With the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked log points carried over, the Cell C Sharks moved above the Vodacom Bulls to first spot and it was well deserved. The team from Durban scored five tries and three conversions to go 31-3 up into the break, with their forwards especially dominant, while replacement Sbu Nkosi made a dramatic impact in the second half with two further tries to seal a dominant triumph.
The home pack used their bulk size and mauling abilities to good effect, which set up the platform for all but one of their five first half tries.
They were off to a good start by scoring three tries inside 25 minutes of the opening half. Skipper and outside centre Jeremy Ward helped himself to two tries and nippy scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba also joined the scoring act when he ran through an absent-minded pillar next to the ruck to dot down under the posts.
Flyhalf Curwin Bosch succeeded with two of the three conversion kicks to bring the score up to 19-0, with the Durban outfit comfortably in charge of proceedings mainly thanks to their pack dominating the early collisions.
Visiting scrumhalf Ginter Smuts put his side on the scoreboard with a successful penalty kick, however, that good passage of play was soon followed by the home outfit’s fourth try of the evening. Hooker Kerron van Vuuren dived over from a lineout maul to score after he was denied earlier on because of a forward pass from Bosch.
Flanker Dylan Richardson scored in almost identical fashion from a lineout maul, as the home side stamped their authority on the game.
They enjoyed territorial advantage and possession and kept the pressure on the visitors by using their heavyweight pack to set up numerous attacking opportunities from their well-functioning lineouts.
Phakisa Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse picked five new players in his starting team from the side that went down 21-5 against the Vodacom Bulls, and the Lowvelders struggle to pose any sustained threat in the opening stanza.
The Pumas made a better impact in the second half when they carried the ball deep into the home territory. After forcing a penalty, Smuts caught the defence napping with a quick tap and feed to flanker Phumzile Maqondwana who run in off the angle to score their first try, which Smuts converted (31-10).
However, that good work was undone immediately when Springbok flyer Nkosi, who came on as a replacement, acrobatically plucked a Bosch restart kick out of the air to run clear and score under the post. Bosch nailed another conversion kick to stretch their lead to 38-10.
The visitors made it a much better contest in the second half, playing with more forward intent. However, they were their own worst enemy with several unforced errors.
After forcing the home side into conceding a penalty, the Lowveld visitors attempted another quick penalty. However, this time things went horribly wrong when an alert Nkosi intercepted the ball to run in for his second try of the evening.
With Bosch adding the extras, the Durbanites were out of sight with the score 45-10 in their favour and less than ten minutes to go.
With all the points carried over from the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked standings, the Cell C Sharks moved above the Vodacom Bulls to first spot on the log with their tally of 24 points from seven combined matches.
The DHL Western Province host the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday evening in Cape Town and a victory for the men from Pretoria will see them reclaim the lead on the points table.
Cell C Sharks 45 (31) – Tries: Jeremy Ward (2), Sanele Nohamba, Kerron van Vuuren, Dylan Richardson, Sbu Nkosi (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (5).
Phakisa Pumas 10 (3) – Try: Phumzile Maqondwana. Conversion: Ginter Smuts. Penalty: Smuts.