The Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21 team on Saturday booked an invaluable home semifinal in the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championship, while the MTN Golden Lions delivered a fine performance to snap up the last semifinal berth in an exciting finish to the round-robin stages.
Log-leaders DHL Western Province will host the MTN Golden Lions in Cape Town in their semifinal this weekend, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls will take on the Sharks in Pretoria in the other playoff match.
In the weekend’s games, DHL Western Province thumped the Sharks 51-24 in Durban, the Vodacom Blue Bulls pipped Toyota Free State 29-27 in Bloemfontein and the MTN Golden Lions annihilated Border 76-6 in Johannesburg.
The Sharks 24 (5) DHL Western Province 51 (34)
In Durban DHL Western Province bounced back from an early try by the Sharks to dominate the half and build up a morale-boosting 34-5 lead at the break. In total Western Province scored four tries in the opening 40 minutes, with flyhalf Tim Swiel scoring one and converting all four successfully, while also adding a penalty to his tally.
The Sharks fought back strongly in the second half, with fullback Sean Robinson scoring the first try of the half to reduce the deficit.
But this was undone soon after as back-to-back five-pointers by Western Province nudged them to a 50-point score.
The Sharks, however, fought until the death to finish the match strongly with two tries in the last 10 minutes, which earned them a bonus point for their efforts.
The defeat for the Sharks, however, came at the cost of a possible home semifinal, as they finished one point behind the second-placed Blue Bulls on the log standings.
The Sharks 24 (5) – Tries: Garath Meikle, Johan Meyer, Kotaro Mutsushima, Sean Robinson. Conversions: Duncan Campbell (2).
DHL Western Province 51 (34) – Tries: Craig Barry, Johnny Kotze (2), Justin Ackerman, Stephan Coetzee, Tim Swiel. Conversions: Swiel (6). Penalties: Swiel (3).
Toyota Free State 27 (12) Vodacom Blue Bulls 29 (20)
The Toyota Free State produced a competitive performance in their clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls despite trailing 20-12 at half time.
The visitors, however, held their nerve despite Nardus van der Walt receiving a yellow card to hold onto their two-point lead for the victory and a resultant home semifinal.
Three tries by the Blue Bulls to only two by the Free State in the opening 40 minutes earned the visitors an encouraging lead.
The second half was tightly fought as the teams threw everything at each other, with the Free State, in particular, beginning to find their rhythm.
Tries by the home team’s Kevin Luiters and Tienie Burger to add to a penalty by captain Niel Marais allowed the team to come within range of winning the match.
But an unsuccessful penalty attempt in the last minute dashed the Bloemfontein team’s hopes of a victory.
The Blue Bulls meanwhile added two penalties and a drop goal to their score after the break thanks to flyhalf Kobus Marais.
Toyota Free State 27 (12) – Kevin Luiters, Neil Claassen, Stephen Griesel, Tienie Burger. Conversions: Niel Marais (2). Penalty: Marais.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 29 (20) - Tries: Carlo Engelbrecht, Hencus van Wyk, Travis Ismaiel. Conversion: Kobus Marais. Penalty: Marais (3). Drop Goal: Marais.
MTN Golden Lions 76 (38) Border 7 (7)
The MTN Golden Lions were in fine form in their clash against Border as they ran in a total of 12 tries to only one by the visitors for their impressive 76-7 victory.
Such was their dominance they built up a 38-7 lead at the break, while they balanced this with a brave defensive effort, which left the opposition scoreless in the second half.
The result will give the Johannesburg team confidence as they prepare for their semifinal against Western Province, who have suffered only one defeat in 12 matches this season.
MTN Golden Lions 76 (38) – Damian Engledoe (2), Fabian Boosyen, Harold Vorster, Jacques Nel, Lourens Erasmus (2), Marais Schmidt, Matt Torrance, Ruaan Lerm, Stephan de Wit (2). Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (3), Marais Schmidt (5).
Border 7 (7) – Try: Fanelesibonge Zwane. Conversion: Hendri Rust.