It took 100 minutes of high drama at DHL Newlands, but DHL Western Province ultimately clinched home-ground advantage and will host the Cell C Sharks in the Currie Cup Final in Cape Town next weekend after the coastal sides beat their Gauteng rivals in two epic semi-finals on Saturday.
The final, which will kick off at 16h00 next Saturday, will be a repeat of last year’s title decider in the Currie Cup Premier Division – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services and Nashua – and DHL WP will have the opportunity to defend their crown in front of their home fans. They won the prestigious gold cup last year by beating the Cell C Sharks by 33-21.
However, it took a sublime performance by DHL Western Province winger SP Marais, who scored 30 points as he steered the defending champions to a 35-32 victory in a titanic 100-minute thriller against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town.
Marais scored a try, seven penalty goals and two conversions in a gripping encounter in which the sides were level at 32-32 after 80 minutes. The Vodacom Blue Bulls scored four tries to two by the home side, but their ill-discipline and struggle to stand their ground in the scrums came at a high price, as Marais made easy work of the penalty goals.
That said, the match could have swayed either way as a successful conversion by Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Manie Libbok – who was a key figure for his team – after a Dylan Sage try in injury time would have booked the Pretorians a place in the final against the Cell C Sharks in Durban.
The wayward attempt, however, pushed the match into extra time, and Marais slotted over his seventh penalty goal of the match to push his side ahead by 35-32, after missing an earlier shot at goal.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls were also awarded a penalty in extra time, but they opted to kick for touch with five minutes to play, rather than going for the posts. They failed to add to their score before the siren sounded.
Earlier on Saturday, the Cell C Sharks remained composed under immense pressure against the Xerox Golden Lions in an exciting match in Durban for a 33-24 victory.
The clash in Durban was gripping as the Xerox Golden Lions fought their way back from 18-3 down at halftime to work their way within two points of the hosts on the scoreboard with 11 minutes to play, before Dan du Preez barged over for his second try, which dashed the Gautengers’ hopes of a victory.
Three braces were scored in the match, and all by Springboks, with Du Preez and Sbu Nkosi accounting for the Cell C Sharks’ four tries, while Courtnall Skosan scored two of the Xerox Golden Lions’ three tries.
The Cell C Sharks took a cautious approach in the first half by taking the points on offer at crucial times, which saw Robert du Preez kick two penalty goals, to add to tries by his younger brother and Nkosi, while they starved the visitors of possession, which limited them to a penalty goal for their efforts.
Nkosi crashed over for the second time from the restart, but a three back-to-back tries by the Xerox Golden Lions skipper, Nic Groom, and two by Skosan forced them back into the match. The hosts, however, remained calm and touched down for the fourth time with five minutes left on the clock to book their place in the final.
Currie Cup semi-final results and scorers:
DHL Western Province – Tries: SP Marais, Paul de Wet. Conversions: SP Marais (2). Penalty Goals: SP Marais (7).
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Steenkamp, Manie Libbok, Duncan Matthews, Dylan Sage. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty Goals: Manie Libbok (2).
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Dan du Preez (2), Sbu Nkosi (2). Conversions: Robert Du Preez (2). Penalty Goals: Robert du Preez (3).
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Nic Groom, Courtnall Skosan (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty Goal: Elton Jantjies.