result and keep their semi-final hopes alive.

Fullback Riaan Viljoen pounced for his second try in the dying seconds to secure a bonus-point after the home side had trailed 17-15 at half-time.

Johan van Deventer and Justin Downey also crossed for the Griquas in a game of little quality, but their defence will be a major worry as the season reaches the sharp end. Leopards centre Walter Venter twice pierced their guard for soft tries.

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