Unbeaten log leaders, the Leopards, and SWD Eagles will play each other in the Absa Currie Cup First Division final on Thursday in Potchefstroom after both teams won their Semi-finals over the weekend.
Centre Adriaan Engelbrecht kicked 19 points as the Leopards overcame a strong second-half performance from the Hino Valke to complete a 29-17 (half-time 17-7) victory at Profërt Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday in Welkom, the SWD Eagles continued their resurgence with a deserving 47-40 (halftime 28-25) away victory over the Down Touch Griffons at the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium.
Fullback Leighton Eksteen contributed 27 points with a try, three conversions and six penalties as the Eagles fullback consolidated his position as the season’s second highest point scorer.
The Eagles will now need to find a way to do something that no other team has managed to do in 11 attempts this season, and that is to beat the prolific Leopards.
Leopards (17) 29 Hino Valke (7) 17
In Potchefstroom, inside centre Engelbrecht succeeded with two conversions and five penalties as the Leopards tasted victory despite being outscored by three tries to two against the Valke.
The win means that the Leopards remain unbeaten in the competition this year after they went through the round-robin stage unbeaten and they also avenged their loss to the Valke at the same stage last season.
The Valke, despite being 10 points down at half-time, fought back well to narrow the gap to just two points after 58 minutes. However, the Leopards were not to be denied and they secured their win after Engelbrecht slotted his fifth penalty and an intercept try from fullback Rhyno Smith.
The hosts had cruised to a nine-point lead after 14 minutes thanks to three Engelbrecht penalties but the Valke struck back with their first try through left wing Etienne Taljaard on the half hour. The home team finished the first stanza in control as hooker Cage van der Westhuyzen crashed over for a converted try four minutes later before Engelbrecht succeeded with his fourth before the break.
It was the Valke who started the second half strongly and they soon cut the deficit to two points thanks to two unconverted tries from outside centre Grand Janke and Johan Pretorius. However, the Leopards were not going to be denied by the Valke for the second year in a row and they saw off a late Valke challenge with a late flurry of points.
Leopards – Try: Cage van der Westhuyzen, Rhyno Smith; Conversions: Adriaan Engelbrecht (2); Penalties: Engelbrecht (5).
Hino Valke – Tries: Ettienne Taljaard, Grand Janke, Johan Pretorius; Conversion: Juan Kotze.
Down Touch Griffons (25) 40 SWD Eagles (28) 47
The Eagles ran rampant in the first six minutes, opening up a 12-0 lead thanks to tries by Eksteen and flanker Wayne Khan. Both sides traded a few penalties before the Griffons landed their first try through flanker Martin Sithole, which right wing Nico Scheepers converted.
The visitors extended their lead by seven points when winger Carlo Radebe scored in the corner but the Griffons hit back immediately to level the scores when fullback Wayne Pienaar dotted down. Six minutes later, flyhalf Martin du Toit dashed over the line for the Eagles’ fourth try of the match as the first half continued to be a ping-pong affair.
Prop Daniel van der Merwe crashed his way over the three minutes later for an unconverted try to level the scores yet again, but Eksteen landed a penalty on the stroke of halftime with the visitors holding a slender three-point advantage.
The Griffons scored first after the break through flyhalf Franna du Toit as the hosts grabbed the lead for the first time. Replacement loose forward Andisa Ntsila grabbed his try shortly before the midway mark of the second half, which Eksteen converted after slotting a penalty earlier to give the visitors a handy eight-point lead.
Scheepers reduced the deficit to five points before Eksteen landed three penalties to put the game beyond doubt with a 14-point lead and only five minutes left. The hosts managed a consolation try through substitute scrumhalf Wilmar Abrahams.
Down Touch Griffons – Tries: Daniel van der Merwe, Franna du Toit, Martin Sithole, Willmar Groenewald, Willmar Groenewald; Conversions: Nico Scheepers (3); Penalties: Scheepers (3).
SWD Eagles – Tries: Andisa Ntsila, Carlo Radebe, Leighton Eksteen, Martin du Toit, Wayne Khan; Conversions: Eksteen (2); Penalties: Eksteen (6).