The round-robin stages of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division this weekend reached an exciting conclusion, as DHL Western Province maintained their unbeaten run to retain the No1 spot on the log, while the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and MTN Golden Lions secured their semifinal berths.
DHL Western Province will host the MTN Golden Lions in the first semifinal in Cape Town next Saturday, while The Sharks will meet the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Durban in the other pay-off match.
The Lions and Cheetahs finished the league stages level on 26 log points thanks to the four-try bonus point bagged by the Johannesburg team in their clash against GWK Griquas.
But the regulations stipulate that in such instances log positions will be determined by the best points difference in the matches contested between the respective teams, which resulted in the Cheetahs finishing in third place and the Lions fourth.
This despite the fact that the Lions boasted a better points difference overall than the Cheetahs.
In Saturday’s matches DHL Western Province edged The Sharks 17-13 at Growthpoint Kings Park, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs defeated the Vodacom Blue Bulls 22-7 at the Free State Stadium and the MTN Golden Lions beat GWK Griquas 35-28 at Ellis Park.
The Sharks 13 (6) DHL Western Province 17 (14)
In Durban, DHL Western Province flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis’ pin-point goal kicking placed his team on the front foot against the Sharks in soaking conditions.
With the rain pelting down for a large part of the match both teams resorted to a tactical kicking game, and as expected goal-kicking proved to be crucial.
Catrakilis opened up the scoring with his first penalty in the sixth minute and backed this up with a drop goal five minutes later, while Sharks’ flyhalf Fred Zeilinga kicked two penalties to level the scores.
Western Province captain Deon Fourie scored the only try of the half in the 25th minute after the Sharks fumbled the ball, which the visitors capitalised on by spreading the ball out wide to Fourie for an 11-6 lead. Catrakilis added another penalty to hand his team an eight-point lead at the break.
The second half was equally tightly-fought, although Sharks’ replacement looseforward Keegan Daniel managed to cross the tryline seven minutes in, to close the gap to 14-13.
Catrakilis, however, did enough to seal the victory in the 60th minute with his third penalty of the day for a 17-13 win.
The Sharks 13 (6): Try: Keegan Daniel. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2).
DHL Western Province 17 (14): Try: Deon Fourie. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (3). Drop Goal: Catrakilis.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 22 (10) Vodacom Blue Bulls 7 (7)
In Bloemfontein the Vodacom Blue Bulls opted to hunt tries throughout the match against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs to achieve the tough task of defeating the hosts with a bonus point and by eight points or more, while denying the Cheetahs a bonus point to keep alive their hopes of a semifinal berth.
Such was their determination to achieve this they turned down several shots at goal and attacked instead, but the tenacious Cheetahs’ defence combined with a bunch of handling errors and turnovers by the visitors dashed their hopes of a victory.
Cheetahs flyhalf Elgar Watts was particularly impressive as he created the first try by Robert Ebersohn and then kicked a penalty to hand his team a 10-0 lead.
The Blue Bulls, however, fought their way back into the match with a try by prop Marcel van der Merwe shortly before half time.
Unfortunately for the visitors they were unable to build on this in the second half as the pressure got to the players, resulting in a comedy of errors, which left the team scoreless after the break.
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, made the most of their attacking chances, with Watts scoring a stunning try after gathering an attempted chip by the Blue Bulls, while Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss sprinted to the tryline to touch down for his team’s third try.
This despite the Cheetahs’ being reduced to 14 men in the 73rd minute after replacement prop Schalk van der Merwe received a red card for a dangerous tackle on opposition fullback Jurgen Visser.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 22 (10) – Tries: Adriaan Strauss, Elgar Watts, Robert Ebersohn. Conversions: Watts (2). Penalty: Watts.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 7 (7) – Try: Marcel van der Merwe. Conversion: Handre Pollard.
MTN Golden Lions 35 (15) GWK Griquas 28 (19)
The clash in Johannesburg was gripping as GWK Griquas surprised the MTN Golden Lions with their strong start, which earned them a 16-3 lead by the 20th minute.
This was partly due to the home team’s ill-discipline, which earned Griquas fullback Gouws Prinsloo seven penalties in the match.
Three early penalties by Prinsloo and a fantastic try by Griquas wing Rocco Jansen from a chip-and-chase netted the team an encouraging 16-3 lead.
But the Lions bounced back thanks to tries by Jacques van Rooyen and Anthony Volmink before the break. Prinsloo, however, had the last say as he slotted over another penalty shortly before half time for a 19-15 lead.
Tries by Lions hooker Willie Wepener and replacement looseforward Willie Britz to add to two penalties by flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, however, handed the hosts an edge, as Griquas only points in the second half were compliments of three more penalties by Gouws.
The match marked the end of Griquas’ campaign, however, the team will face the Steval Pumas in home and away promotion-relegation games in the next two weeks to determine which of the sides will feature in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division next season.
MTN Golden Lions 35 (15) – Tries: Anthony Volmink, Jacques van Rooyen, Willie Britz, Willie Wepener. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3). Penalties: Boshoff (3).
GWK Griquas 28 (19) – Try: Rocco Jansen. Conversion: Gouws Prinsloo. Penalties: Prinsloo (7).