· Defending champions DHL WP down Vodacom Blue Bulls
The Xerox Golden Lions and the DHL Western Province will meet for a second successive year in the Absa Currie Cup final after both sides won their Semi-final matches over the weekend. The final takes place next Saturday at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, home of the table-topping Golden Lions.
The Lions overcame a gutsy Toyota Free State Cheetahs 43-33 (halftime 13-16) in the second Semi-final in Johannesburg on Saturday. However, the Cheetahs will rue four missed conversions and two yellow cards in the second half which meant they played the final 15 minutes with 14 men.
In contrast to the Cheetahs kickers, Lions point scoring machine, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, scored 23 points with the boot to help steer his side to victory. He kicked four conversions and five penalties.
Western Province scored two tries in the second half to beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls 23-18 (halftime 9-9) at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday evening. The Cape side will appear in their fourth successive Absa Currie Cup final.
Fullback Cheslin Kolbe was the star performer for the Cape side as he scored one try and initiated the other to crown a richly deserved Absa Man of the Match performance at Loftus.
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The first half was a close affair and the Cheetahs went into the break three points ahead after they had managed to keep the free-scoring Lions in check for much of the opening half.
Some brilliant individual brilliance from outside centre Francois Venter saw the visitors score their first try after just four minutes, however, flyhalf Neil Marais fluffed the conversion. Captain Jaco Kriel scored his side’s first try after a driving maul, while Boshoff slotted the conversion.
Two penalties from Marais handed the Cheetahs the lead again, and Boshoff replied with a penalty of his own to reduce the deficit to a single point. The visitors hit back through a Boom Prinsloo (flank) try. With Marais missing the conversion and Boshoff getting in his stride with another penalty, the Cheetahs went into halftime leading 16-13.
After the restart it was the Lions who scored first in a move initiated by scrumhalf Ross Cronje and rounded off by lock Lourens Erasmus under the posts.
The Cheetahs struck back immediately with a try through replacement forward Gerhard Olivier. They then scored a second try when scrumhalf Shaun Venter fed Marais, who slipped a tackle and scored close to the poles. He converted himself to give the Cheetahs an eight-point lead.
Boshoff slotted his third penalty after the Cheetahs scrum once again collapsed under the pressure from the dominant Lions front row. The Cheetahs suffered a setback when Prinsloo was shown a yellow card for not releasing the player over the goal line. Such was the pressure on the Cheetahs scrum that referee Jaco van Heerden awarded the Lions a penalty try, which Boshoff converted.
The Cheetahs refused to lay down and a well-timed pass to replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn resulted in a try to the right of the uprights. But the hosts were back on the attack straight from the restart and Kriel dashed over for his second try down as he fended off three defenders.
Worse was to come for the visitors as the referee awarded a plethora of penalties to the home side and then brought out another yellow card, this time to replacement front ranker Maks van Dyk for collapsing the scrum. Boshoff added two penalties to kill off any possible fightback and send the undefeated Lions into a home final.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Jaco Kriel (2), Lourens Erasmus, Penalty Try; Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (4); Penalties: Boshoff (5).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Francois Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Gerhard Olivier, Neil Marais, Sias Ebersohn; Conversion: Marais; Penalties: Marais (2).
The first half proved to be a battle of the kickers as the Blue Bulls’ flyhalf, Tian Schoeman, and his opposite number, Robert du Preez, traded three penalties each.
Du Preez kicked one of those penalties after Blue Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman was yellow carded for a high tackle on Western Province fullback Cheslin Kolbe in the 22nd minute. WP used their one-man advantage to try and find a gap in the Blue Bulls’ defensive wall. They opted to kick several penalties to touch but had to settle for a solitary penalty goal through Du Preez.
The Blue Bulls’ defence found itself under immense pressure as Western Province continued to hunt for the elusive try. Schoeman drew first blood ten minutes into the second half as he sliced the uprights to give the home side a slender three-point lead. A stolen ball at a ruck allowed WP to spread the ball wide where centre Johnny Kotze kicked past the encroaching blue wall. Kolbe chased the grubber to score in the corner and Du Preez made easy work of the difficult conversion.
The diminutive Kolbe showed his masterclass again in the 70th minute when he threw a quick lineout deep in the Blue Bulls’ half. The ball was passed through the hands quickly to allow replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to score. Replacement flyhalf Kurt Coleman added the extras.
The Blue Bulls then threw everything into the attack but Western Province’s rigid defence and superior experience steered them to a 23-18 victory.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Penalties: Tian Schoeman (6).
DHL Western Province – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Jano Vermaak; Conversion: Robert du Preez, Kurt Coleman; Penalties: Du Preez (3).