The round-robin stages of the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championship looks set for a grand finale this weekend as the venue of second semifinal and the fourth semifinalist has yet to be determined.
DHL Western Province, with 10 victories in 11 matches, have booked the top spot on the log for their home semifinal, but either The Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls will host the other semifinal.
Lower down on the log the MTN Golden Lions and Toyota Free State are still in the running for the fourth semifinal berth, meaning the competition will come down to the wire.
In the weekend’s matches DHL Western Province thumped the MTN Golden Lions 39-5 in Cape Town, Toyota Free State beat the Leopards 38-29 in Potchefstroom and the Sharks defeated the Vodacom Blue Bulls 35-29 in Pretoria.
DHL Western Province 39 (20) MTN Golden Lions 5 (5)
The clash at DHL Newlands was one-sided from the outset as the home team out-classed the MTN Golden Lions to register another convincing victory.
Such was the effectiveness of the Cape side’s play, they built up a 20-5 half time lead thanks to balanced effort on attack and defence, with their bonus point being bagged in the first half. The Lions’ only points came from a sole try by fullback Marais Schmidt in the 28th minute.
The home side continued this dominance in the second half although the Lions produced a solid spell in the opening 10 minutes to deny WP extra points.
But the Cape side’s class shone through as the half progressed, as they added three more tries to take their total for the match to seven, while denying the Johannesburg team a single point in the half.
DHL Western Province 39 (20) – Tries: Craig Barry, Devon Williams (2), Justin Benn, Patrick Howard (2), Rayn Smid. Conversions: Dillyn Leyds (2).
MTN Golden Lions 5 (5) – Try: Marais Schmidt.
Leopards 29 (12) Toyota Free State 38 (31)
A strong first half by the Toyota Free State set them up for a bonus-point win against the Leopards in Potchefstroom last Friday, with the team crossing the tryline three times in the first 15 minutes for a 19-0 lead.
The Leopards, however, reduced the deficit thanks to tries by Jaco Jordaan and Eugene Pettite, but this was cancelled out by another two Free State tries before the break.
The Leopards bounced back strongly in the second half with a tighter defensive structure and a more effective effort on attack, which earned them three tries, while they managed to limit the Free State to only one.
But unfortunately these efforts were insufficient to win the match due to Free State’s big lead.
Leopards 29 (12) – Tries: Corné Duvenage, Eugene Pettit, Jaco Buys, Jaco Jordaan, Tiaan Loots. Conversions: Jacobus du Plessis, Ryno Smith.
Toyota Free State 38 (31) – Tries: Henco Venter, Neil Claassen, Niell Jordaan, Ockert du Toit, Stephen Griesel, Tienie Burger. Conversions: Niel Marais (4).
Vodacom Blue Bulls 29 (15) The Sharks 35 (13)
In Pretoria, the Sharks recovered from a two-point deficit at half time against the Vodacom Blue Bulls to register their eighth victory of the season and hop into second place on the log standings.
Their two-point lead over the third-placed Blue Bulls will give them an edge with an eye on securing the remaining home semifinal.
However this will require either a victory in their remaining game or the Pretoria team has to suffer a defeat in their final match.
The Sharks entered the break 15-13 down at Loftus Versfeld, but two tries in the third quarter bolstered their confidence and pushed them into the lead.
The Blue Bulls managed to close the gap thanks to a try by Nardus van der Walt in the 62nd minute, but another two tries by the visitors in the last six minutes sealed the victory for the Durban side.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 29 (15) – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Jacques Rossouw, Nardus van der Walt, Shaun Adendorff. Conversions: Tony Jantjies (3). Penalty: Jantjies.
The Sharks 35 (13) – Tries: Allan Dell, Andre Esterhuizen, Garath Meikle, Robert du Preez. Conversion: Duncan Campbell (2), Robert du Preez.