The Cell C Sharks will have a bye in the Currie Cup Premier Division next week with the peace of mind that they have secured the top spot on the log and a resultant home semi-final, as the battle for the remaining play-off spots goes down to the wire.
The KwaZulu-Natalians defeated the Xerox Golden Lions 24-10 at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Friday for their 10th victory in a row and their first home semi-final since 2013, with the victory also ensuring that they would host the final if they progress to the last two.
DHL Western Province, meanwhile, nudged their way into second place on the standings on Sunday to stay in pole position for the other home semi-final with two pool matches to go, but the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Xerox Golden Lions, Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls also have a mathematical chance of a top-two finish.
Adding to the excitement in the competition, all of the sides with the exception of Tafel Lager Griquas still have a realistic chance of playing their way into the playoffs.
The Cell C Sharks stamped their authority early on against the Xerox Golden Lions with two penalty goals by flyhalf Curwin Bosch and a try by prop Thomas du Toit pushing them into an 11-0 lead. The match was temporarily suspended shortly after due to inclement weather, which saw the teams return to the change rooms.
Neither side was able to add to the score before halftime, but the visitors earned their first points of the match close to the fourth quarter compliments of a penalty goal. This, however, was cancelled out as the hosts added another two penalty goals and their second try. With the clock winding down, the Xerox Golden Lions added a try shortly before the final whistle, which saw them go down 24-10.
A last-gasp penalty goal by DHL Western Province’ Damian Willemse, meanwhile, steered his team to a narrow 46-45 victory against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Pretoria in a hard-fought encounter on Sunday.
Both teams showed intent on attack, which resulted in a total of 13 tries being scored in the match. The hosts scored seven tries, while DHL Western Province touched down six times – with Blitzboks speedster Seabelo Senatla scoring two tries – but two penalty goals by the Capetonians’ handed them the edge.
While the victory bolstered the Cape side’s home semi-final aspirations, it dealt a big blow to the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ campaign, as they may have to rely on a few other teams to falter in the last two rounds.
In Kimberley, Tafel Lager Griquas defeated the Toyota Free State Cheetahs for the second time this season as they outplayed the visitors 59-24, with the win marking their first in six outings.
The teams were neck-on-neck for the first 50 minutes as one side scored and the other hit back soon after, which saw the teams level the score three times. However, Griquas dominated proceedings as the match progressed thanks to their efficiency at converting their chances into points, which allowed them to score five tries in the closing 30 minutes for their 59 points.
Currie Cup Premier Division round 12 results:
Vodacom Blue Bulls 45 (19) DHL Western Province 46 (17)
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Nic de Jager, Edgar Marutlulle, Piet van Zyl, Duncan Matthews, Ulrich Beyers, Penalty Try. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3), Tony Jantjies, Penalty conversion.
DHL Western Province – Tries: JD Schickerling, Robert du Preez, Nizaam Carr, Seabelo Senatla (2), Huw Jones. Conversions: Robert Du Preez (5). Penalty Goals: Robert du Preez, Damian Willemse.
Tafel Lager Griquas 59 (24) Toyota Free State Cheetahs 24 (24)
Tafel Lager Griquas – Tries: AJ Le Roux, Wendal Wehr, Sias Koen, Conway Pretorius, Christiaan Meyer, Enver Brandt, Tertius Kruger, AJ Coertzen. Conversions: George Whitehead (5), Andre Swarts (3). Penalty Goal: George Whitehead.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Joseph Dweba, Chris Dry, Cecil Africa. Conversions: Robbie Petzer (3). Penalty Goal: Robbie Petzer.
Cell C Sharks 24 (11) Xerox Golden Lions 10 (0)
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Thomas du Toit, Odwa Ndungane. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty Goals: Curwin Bosch (3). Drop Goal: Curwin Bosch.
Xerox Golden Lions – Try: Anthony Volmink. Conversion: Jaco Van der Walt. Penalty Goal: Jaco Van der Walt.