Wesbank and Evergreens moved a step closer to the knockout stages while Pretoria Police showed their title credentials in a dramatic third round.
Seven of Saturday’s eight pool matches were decided in the dying minutes, with six of the games decided by six points or less as a number of teams kept their hopes alive of qualifying for the play-offs, which takes place in Rustenburg from 2 to 6 April with all 12 matches live on SuperSport.
In Pool A, two tries from wing Dumisani Matyeshana saw defending champions Rustenburg Impala hold out for a hard-fought 28-22 victory over Kempston Old Selbornians in East London. In the pool’s other match, Springs broke their duck when they came back from 11 points down to beat PE Police 25-22, with replacement Marthinus du Plessis diving over in the second minute of injury time to seal a dramatic victory.
The results see Impala top a congested Pool A with nine points ahead of their derby against bogey team Springs next weekend, while PE Police must beat Durbanville-Bellville at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday to avoid being knocked out.
There was just as much drama in Pool B, where a 79th-minute penalty by Dillon Laubscher gave Pretoria Police a 20-19 home win over College Rovers in a match played in a highveld thunderstorm. In the second Pool B match, fullback Christopher Juries, wing Marceau Alberts and replacement Tshepo Mooki each scored two tries apiece as Raiders kept their qualification hopes alive with a 50-27 win over Noordelikes in Polokwane.
The results see Police take a five-point lead at the top of the pool, with the three-horse qualifying race between Bobbies, Raiders and College Rovers set to be decided in the final two rounds at the Bill Jardine Stadium where Raiders host Police and Rovers in rounds four and five.
In Pool C, there were late fireworks in Worcester as a 79th-minute try by replacement Francois Esterhuyzen gave Hamiltons a 41-35 victory over Villagers Worcester in the first meeting between these two teams in 132 years. And in Pacaltsdorp, Wanderers scored four tries and looked to have done enough for a 20-19 win against Evergreens, only for the home side, spurred on by a 3,000-strong crowd, to take the spoils 26-20, courtesy of a late try by flyhalf Leegan Moos.
The results make Pool C too close to call. Hamiltons lead by four points over Evergreens, who have a game in hand and must travel to Cape Town in the final round, while Wanderers’ five points gained on the road ahead of their two home games mean they can still leapfrog Evergreens and Worcester into the play-offs.
In Pool D, Wesbank came from behind to beat Durban Collegians 34-20 in front of 2,000 fanatical fans in Malmesbury to move into second place behind Despatch, who were made to sweat for their tense 29-26 victory in Emalahleni over Ferros.
The results see Despatch and Wesbank in the pound seats going into the final two rounds, with the Boland side standing a good chance of qualifying should they beat bottom-placed Rovers Welkom on Saturday. Collegians are not yet out of the race, although they will most likely have to beat Despatch on the road in the final match of the pool stages to advance.
Springs (25) – Tries: Shaun McGeer, Riaan Botha, Marthinus du Plessis. Conversions: Kazlo Holtzhausen (2). Penalties: Holtzhausen (2).
PE Police (22) – Tries: Daniel Vosloo, Jeremy Sebia, Sebastian Loxsen. Conversions: Juan Smit (2). Penalty: Smit.
Old Selbornians (22) – Tries: Roy Bursey, Leon Mauer, Billy Dutton. Conversions: Dale Sabbagh, Mauer. Penalty: Sabbagh.
Rustenburg Impala (28) – Tries: Dumisani Matyeshana (2), Tiaan Nel. Conversions: Wilco de Wet (2). Penalties: De Wet (3).
Pretoria Police (20) – Tries: Hannes Ludik, Hendrik Rademeyer. Conversions: Dillon Laubscher (2). Penalty: Laubscher. Drop goal: Laubscher.
College Rovers (19) – Try: Matthew Phillips. Conversion: Chris Micklewood. Penalties: Micklewood (4).
Noordelikes (27) – Tries: Alwyn Olivier, Dustin Hoffmann, Gert van der Merwe, Scheepers Lubbe. Conversions: Olivier, Zander Byleveldt. Penalty: Byleveldt.
Raiders (50) – Tries: Tshepo Mooki (2), Marceau Alberts (2), Christopher Juries (2), Christopher Nqubuli. Conversions: Arno Coetzee (5), Chanwille October. Penalty: Coetzee.
Evergreens (26) – Tries: Leegan Moos, Joseph Fortuin, Anvor Prins. Conversion: Moos. Penalties: Moos (3).
Wanderers (20) – Tries: Nicolas van Rooyen (2), Wes Flanagan, Darryn Rentzke.
Villagers Worcester (35) – Tries: Jowayne van Wyk, Ricardo Jones (2), Wayne Wilschut, Yrin Belelie. Conversions: Nazeem van Sitters (5).
Hamilton (41) – Tries: Pierre Cronje, Janno van Zyl (2), Henk Franken, Francois Esterhuyzen, Craig Pheiffer. Conversions: Monty Dumond (3), Earl Lewis. Penalty: Van Zyl.
Wesbank (34) – Tries: Rhonwen Appollis, Nicholas Duhwa, Melvin Laserus, Evan Liedeman, Anvon Davids. Conversions: Dashton Wellman (3). Penalty: Wellman.
Durban Collegians (20) – Tries: Brendon Groenewald, Brendan Cope, Andrew Holland. Conversion: Cope. Penalty: Cope.
Ferros (26) – Tries: Christiaan Els, Louis Roos, Nkululeko Henson Ngozo, Werno Smit. Conversions: Jan Adriaan van der Merwe (3).
Despatch (29) – Tries: Marlon Lewis, Jaco Swanepoel, Billy Mentoor (2). Conversions: Justin Peach, Ryan Brown (2). Penalty: Brown.
Photo: Luigi Bennett/ImageSA/Saru