Cheetahs and Lions earn dramatic home Currie Cup semis
Griquas slip to third and the Sharks claim fourth place as Western Province and the Blue Bulls miss out
The Free State Cheetahs and Golden Lions will host Currie Cup semifinals after a dramatic final weekend of pool action in which Griquas slipped to third and the Sharks took fourth place.
Western Province and the Blue Bulls missed out on the semifinals after lacklustre domestic seasons‚ which will set off alarm bells before 2020’s Super Rugby campaigns.
WP failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after relinquishing a 21-point lead against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday. It was the most dramatic collapse of the season.
Trailing 26-12 at halftime‚ the Cheetahs were further rocked when Bok hooker Scarra Ntubeni scored WP’s fourth try shortly after the break. It appeared the contest was over.
Listen to the latest episode of the SportsLIVE PODCAST
MB Lusaseni exclusive Part 2: "Straueli told me to go home & forget about rugby."
But the Cheetahs‚ spearheaded by front rowers Joseph Dweba and Ox Nche‚ who carried with power and precision‚ rallied with veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar pulling the strings with his pack on the front foot. It was one of most remarkable comebacks in recent memory as the Cheetahs scored a 38-33 win and secured a home semifinal.
WP ended the season fifth and missed out on the playoffs to add more misery to the struggling union.
Griquas’ fairytale suffered a setback when they lost a thrilling contest 27-26 against the Lions in Kimberley that cost them a home semifinal.
Trailing 19-0 after 37 minutes following three Lions tries‚ Griquas showed the composure and skill that has made them serious title contenders by scoring 21 unanswered points between the 40th and 62nd minutes.
A Shaun Reynolds penalty five minutes from time gave the Lions victory and set up a return match in this week’s semifinals. This time‚ though‚ the Lions will have home-ground advantage.
The Sharks were the final team to secure a place in the semis thanks to a 48-40 win over the Bulls at Loftus.
In an entertaining match, the teams each scored six tries.
A red card for Bulls centre Johnny Kotze‚ three minutes before halftime, was a fatal blow for the home team as they missed the semis for the first time since 2013.
In next week’s semi-final in Bloemfontein, the Sharks will have to tighten their defence against a Cheetahs team that knows its way to the tryline.
• Golden Lions vs Griquas at Ellis Park (3pm)
• Free State Cheetahs vs Sharks at Free State Stadium (5.15pm)