Two teams could be sailing into uncharted waters this weekend when the Vodacom Cup semi-finals take place in Nelspruit and Johannesburg.
The Steval Pumas and EP Kings have never played in a Vodacom Cup final before – in fact, for the team from Port Elizabeth, this will be their first-ever semi-final in this competition.
On Friday afternoon at 16h30, these two teams will contest the first Vodacom Cup semi-final of 2013 at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. It will be the Steval Pumas’ third appearance at this stage of the competition and after their good performances in the pool stages – they topped the North Section – they will be hard pressed to qualify for their first-ever final.
The Steval Pumas, coached by Jimmy Stonehouse, lost only one of their pool matches this season. It happened in Nelspruit when the MTN Golden Lions, with their backs to the wall and fighting for Vodacom Cup survivial, beat the team from Mpumalanga by 23-14 on 19 April.
David Maidza’s EP Kings, third in the South Section after losing only two of their pool fixtures, qualified for their first semi-final after causing one of the biggest quarter-final upsets in Vodacom Cup history when they staged a late fight to beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls by 34-31 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Not only did the team from the Eastern Cape qualify for their first semi-final, but they also knocked out the side that has played in the most semi-finals since the inception of the Vodacom Cup in 1998. It was the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ first quarter-final defeat in 13 years.
The second semi-final will feature the MTN Golden Lions at their Ellis Park home against the defending Vodacom Cup champions, DHL Western Province, at 14h15 on Saturday afternoon.
The team from Johannesburg, under Johan Ackermann’s coaching, has a very good strike rate in semi-finals – they’ve played in five thus far and won four. And each time they’ve progressed to the final, they took home the spoils.
The MTN Golden Lions, who sneaked into the playoffs as the fourth placed team in the North Section after losing three of their first four pool matches, will be a difficult opponent for the Capetonians on Saturday. They upset the Sharks XV, South Section winners, in Durban last weekend and are on a four-match winning streak.
DHL Western Province will play in their fourth semi-final. They’ve only won one and that was last year, when they also bagged the Vodacom Cup for the first time ever by upsetting GWK Griquas in a tense final in Kimberley.
John Dobson’s team from Cape Town lost only one of their seven pool matches to finish second in the South Section, but they also drew one, in the opening round against the Regent Boland Cavaliers.
Interestingly, the two semi-finals will be refereed by two brothers, Marius and Tiaan Jonker.
Friday, 10 May:
Steval Pumas v EP Kings
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Johan Greeff
Saturday, 11 May:
MTN Golden Lions v DHL Western Province
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Sieg van Staden
TMO: Johan Greeff
Vodacom Cup Semi-final results:
GWK Griquas bt Sharks XV (Wildebeest) 47-28, Kimberley
MTN Golden Lions bt SWD Eagles 31-19, Johannesburg
MTN Golden Lions bt Sharks XV (Wildebeest) 36-3, Johannesburg
GWK Griquas bt Regent Boland Cavaliers 24-17, Wellington
Toyota Free State XV bt Valke 42-22, Bloemfontein
GWK Griquas bt DHL WP 41-27, Kimberley
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Toyota Free State XV 39-38, Pretoria
Regent Boland Cavaliers bt GWK Griquas 47-31, Wellington
MTN Golden Lions bt Valke 36-17, Johannesburg
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Regent Boland Cavaliers 47-45, Wellington
MTN Golden Lions bt Toyota Free State XV 20-16, Bloemfontein
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 47-19, Pretoria
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Toyota Free State XV 23-20, Bloemfontein
MTN Golden Lions bt Valke 47-17, Johannesburg
Leopards XV bt Vodacom Blue Bulls 17-11, Pretoria
GWK Griquas bt Regent Boland Cavaliers 16-13, Kimberley
2006 – No semi-finals
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 32-25, Pretoria
GWK Griquas bt Steval Pumas 46-26, Kimberley
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt GWK Griquas 40-20, Kimberley
Toyota Free State XV bt DHL WP 27-22, Cape Town
GWK Griquas bt Sharks XV 36-25, Durban
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 45-34, Pretoria
Toyota Free State XV bt Regent Boland Cavaliers 22-14, Wellington
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt Sharks XV 33-3, Pretoria
ICBC Pampas XV bt Sharks XV 41-26, Potchefstroom
Vodacom Blue Bulls bt GWK Griquas 47-34, Kimberley
DHL WP bt Steval Pumas 33-20, Cape Town
GWK Griquas bt Vodacom Blue Bulls 30-17, Kimberley
Most semi-finals (including 2013):
11: Vodacom Blue Bulls
10: GWK Griquas
6: Toyota Free State XV, MTN Golden Lions
5: Sharks XV (Wildebeest), Regent Boland Cavaliers
4: Leopards XV, DHL WP
3: Steval Pumas, Valke
1: SWD Eagles, ICBC Pampas XV, EP Kings
Vodacom Cup - Previous Winners:
1998: GWK Griquas
1999: MTN Golden Lions
2000: Toyota Free State Cheetahs
2001: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2002: MTN Golden Lions
2003: MTN Golden Lions
2004: MTN Golden Lions
2005: GWK Griquas
2007: GWK Griquas
2008: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2009: GWK Griquas
2010: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2011: Pampas XV
2012: DHL Western Province