The 2013 ABSA Currie Cup round robin phase ended in fine style this weekend, even if the results didn’t go exactly the way the Sharks would have wanted. Let’s recap and then have a look at the confirmed semi-final line-ups.
The opening game, between the Lions and Griquas, produced pretty much what we expected. The Lions duly bagged the five points that they needed to ensure the best possible finish for themselves, but were always going to be at the mercy of whatever the Cheetahs managed to produce in the game to follow. It wasn’t a great game, with the undisciplined Lions conceding 7 kickable penalties to Gouws Prinsloo, which saw Griquas finish just seven points behind (28-35) despite being outscored by four tries to one. Let’s not forget that this was a second-string Griquas team, against the finest the Lions could muster. At Ellis Park. Well….
Next up, the Cheetahs proved far too strong for a Blue Bulls team that has looked out of idea all season. Needing only to draw level with the Lions on log points to proceed ahead of them (more about that later), the 22-7 win (without bonus point) that the Cheetahs picked up proved sufficient to see them safely through and send the Bulls crashing out of the semi-final draw. A last-minute SARU ruling (or was that a last-minute clarification to an existing one?) decreed that in the case of a tie in log points, the first deciding factor would be points difference between the two teams in question, rather than points difference overall. Since the Cheetahs had managed to win both fixtures against the Lions, it thus would not have been possible for the Lions to overtake the Cheetahs at all this week, unless the Cheetahs had lost.
There was, though, much confusion for most of the afternoon, with early logs showing the cheetahs confirmed in fourth and the Lions third, only for that finishing position to be reversed later.
The final game of the round was everything the tournament organisers could have hoped for – a straight shoot-out between first and second on the log. On a day the hosts would best forget as soon as possible, Western Province produced a far more composed performance in the wet to claim a 17-13 away win over the Sharks, thus cementing their position at the summit of the table and giving them the right to host the final – assuming they don’t lose at home next week. Province, though, haven’t lost a game all season and are looking increasingly unlikely to do so now, especially with their last two games at Newlands. They play the first semi-final against the Lions, kicking off in Cape Town at 14h30 on Saturday.
As for the Sharks? Well, it didn’t turn out quite so well for them; they now play the Cheetahs in Durban at 17h00 in the second semi-final and know that a vastly-improved performance will be needed to avoid an upset against their once “bogey team”, who developed an unfortunate habit of knocking the Sharks out of finals in years gone by.Tweet