The Toyota Free State XV continued their good start to the Super Sport Rugby Challenge on Friday evening by beating the Leopards 40-20 at Shimla Park in Bloemfontein.
The Free State score six tries in an entertaining game that was still a very much a tightly contested affair up until the 55th minute.
The deadlock was broken in the 15th minute when the 2.09m tall lock, JP du Preez, opened the scoring with a converted try. Two minutes later Schalk Hugo got the visitors on the board with a penalty.
The Free State centre, Tertius Kruger, who had a good game dotted down for the team’s second try in the 24th minute, and the fullback, Ernst Stapelberg, had no problem in chasing the conversion through the uprights.
On the stroke of half time the Leopards captain, Tiaan Bezuidenhout, rounded of an excellent converted team try, to cut the lead down to four points before the internal.
Shortly after the break Hugo landed a second penalty to make it 14-13 in favour of the home side and the game was definitely on.
The game shifted in the favour of the Free State in the 54th minute when sustained pressure resulted in Darren Adonis flying over for a try in the left corner for a 19-13 lead. Nine minutes later the live-wire flanker, Daniel Maartens crashed over and this try was also converted by Stapelberg. Scoring the try was a fantastic way for Maartens to celebrate his 23rd birthday.
Just two minutes later, Aya Oliphant, went over for the first of his two tries on the evening to put the game out of reach for the visitors. Boela Venter got over for the Leopards second try, but sadly for them it was too little, too late.
With two minutes to play, Oliphant rounded off his brace, and Stapelberg converted to cap off a fine performance with the boot.
While the Leopards showed a lot of fight in the game and marked improvement after their two defeats in the first two rounds, it will be back to the drawing board for Jonathan Mokuena and his charges.
The Free State and their stand-in coach, Franco Smith, will be smiling, however, they are all too aware and Peter Engeldow and his Tafel Lager Griquas will be waiting in Kimberley next week Sunday.
For a second week in a row, the lock Du Preez performed exceptionally well and if he continues with his good for he will without a doubt partner Justin Basson in the second row for the Currie Cup and the next season of the Guinness Pro14.
Toyota Free State XV: Tries – JP du Preez, Tertius Kruger, Marnus van der Merwe, Daniel Maartens, Aya Oliphant 2 Conv. – Ernst Stapelberg 5.
Leopards: Tries – Tiaan Bezuidenhout, Boela Venter Conv. – Schalk Hugo, DP de Lange Pen. – Hugo 2 – MORGAN PIEK