Cape Town - The Sharks will host the Blue Bulls in Durban and Western Province will take on the Golden Lions in Cape Town in the Currie Cup Premier Division semi-finals next weekend following a gripping final pool round loaded with permutations.
The Blue Bulls kicked off the round on Friday with a convincing 52-32 victory against the Pumas to force their way into the top four, while Western Province defeated log-leaders, the Sharks, 31-20 to secure the second home semi-final.
The round concluded with the Golden Lions beating the Free State Cheetahs 44-17 to snatch the last semi-final spot up for grabs.
The Sharks entered the match in Durban knowing that as the top team on the log they were guaranteed a home semi-final regardless of the result, and despite this, they built a solid foundation in the first half against Western Province to take a 13-3 lead at the break.
Four tries in 17 minutes by the visitors, however, steered the Capetonians to a bonus-point 31-20 victory and an invaluable home semi-final, with flyhalf Robert du Preez’s contribution of 21 points thanks to his two tries, four conversions and penalty goal proving to be instrumental.
Du Preez scored two tries within six minutes to trigger a dramatic comeback by the Cape side, which they backed up with tries by Dewaldt Duvenage and JD Schickerling. They supported this impressive attacking display with a solid defensive effort, which saw the home team’s only points after the break being a late try.
The Golden Lions, in turn, overcame a tightly-fought first half against the Free State Cheetahs in Johannesburg in which they held a narrow 13-10 lead before breaking away for a rewarding 44-17 win.
Each side scored one first-half try, but the hosts dominated the second half as they found their rhythm on attack, which saw them cross the chalk four more times, while the visitors only managed to add a converted try to their total for the match. The resulting win saw the Johannesburg team through to the semi-finals, while it ended the Free State Cheetahs’ campaign.
In Pretoria on Friday, the Blue Bulls did everything they could to keep alive their semi-final hopes as they ran in an impressive eight tries in a dominant display against the Pumas for a 52-32 victory.
In a constructive first half, the hosts scored four tries to secure their bonus point, while their effective defence limited the visitors to one try and two penalty goals, for a 26-13 lead.
The Blue Bulls built on this in the second half by adding another four tries, while the visitors fought back to score three, which guided the home team to a convincing 20 point victory.
This result pushed them into third place temporarily on the log tied on 32 points with Western Province, and their fate was sealed on Saturday as they finished in fourth place.