The Free State Cheetahs will host the Sharks in Bloemfontein while the Golden Lions meet Griquas in Johannesburg in the Currie Cup semi-finals next weekend after the pool stages came to a dramatic close on Saturday.
The match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg will kick off at 14:00, followed by a 17:00 start at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein.
The Golden Lions secured the first home semi-final in the Currie Cup Premier Division thanks to a nail-biting 27-26 victory against Griquas in Kimberley. Cheetahs meanwhile earned hosting rights for their top-four clash after holding their nerve in a tight encounter against Western Province for a 38-33 win in Bloemfontein.
The Free Staters’ favorable points’ difference over their rivals from Johannesburg saw them finish the pool stages as the top team after they both racked up 22 log points.
The Sharks entered the final pool game against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria knowing that they only needed a bonus point to finish in the top four, and their 48-40 victory in a thrilling clash allowed them to book the last semi-final spot.
A late penalty goal by Golden Lions flyhalf Shaun Reynolds sealed his team a 27-26 bonus-point victory against Griquas – who entered the match with their semi-final place sealed – after both sides scored four tries in an exciting match.
The Gauteng outfit built up an encouraging 19-7 half-time lead, but they had to dig deep in a competitive second half to seal the victory after Griquas secured their bonus-point try and took the lead with 10 minutes to play.
Reynolds’ penalty goal in the 74th minute, however, pushed them into the lead and they managed to hold onto that for the win.
In Bloemfontein, the Free State Cheetahs showed true grit against Western Province to overturn a 26-12 half-time deficit for a 38-33 bonus-point victory and the top spot on the standings.
The Free Staters entered the match aware that while a victory could earn them a home semi-final, a defeat may have seen them drop out of the top four completely, and they did not disappoint despite having to fight with everything they had time.
The Free State Cheetahs found themselves trailing 12-0 early in the second quarter as Western Province took advantage of their ill-discipline, but a second-half hot-streak saw them score four tries to add to their two in the first half, which earned them the win.
And in the final pool match of the season, the Sharks booked the last semi-final berth with a bonus-point 48-40 victory against a gutsy Blue Bulls outfit at Loftus Versfeld in a humdinger of a match.
The defending Currie Cup champions from KwaZulu-Natal entered the match needing only a bonus point to guarantee a place in the top four, and they had it wrapped up early in the second half as they scored their fourth try.
In the end both teams scored six tries, but two penalty goals and an extra conversion by the Sharks and proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
This performance was particularly remarkable for the home side, who were down to 14 men for close to 43 minutes after losing Johnny Kotze to a red card for a dangerous tackle.