Currie Cup Premier Division set for thrilling finish

Coach John Dobson barks out instructions during a Western Province training session. Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

The pool stages of the Currie Cup Premier Division will come to a thrilling end next weekend as six of the seven participating teams still have a chance of featuring in the semi-finals after some surprise results this weekend.

The Sharks, who enjoyed a bye, have already secured a home semi-final and they will earn a home final if they progress to the last round, but the venue of the second semi-final and the three sides that will join the KwaZulu-Natalians in the playoff stages will only be determined at the conclusion of the final round-robin match.

The Golden Lions scored three second-half tries against Western Province in Johannesburg on Sunday to fight their way back from a 17-10 halftime deficit for a valuable 29-20 victory. The win catapulted them from the foot of the log into fourth place, which kept them in the race for a playoff spot.

Province delivered a strong first-half showing in the heavy rain, which saw play suspended briefly due to a hail storm, with the side scoring two converted tries and a penalty goal, while the hosts crossed the tryline once to add to their penalty goal. The Golden Lions, however, regained their composure in the second half and applied pressure on the visitors, while they did well to convert their chances into points, resulting in them touching down three times to secure a bonus-point win.

WP remained in second place on the standings despite the defeat, but with the Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and Blue Bulls also within range of securing the remaining home semi-final, the Capetonians will have to topple log-leaders, the Sharks, in Durban next week to achieve that feat.

In Bloemfontein, the Blue Bulls kept alive their semi-final hopes as hat-tricks by centre Burger Odendaal and fullback Warrick Gelant contributed to a fine performance, which earned them a convincing 64-36 victory against theFree State Cheetahs.

The visitors showed their intent in the first half as they ran hard on attack, and this paid off as they secured their bonus point in the 33rd minute, with the side taking a 26-22 halftime lead. They built on this in the second half and increased their try tally to 10, while they limited the hosts to five - three of which were scored by replacement flanker Daniel Maartens.

Griquas, meanwhile, recovered from an 18-point deficit against the Pumas in Nelspruit to win their final match of the season 38-35, with a penalty goal proving to be the difference on the scoreboard. The result saw the Griquas and the Pumas finish the penultimate round at the bottom of the log tied on 26 points.

The match was thoroughly entertaining as the hosts took control in the first half and earned their bonus point by the 26th minute and an encouraging 28-10 halftime lead. The visitors, however, fought back strongly and the rewards followed as they matched the Pumas' five converted tries in the match, which resulted in their early penalty goal giving them the edge on the scoreboard.