Alistair Kettledas blazed his way to a hat-trick but the loose trio were the leading lights as the Leopards hammered the Valke 57-22 (halftime 29-3) in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.
While Kettledas, the competition’s leading try-scorer, cut through the Valke defences like a laser to score his three tries, the Leopards’ loose trio of Juan “Spanner” Pretorius, Robert Kruger and Morne Hanekom were superb, showing great penetration with ball in hand and being incisive at the breakdowns.
A large and enthusiastic tight five also had much to do with the Leopards’ victory and they were seldom in any danger of losing as they built up a sizeable 29-3 lead at halftime. Veteran former Springbok flyhalf Andre Pretorius is also clearly enjoying his new life in Potchefstroom as he kicked superbly in the gusting wind and also showed great vision at times.
The Valke made a lively start, but seemed to have the stuffing knocked out of them by a yellow card to prop Stefan Bezuidenhout for illegally disrupting a rolling maul close to his own tryline.
The power and skills of eighthman Juan Pretorius saw him charging over the tryline soon afterwards and the superb support play and pace of Kruger set up the second try, for centre Adriaan Engelbrecht.
The vision of Andre Pretorius, who pouched an interception and then sent a long pass out wide to wing Kettledas, set up the Leopards’ third try and, with a 22-3 lead after half-an-hour, the home side were already obvious winners.
Kettledas tapped and dived over for his second try just before halftime and the Leopards were soon swarming on to attack again from the second-half kick-off.
Wing Andrew van Wyk cleaned up well after an attack had been disrupted, drew a couple of defenders and allowed Engelbrecht to glide over for his second try.
Andre Pretorius’s fifth successful kick stretched the Leopards’ lead to 36-3, but the Valke’s balloon had not yet been burst and, keeping the ball alive for nine phases, they created the space for fullback JW Bell to go over for their first try.
But the Leopards struck back and made the score 43-10 two minutes later as centre Hennie Scorbinski made a half-break and made the space for replacement fullback Gerhard Nortier to dash down the right and score, and Andre Pretorius slotted an excellent conversion.
Just after the hour mark, great work by “Spanner” Pretorius and Kruger saw the Leopards swarming on to attack and Hanekom then dived over the tryline as if he was diving over breakers on the beach to score a spectacular try.
The Valke had not just been idle opposition in the second half, playing with great determination but not enough accuracy. But, in the 64th minute, replacement flyhalf Karlo Aspeling, who had been providing great balls for his backline, sparked another attack and scrumhalf Anrich Richter went over for the try as the Leopards defence scrambled.
There was even some humiliation in store for the Leopards as Valke right wing Sandile Ngcobo skinned the defence to score, but the home side had the last say as the pace of Kettledas took North-West from defence on to attack.
The Valke dropped the ball inside the Leopards 22, Kettledas kicked through, regathered and then got the ball back from Nortier to score the final try.
The Leopards’ victory keeps them in third position on the log and still in line for the semifinals.
Leopards -Tries: Juan Pretorius, Adriaan Engelbrecht (2), Allister Kettledas (3), Gerhard Nortier, Morne Hanekom. Conversions: Andre Pretorius (6), Ernest Nortje. Penalty: Pretorius.
Valke – Tries: JW Bell, Anrich Richter, Sandile Ngcobo. Conversions: Karlo Aspeling (2). Penalty: Juan Kotze.