Despite their defeat, the Lions still lead the standings over the Cell C Sharks thanks to a better points' difference, with both teams on 17 log points, although the Durbanites have played one game less than the leaders' five. They are followed by the Vodacom Bulls, who are two points adrift, with DHL WP fourth on 11 points.
Playing at home in Pretoria, the Vodacom Bulls held a slender 14-10 halftime lead over the Lions before pulling away in the second period. The home side scored four tries and three conversions while their Gauteng neighbours responded with a converted try and a penalty goal.
Junior Springbok front rankers Corne Lavagna (prop) and Juann Else (hooker) joined in the try-scoring act and SA Under-18 international Liam Koen converted three of the four tries.
Lions pivot Sam Francis converted his own try and kicked two successful penalties, while outside centre Kelly Mpeku also crossed the whitewash.
In Cape Town, DHL WP ran in seven tries against the Valke for their 45-11 victory after leading 21-3 at the break.
Junior Springbok scrumhalf Imad Khan scored a try and succeeded with five conversions, while inside centre Damian Markus crossed the whitewash twice.
Valke flyhalf Morne Scheepers landed two penalty goals and Dylan du Plessis crossed for their only try.
And in the other match on the weekend, Cell C Sharks flyhalf Jean Smith contributed 20 points to his team's winning margin of 52-13 over the Toyota Cheetahs in Durban, where the hosts scored seven tries in total while the Free Staters could only respond with one try.
Smith scored a try while also adding six conversions and a penalty goal from the kicking tee. Thomas Dyer (lock), who also played for the SA U18s last year, capped a fine individual effort with two tries. For the Free Staters Tiaan Kriek (flyhalf) converted the try of Jan Botes (reserve hooker) and slotted two penalty goals.
Next weekend, the Leopards, who had a bye in the last round, host DHL Western Province, the Vodacom Bulls are away against the Toyota Cheetahs, and the Valke host the Cell C Sharks, with the Lions enjoying a bye.
Vodacom Bulls 26 (14) Lions 13 (10)
Vodacom Bulls - Tries: Corne Lavagna, Juann Else, Hanno Theunissen, Lukas Meyer. Conversions: Liam Koen (3).
Lions - Tries: Sam Francis, Kelly Mpeku. Conversion: Francis. Penalty goal: Thurlon Williams.
DHL Western Province 45 (21) Valke 11 (3)
DHL Western Province - Tries: Luca Bakkes, Zachary Porthen, Jacque Huckins, Damian Markus (2), Imad Khan, Thaaqib Ryland. Conversions: Khan (5).
Valke - Try: Dylan Du Plessis. Penalty goals: Morne Scheepers (2).
Cell C Sharks 52 (38) Toyota Cheetahs 13 (6)
Cell C Sharks - Tries: Thomas Dyer (2), Christian Els, Ethan Hooker, Ryan Manuel, Spha Ngcobo, Stehan Heymans, Jean Smith. Conversion: Smith (6). Penalty goal: Smith.
Toyota Cheetahs 13 (6) - Try: Jan Botes. Conversion: Tiaan Kriek. Penalty goals: Kriek (2).