The Toyota Cheetahs produced one of their best performances of the season to clinch top spot in the Currie Cup Premier Division standings, while the Airlink Pumas and Vodacom Bulls secured semi-final places on a dramatic final weekend of the league phase, and the Valke and SWD Eagles set to contest the final of the Mzansi Challenge.
The Premier Division playoff line-up has been decided, with the Toyota Cheetahs set to host the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein, and the Cell C Sharks scheduled to battle the Airlink Pumas in Durban. Both matches are scheduled for Saturday, with the kick-off times to be confirmed.
Despite a valiant last-ditch effort on the final weekend of the regular season, the Fidelity ADT Lions, Windhoek Draught Griquas and DHL Western Province have failed to qualify for the next round.
The defending champions showed their quality when they overcame a strong Windhoek Draught Griquas side in Kimberley on Friday afternoon. With that win, the Airlink Pumas secured a third-place finish in the standings.
Meanwhile, in the game staged in Welkom at the same time, the Fidelity ADT Lions delivered a potentially campaign-saving performance. The 39-22 bonus-point victory against the NovaVit Griffons temporarily propelled them up to fourth place in the standings. Had the Vodacom Bulls failed to accumulate any log points in Pretoria on Saturday, and had DHL WP lost in Cape Town, the Fidelity ADT Lions may well have qualified for the final four.
The Vodacom Bulls appeared to be on course for a big win at Loftus Versfeld, before the Toyota Cheetahs fought back to clinch a 31-27 bonus-point victory. While the hosts let the result slip, they did claim bonus points for scoring four tries and losing by seven or fewer points.
These two bonus points allowed Jake White’s team to move ahead of the Fidelity ADT Lions in the standings, and took them six points clear of DHL WP, ending the Capetonians’ hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Nevertheless, the last game of the round was an important one for the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs in the context of the race for first place.
While the Free Staters moved to the top of the log with their win over the Vodacom Bulls, their chances of clinching first position – and hosting a potential final – hinged on DHL WP stopping a rampant Cell C Sharks side that had won seven matches in a row. In the end, the Capetonians did the Free Staters a massive favour when they beat the visitors from Durban by 44-5.
Meanwhile, the Mzansi Challenge semi-finals were staged on Saturday afternoon. SWD Eagles beat the Boland Cavaliers 38-27 in in George, and up in Kempton Park, the Valke romped to a 57-30 win over the Leopards. The Mzansi Challenge final is also scheduled to take place on Saturday.
Airlink Pumas power into semi-finals
The Airlink Pumas fired late to down Windhoek Draught Griquas 27-17 in Kimberley on Friday and book their place in the playoffs, repeating their 2022 Currie Cup final victory in the Northern Cape.
The hosts scored the first try through flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela, and then conceded one shortly before half-time. Tinus de Beer added the extras to level the scores as the teams headed to the sheds.
The second stanza followed a similar pattern, as Windhoek Draught Griquas were the first to strike, with flanker Thabo Ndimande crossing the line. Six minutes later, the defending champs responded via Francois Kleinhans, and De Beer converted.
De Beer slotted a penalty goal in the 66th minute to give his side the lead for the first time in the game. Replacement Wian van Niekerk’s try at the death sealed an important win for the visitors.
Windhoek Draught Griquas 17 (10) – Tries: Thabo Ndimande, Lubabalo Dobela. Conversions: George Whitehead (2). Penalty goal: Whitehead.
Airlink Pumas 27 (10) – Tries: Deon Slabbert, Francois Kleinhans, Wian van Niekerk. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (3). Penalty goals: De Beer (2).
Fidelity ADT Lions roar in Welkom, but fall short of playoffs
The Fidelity ADT Lions claimed a 39-22 bonus-point win against the NovaVit Griffons in Welkom on Friday, but failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
The men from Johannesburg came into this fixture needing a big win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They made a series of early statements, and by half-time they had secured the four-try bonus-point, and raced into a 26-7 lead.
The loss of Ruben Schoeman to a yellow card towards the end of the first half, however, stalled their momentum. The NovaVit Griffons hit back early in the second stanza, scoring two tries.
Jaywinn Juries slotted a penalty goal in the 57th minute to reduce the deficit to seven points. Sanele Nohamba responded for the visitors, though, kicking a three-pointer to restore the 10-point buffer.
The Fidelity ADT Lions scored a converted try at the death to secure a win and improve their overall points-difference. Unfortunately, the big victory in Welkom wasn’t enough to earn the side a spot in the playoffs.
NovaVit Griffons 22 (7) – Tries: Rian Olivier, Carel-Jan Coetzee, HP van Schoor. Conversions: Jaywinn Juries (2). Penalty goal: Juries.
Fidelity ADT Lions 39 (26) – Tries: JC Pretorius, Ruben Schoeman, Boldwin Hansen, Jaco Visagie, Raynard Roets. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (3). Penalty goals: Nohamba (2).
Toyota Cheetahs hit back after Vodacom Bulls see red
The Toyota Cheetahs fought back from 19-0 down to clinch a 31-27 bonus-point victory against a 14-man Vodacom Bulls side in Pretoria on Saturday.
Jake White’s charges came into this fixture needing a couple of log points to qualify for the semi-finals. They raced to a 19-0 lead in 13 minutes, and looked to be on course for a comfortable bonus-point victory.
The Free Staters fired back with two converted tries before half-time. The hosts suffered a massive setback after No 8 Elrigh Louw was shown a red card following a reckless charge into a ruck in the 38th minute.
Former Bok flyhalf Morné Steyn – who together with Bismarck du Plessis was playing in his final game at Loftus Versfeld – slotted a penalty goal to extend his team’s lead to 22-14 early in the second half, but opposite number Siya Masuku clawed his side back into the contest when he ghosted through a gap and scored.
Scrumhalf Rewan Kruger crossed the line in the 48th minute to earn his team the four-try bonus – and the lead. Masuku goaled a penalty in the 72nd minute to extend the visitors lead by four points.
The flyhalf was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle shortly after that. The Toyota Cheetahs managed to withstand a late assault on their line and secure an important win. The Vodacom Bulls finished the game with two bonus points, though, and managed to secure a spot in the semi-finals.
Vodacom Bulls 27 (19)
Tries: Cornal Hendricks (2), Harold Vorster, Embrose Papier
Conversions: Morné Steyn (2)
Penalty goal: Steyn
Toyota Cheetahs 31 (14)
Tries: David Brits, Daniel Kasende, Siya Masuku, Rewan Kruger
Conversions: Masuku (4)
Penalty goal: Masuku
Impressive DHL WP deny Cell C Sharks top spot
DHL Western Province hammered the Cell C Sharks 44-5 in Cape Town on Saturday to prevent the KwaZulu-Natalians from finishing first in the Currie Cup standings.
The Cell C Sharks went into this clash needing a victory to move ahead of the Toyota Cheetahs on the log and secure top spot, but DHP WP – playing for pride in front of their home fans – had other ideas.
The hosts scored three tries in the first half, while flyhalf Jurie Matthee kicked two penalty goals and two conversions. DHL WP led 25-0 at the break.
Hacjivah Dayimani scored his second try shortly after half-time, while Ruben van Heerden and Jarrod Taylor also crossed the line to secure the win.
Marnus Potgieter dotted down for the Cell C Sharks after the final hooter to ensure that the visitors finished the contest with some points. The result ended the KwaZulu-Natalians’ seven-game winning streak.
DHL 44 (25) – Tries: Ben-Jason Dixon, Marcel Theunissen, Hacjivah Dayimani (2), Ruben van Heerden, Jarrod Taylor. Conversions: Jurie Matthee (4). Penalty goals: Matthee (2).
Cell C Sharks 5 (0) – Try: Marnus Potgieter.