DHL Western Province and The Sharks this weekend booked their places in the Absa Currie Cup final in Cape Town next Saturday after powering their way to victories against the MTN Golden Lions and Toyota Free State Cheetahs respectively.
With Western Province finishing the round-robin stages as the top team, their 33-16 victory against the Lions ensured a home final at DHL Newlands, while the Sharks registered a 33-22 victory against the Cheetahs in Durban.
This year’s final will mark the second successive time the teams battle it out for the trophy and the bragging rights as Absa Currie Cup champions. As a bonus the winner will walk away with a rewarding R1,8m cheque while the runners up will earn R1,2m for their efforts.
In the other big clash this weekend, GWK Griquas scored a last-minute try in their Absa Currie Cup promotion-relegation game against the Steval Pumas in Kimberley on Friday for a 21-19 victory and a chance to retain their place in the Premier Division next season.
The teams will meet again in Nelspruit next week in the deciding clash.
DHL Western Province 33 (18) MTN Golden Lions 16 (9)
In Cape Town, the MTN Golden Lions started the clash against DHL Western Province with an attacking mind-set, but turnovers and penalties conceded at crucial times throughout the match cost them dearly.
After a strong opening spell by the Lions the hosts found their rhythm and retained possession, which allowed them to breach the visitors defence.
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies opened up the scoring in the sixth minute with a penalty despite this the home side dominating proceedings as Springbok captain Jean de Villiers and Gio Aplon came close to scoring tries.
While De Villiers was caught metres before the tryline after a fantastic intercept, the pass to Aplon for their second attempted try was ruled forward.
WP flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, however, put his team on the scoreboard in the 18th minute, while Jantjies backed this up with two penalties in the next few minutes.
But with momentum favouring the home side and their play-makers dodging tackles, the team earned their first try in the 22nd minute. Catrakilis touched down first after a great break by Springbok looseforward Duane Vermeulen, while Aplon danced his way through the defence four minutes before half time to earn the team a six point lead over the Lions.
Catrakilis added to this by slotting over a penalty on the stroke of full-time for an 18-9 lead.
The home team built on this after the break with Catrakilis kicking over two penalties in the first 12 minutes.
But the Lions managed to contain them for the next quarter, and at times managed to get their hands on the ball.
These efforts to claw their way back into the match, however, proved fruitless as Western Province continued to win turnovers at will. Catrakilis extended Province’s lead to 27-9 with eight minutes to go.
But the visitors went down fighting as No8 Warren Whitely powered his way over the tryline in the last five minutes for their first try and a double-digit score.
This, however, was cancelled out soon after as WP replacement back Kurt Coleman added two penalties to their tally.
DHL Western Province 33 (18) - Tries: Demetri Catrakilis, Gio Aplon. Conversion: Catrakilis. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (4), Kurt Coleman (2).
MTN Golden Lions 16 (9) – Try: Warren Whitely. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (3).
The Sharks 33 (16) Toyota Free State Cheetahs 22 (7)
The clash between The Sharks and Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Durban started off as an arm-wrestle despite an early try by the visitors’ Pieter Labuschagne in the third minute.
The Sharks were particularly impressive in the scrums, dominated possession and did well to string together phases, but the Cheetahs defence was solid, resulting in the Sharks battling to cross the tryline.
Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie slotted over two penalties in the first 18 minutes and added a stunning try from a dummy pass in the 37th minute, which he converted and then subsequently added a penalty, to hand the Sharks a 16-7 lead at the break.
The home side built on this early in the second half, as they continued to string together phases, which set up flank Jacques Botes for their second try 11 minutes into the half.
The Cheetahs tried hard to force their way back into the match and earned a try for their efforts with centre Johann Sadie stretching over the line for their second five-pointer, which reduced the deficit to nine points.
This kick-started a frantic few minutes, in which Sharks replacement back Heimar Williams and Cheetahs prop Schalk van der Merwe scored tries while both teams were reduced to 14 men.
Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl received a yellow card for an attempted trip, while Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis was sin-binned for tramping on a player’s chest.
Lambie added another penalty to the Sharks total, which handed the Durban side a 33-22 lead, which they held onto in the last few minutes to book their place in the final.
The Sharks 33 (16) – Tries: Pat Lambie, Jacques Botes, Heimar Williams. Conversions: Pat Lambie (3). Penalties: Lambie (4).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 22 (7) – Tries: Pieter Labuschagne, Johann Sadie, Schalk van der Merwe. Conversions: Riaan Smit, Johan Goosen. Penalty: Johan Goosen.
GWK Griquas 21 (0) Steval Pumas 19 (13)
Absa Currie Cup First Division champions the Steval Pumas started their promotion-relegation clash against GWK Griquas in Kimberley strongly as they built up a 13-0 lead at the break.
Flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout kicked two penalties in the opening 10 minutes, and centre Wilmaure Louw added a try, which Bezuidenhout converted to push the team ahead.
Griquas, however, stepped up their game in the second half and reaped the rewards as Carel Greeff and Jean Stemmet scored tries, which fullback Gouws Prinsloo converted to force the hosts back into the game.
Two penalties by Pumas replacement back JC Roos, the second of which was converted seven minutes from time, pushed the Pumas into a 19-14 lead.
But the visitors were dealt a big blow in the last minute as lock Giant Mtyanda received a yellow card, which Griquas capitalised on to score their third try in the dying seconds.
With the scores level at 19-19, Prinsloo kicked the conversion to hand Griquas a last-gasp victory.
GWK Griquas 21 (0) – Tries: Carel Greeff, Jean Stemmet, Marnus Schoeman. Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo.
Steval Pumas 19 (13) – Try: Wilmaure Louw. Conversion: Carl Bezuidenhout. Penalties: Bezuidenhout (2), JC Roos (2).