DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls this past weekend reaffirmed their status as the top teams in the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championships by booking their places in the final in Cape Town on Saturday.
Both teams secured home semifinals after impressive seasons, and made the most of this advantage to book their final berths.
DHL Western Province pipped the determined MTN Golden Lions 44-41 in an epic semifinal at DHL Newlands on Saturday, which went into extra time, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls produced a fine performance to beat The Sharks 36-13 at Loftus Versfeld.
The teams will meet in the final at DHL Newlands on Saturday in what will serve as the main curtain raiser to the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division final.
In the first Under-21 promotion-relegation clash in East London Border pipped the EP Kings 23-21 thanks to a penalty goal in extra time.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 36 (17) The Sharks 13 (13)
In Pretoria, four penalty goals by Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard and try by fullback Jacques Rossouw in the 24th minute pushed the hosts onto the front foot in their U21 semifinal against the Sharks.
Sharks flyhalf Duncan Campbell slotted two penalty goals to put his team on the scoreboard. But a late first-half try by replacement looseforward Dylan Nel reduced the gap between the teams to only four points (17-13 to the hosts) and set the scene for an exciting second half.
The home team, however, dominated proceedings after the break and backed up their solid attack up with a fine defensive effort, which left the Sharks scoreless in the second half.
Springbok centre Jan Serfontein opened up the scoring for the visitors one minute into the half as he scored the team’s second try, which bolstered their confidence and the score.
Unfortunately for the visitors they continued to concede penalties, which allowed Pollard to increase his tally of penalty kicks to seven, while captain Wiaan Liebenberg sealed the victory with his team’s third try in the 65th minute.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 36 (17) – Tries: Jacques Rossouw, Jan Serfontein, Wiaan Liebenberg. Penalties: Handré Pollard (7).
The Sharks 13 (13) – Try: Dylan Nel. Conversion: Duncan Campbell. Penalties: Campbell (2).
DHL Western Province 44 (19) MTN Golden Lions 41 (20)
In Cape Town, DHL Western Province and the MTN Golden Lions pushed themselves to the limit for a place in the final, with the match being forced into 20 minutes of extra time after the teams finished the regular 80 minutes level at 34-34.
After a good start, the Lions edged their way into a 20-19 lead at the break, but second-half tries by Western Province flyhalf Tim Swiel and replacement looseforward Eital Bredenkamp, as well as a penalty goal by Swiel handed the Cape side an encouraging 34-20 lead with 19 minutes to go.
The Golden Lions, however, staged a strong fight back, with Mark Pretorius and Ruaan Lerm crossing the tryline late in the match. Marais Schmidt converted both tries to force the match into extra time.
WP’s Bredenkamp made a breakthrough in the 90th minute, as he touched down for his second try after a tight opening spell, and Swiel added his second penalty of the match to increase their score to 44 points.
The Lions, however, had the last say with Peter-John Walters scoring the team’s fifth try on the stroke of full-time, but ultimately Swiel’s extra-time penalty goal proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. This earned the hosts a home final against the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
DHL Western Province 44 (19) – Tries: Craig Barry, Devon Williams, Eital Bredenkamp (2), Michael Willemse, Tim Swiel. Conversions: Swiel (4). Penalties: Swiel (2).
MTN Golden Lions 41 (20) – Tries: Damian Engledoe, Mark Pretorius, Peter-John Walters (2), Ruaan Lerm. Conversions: Marais Schmidt (5). Penalties: Schmidt (2).