Leading Currie Cup winners have both won only two from six

Leading Currie Cup winners have both won only two from six

It is probably a first that the two most prolific winners of the Curie Cup, Western Province and the Blue Bulls, are not only out of the race for Currie Cup title honours this year but could between them win only four of their 12 matches played – two apiece – of the 12 matches played.

WP, with a total of 34 Currie Cup titles (four shared), are well ahead as champions of South Africa’s premier rugby competition, but are second to the former Northern Transvaal, today’s Blue Bulls, since the latter first started playing as an independent union in 1938. By then WP already had 16 titles (two shared with Border) to their name.

The Blue Bulls have won 23 titles (four shared) since their win in their first Currie Cup competition in 1939 when they beat WP in the final in Pretoria, with the Cape side boasting 18 titles (two shared with Northern Transvaal) since that first meeting when the Light Blues started competing.

However, Griquas, the only side besides Western Province to win the Currie Cup until Transvaal won the title in 1922, are again in the race with their first semi-final appearance since 1998 – and so are the Golden Lions, who sneaked in with a 27-26 win in Kimberley on Saturday to bring despair to Griquas who had been the pace-setters in this year’s competition and seemed good for a home semi-final.

These two teams will now meet again, this time in the semi-final at Ellis Park, on Saturday (15:00) followed by the second semi-final, also a rematch of the past weekend’s last round, between the Free State Cheetahs who won their first Currie Cup in 1976, and the Sharks, who (as Natal) were first crowned champions after they beat Northern Transvaal at Loftus in 1990.

This match will again be played in Bloemfontein.

Griquas pipped by the Golden Lions

SA Rugby Communications report that the Golden Lions snapped up the first home semi-final in the Currie Cup Premier Division thanks to a nail-biting 27-26 victory against Griquas in Kimberley, and the Free State Cheetahs 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’ favourable 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, meanwhile, 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 halftime 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. Click here for the match report.

Gritty Cheetahs fight back for win

In Bloemfontein, the Free State Cheetahs showed true grit against Western Province to overturn a 26-12 halftime deficit for a 38-33 bonus-point victory and the top spot on the standings.

The Free Staters entered the match knowing 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 a times.

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. Get all the action here.

14-man Blue Bulls lose to Sharks

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. A full match report with scorers can be found here.

Issued by SA Rugby Communications