The results leave the Johannesburg side with a five-point lead over the Durbanites at the top of the current standings, while the Toyota Cheetahs pulled even with the Vodacom Bulls – who had a bye last weekend – on 10 points. They are followed by the Leopards who are now just one point adrift on nine points. DHL WP (sixth on four points) and the Valke (two league points) complete the standings.
The Lions held a slender 21-19 halftime lead over the Cell C Sharks, but the KwaZulu-Natalians eventually tied the scores 33-33 at the end of the game by scoring five times.
For the Lions, 2022 SA U18 flanker Sibabalwe Mahashe, Thabang Mphafi (No 8), Layton Horn (scrumhalf) and Keagan Smith (wing) each went over the whitewash, while pivot Sam Francis added the extras with two conversions and three penalty goals.
Cell C Sharks hooker Bryce Calvert grabbed a hat-trick of tries for his side, while Marnus Winter (replacement hooker) and Jurenzo Julius (replacement fullback) also went over. Jean Smith (flyhalf) hit the target with four of the conversions.
In Vanderbijl, the Valke and Leopards were tied 21-all after an entertaining first half but the visitors eventually edged the clash by three points (31-28) after outscoring them by five tries to four.
Dylan du Plessis (prop), Brenden Venter (centre), Jaundre Nel (fullback) and Hermann Coetzee (replacement prop) each dotted down for the Valke, while Morne Scheepers (flyhalf) slotted all four conversion kicks.
Abre Griessel (hooker), Pierre de Villiers (prop), Hannu Annu (lock), Stuff Heath (centre) and Farai Sibanda (wing) each went over for the winning Leopards, with Christiaan Gates (flyhalf) adding three conversions.
Junior Boks Paul de Villiers (loose forward) and Imad Khan (scrumhalf) were instrumental in DHL WP’s win in Bloemfontein. De Villiers continued his fine form by scoring one of his side’s five tries, while Khan added two conversions and a penalty goal to his polished performance.
Corbin Benjamin (loose forward), Thaaqib Ryland (wing), Damian Markus (centre) and Thomas Nel (centre) were the other try scorers for the Cape side who led 22-19 at halftime.
The Free Staters’ first-half tries were scored by Sifi Mpanza (hooker), Danston Cloete (No 8) and Shaun Ray (fullback), with Tiaan Kriek (flyhalf) adding two conversions.
In next week’s SA Rugby U20 Cup action, DHL WP host the Valke in Cape Town, the Toyota Cheetahs travel to Durban to play the Cell C Sharks, and the Vodacom Bulls host neighbours the Lions in their Jukskei Derby.