WP, Pumas eye historic final
Cape Town - Western Province or the Pumas will be making history on Saturday when one of them qualifies for the Vodacom Cup final in a weeks’ time.
Neither of these sides has ever made it past the semi-final stage of the competition. They are playing each other in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon to determine which team will progress to the final, to be held on the weekend of 18/19 May at the venue of the top team from the North Section.
This decision was taken last year that the venue of the final of the Vodacom Cup will alternate between north and south (should teams from the relevant section reach the final).
Last year the final was held at the venue of the top team from the south that made the final (Pampas) and this year it will be at the home ground of the top team from the north that makes the final (Kimberley, Witbank/Nelspruit or Pretoria).
The other semi-final is on Friday afternoon in Kimberley between the two teams that have dominated the Vodacom Cup playoffs since its inception in 1998 - Griquas and the Blue Bulls. Between them, they have won the title seven times and been runners up eight times.
If Griquas win their semi-final, they will also host the final. If the Blue Bulls and the Pumas win, the final will be in Mpumalanga, and if it’s the Blue Bulls against Western Province, the final will be in Pretoria.
It’s not the ideal scenario for Western Province, as they are the only team this season that have not lost a game.
Western Province followed their seven from seven in the league phase of the Vodacom Cup with a comprehensive home win against the Golden Lions in the quarter-final in Cape Town last weekend (58-34) and can be regarded as favourites against the Pumas, who finished second in the North Section and eliminated the EP Kings by 30-19 last Friday.
One of the few survivors of WP’s Vodacom Cup semi-final defeat in 2008 is midfielder PJ Vermeulen, who is now plying his trade for Griquas.
For Griquas and the Blue Bulls, the semi-final is a replay of their first round clash in early March, won comfortably by the team from the Northern Cape (36-17) in Pretoria. The home team was totally outplayed on that day and conceded six tries to two.
However, the Peacock Blues will not have forgotten last year’s semi-final, when the Blue Bulls, who snuck into the playoffs, caused somewhat of an upset in Kimberley (47-34) to advance to their fifth successive Vodacom Cup final.
Marnitz Boshoff, who kicked six penalties, three conversions and a drop goal on that day to help steer the Blue Bulls to a fine victory, has since left Pretoria and joined Griquas, where he has been sharing the flyhalf duties with Francois Brummer, another former Blue Bull.
When it comes to semi-finals and finals, these two teams are the most successful in Vodacom Cup history.
The Blue Bulls have only lost one out of their 10 appearances in the semi-finals, while Griquas have won six from eight.