Currie Cup: Battle is on for last semi spots

2008-09-28 00:00

Johannesburg — Three teams will fight it out for the two remaining Currie Cup semi-final places in next weekend’s final round of matches following the latest drama-filled fixtures.

One of the Free State Cheetahs, the Lions and Western Province will miss out in the race to join the log-topping Sharks and Blue Bulls in the play-offs in a fortnight’s time.

The Free State Cheetahs need a bonus point win over the Boland Cavaliers in Bloemfontein to be sure of their place. It will then be left to WP and the Lions to scrap it out at Newlands in Cape Town for the final place.

The Lions will go through if they take a bonus point or lose by 18 points or fewer.

WP will join the last four if they score four tries in winning by 19 points or more and deny the Lions a bonus point.

The Sharks and the Blue Bulls can enjoy the action after they both ensured that they will host Currie Cup semi-finals.

The Sharks won the “match of the weekend” against the Lions by 34-20, but the most talked-about result saw Western Province fail to pick up a bonus point in their 23-7 win over neighbours, the Boland Kavaliers.

The rampant Bulls, meanwhile, beat Griquas 58-22 in Kimberley on Friday afternoon, while the Free State Cheetahs did their semi-final hopes no harm with a crushing 78-7 win over the Valke at Bosman Stadium on Friday evening.

Those results mean WP are now in fifth place on the Currie Cup log, with the Lions and the Cheetahs in front of them in third and fourth place respectively.

While WP will be rueing their inability to claim that all-important four-try bonus point — they scored just three tries against Boland — the Lions missed out on a crucial bonus point themselves against the Sharks. The Lions, who led 8-3 at half-time, could have secured a semi-final place had they claimed just that one losing bonus point.

Two blunders by Lions flyhalf Earl Rose let the Sharks in for two tries at a crucial stage in the match.

Rose set up two of the Sharks tries via a chip kick into the hands of Sharks flank Jean Deysel and another into the hands of JP Pietersen, who did well to kick ahead for an easy score.

Lions head coach Eugene Eloff was understandably a disappointed man at Ellis Park on Saturday, saying at full time: “The Sharks capitalised on our mistakes. We made three crucial mistakes: 21 points. That was the difference between winning and losing.”

Despite their bright start, the Lions had no reply to the Sharks’ superior second-half display, with John Plumtree’s team running in four tries — two to World Cup-winning wing JP Pietersen — as they recorded their 11th victory of the Currie Cup season.

Powerhouse flank Deysel, another one of the Sharks’ try-scorers on the day, said the win was not easy.

“We were playing to secure top spot, the Lions were playing for a semi-final place — our mindset before the match was all about the job at hand.”

Despite being down at half-time, Deysel — August’s Currie Cup Player of the Month — revealed that there was no sign of panic in the Sharks dressing-room.

“We had been making some good runs in the first half, but our finishing let us down, so we simply spoke about doing the basics right in the second half,” he said.

“But it does help that our team spirit is so good, as we always believed and knew we could win the match.”

Western Province made it four out of four away wins on the weekend in their 23-7 win over Boland, but the Cape Town-based team were unable to score that magical fourth bonus point-clinching try.

Two tries by Sireli Naqelevuki and one from number eight Luke Watson handed WP their seventh win of the season, but it seems that WP’s poor away form, which saw them lose to the Valke and the Griquas on successive weekends in July, has come back to haunt them in the run-in to the semi-finals.

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