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The Currie Cup semi-finals have begun to take shape following a number of telling results this weekend. In the Currie Cup Premier Division with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs became the first team to cement their semi-final place, while the Hino Valke claimed the last semi-final berth in the First Division.

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs opened up the weekend’s action last Thursday with a 37-29 victory against the Xerox Golden Lions in Bloemfontein, which stretched their unbeaten run to six matches – a feat they last achieved in the 2009 season – to hold onto the No 1 spot on the log table and secure a semi-final berth.

The Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Griquas remained in positions two to four on the log table respectively, but the Kimberley side’s defeat against the Vodacom Blue Bulls forced them six points back.In the Currie Cup First Division, SWD went down 31-24 against Border in East Londonon Friday, which paved the way for the Hino Valke to claim the last semi-final spot with a victory against the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias. And they did just that, coming out 50-20 victors in Windhoek on Saturday.

The Leopards will meet the Hino Valke in Potchefstroom and Border will go up against the Down Touch Griffons in East London the semi-finals next weekend.

Currie Cup Premier Division

The first half between DHL Western Province and the Steval Pumas in Cape Town was tight with penalties disrupting the teams from gaining momentum in the opening exchanges, in particular. The visitors opened up the scoring with a drop goal and the hosts responded with a penalty late in the first quarter. DHL Western Province wing Werner Kok scored the first try of the match minutes later and the only other points scored in the half was a penalty goal by the Steval Pumas, which saw them trail 10-6.

Both teams received yellow cards in the second half, but despite this, the Capetonians scored their second try compliments of centre Huw Jones. The Nelspruit team responded with their first try, but two tries in two minutes by the home team’s Leolin Zas and Jan de Klerk handed them a solid lead and ensured that they secured the bonus point try. The Steval Pumas fought back with intent in the dying minutes and earned two tries for their efforts, but this was too little too late and they went down 31-23.

The Cell C Sharks adapted well to torrid weather conditions and a soaked field at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban to defeat the EP Kings 53-0 and maintain their second-place standing on the log table. The forwards laid a solid foundation up-front, which allowed the team to stamp their authority, and the results showed as the team secured their third try by the 18th minute. They added the bonus-point try in the 31st minute for a 24-0 halftime lead.

The second half was equally one-sided as the hosts continued to create chances and finished them, which saw them add five tries and to take their score to 53 points. One of the highlights for South African rugby supporters was the return of Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie in the 46th from a three-month layoff due to concussion.

In Pretoria, the Vodacom Blue Bulls recovered from a slow start against Griquas to outscore their opponents seven tries to two for a bonus-point 57-20 victory. Griquas struck first with a stunning long-range try by Alshaun Bock and a penalty goal, but the hosts hit back with three back-to-back tries before the sides exchanged penalty goals, which pushed the Vodacom Blue Bulls 24-13 ahead at the break.

Missed tackles by Griquas continued to cost them in the second half, as the home team riot on attack thanks to their skilful play, effective support play, and strong scrummaging. This earned them four more tries, while Griquas could only add one with their limited possession.

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs, meanwhile, registered their sixth victory thanks to a strong second-half fightback against defending champions, the Xerox Golden Lions, which saw them emerge 37-29 victors. Four early penalty goals by the Johannesburg side to only one by the Free Staters proved to be the difference on the scoreboard in the first half as both teams scored two tries and received yellow cards. This pushed the Xerox Golden Lions 26-15 ahead.

However, a second yellow card by the Gauteng outfit shortly after play resumed paved the way for the Bloemfontein side to add two more tries to take the lead. The teams exchanged penalty goals as the match progressed, but a fifth try on the stroke of fulltime for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs sealed the victory for them. Their record winning run in the Currie Cup is 11 matches, which they set in 2007.

Currie Cup First Division

The Hino Valke were in fine form in their clash against the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias in Windhoek as they created opportunities regularly and converted them for a rewarding 50-20 victory and a semi-final berth. The team entered the clash needing only a victory to advance to the semi-final, and they set a solid foundation in the first half to achieve this with three tries, while limiting the hosts two penalties for a 18-6 lead.

The Hino Valke continued to make their presence felt on attack after the break and added five tries, which earned Charles Mayeza, Etienne Taljaard and Johan Pretorius each a brace. In turn Windhoek Draught Welwitschias scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies added two converted tries to score all 20 points for his team. The defeat marked the end of the home team’s 2016 Currie Cup campaign.

SWD’s hopes of securing a semi-final berth were dashed on Friday as they went down 31-24 against the in-form Border in East London after leading 18-17 at the break. The win marked Border’s fourth in a row. The visitors came out firing and scored the first of three first-half tries in the opening minute, while Border touched down only twice to add to a penalty goal by each side. Three missed conversions by SWD, however, allowed Border to trail 18-17 at the break.

The second half was tense as both teams gave everything on attack and defence, but two penalty goals by SWD fullback Thomas Kean kept them in the lead. Border’s forwards, however, set up two tries in the last 10 minutes to take a 31-24 lead, while the team defended like demons until the final whistle to shut out SWD’s determined efforts to secure a possible victory.

Currie Cup Premier Division results and scorers:

DHL Western Province 31 (10) Steval Pumas 23 (6)

DHL Western Province – Tries: Huw Jones, Jan de Klerk, Leolin Zas, Werner Kok. Conversions: Robert du Preez (4). Penalty Goal: Robert du Preez.

Steval Pumas – Tries: JP Lewis, Renaldo Bothma, Tyler Fisher. Conversion: Devon Williams. Penalty Goal: Francois Brummer. Drop Goal: Francois Brummer.

Cell C Sharks 53 (24) EP Kings 0 (0)

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Etienne Oosthuizen, Francois Kleinhans, Inny Radebe, Jean-Luc du Preez, Khaya Majola, Michael Claassens, Wandile Mjekevu. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Pat Lambie (2).

Vodacom Blue Bulls 57 (24) Griquas 20 (13)

Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Penalty Try, Bjorn Basson, Jamba Ulengo, Nic de Jager, Piet van Zyl (2), RG Snyman, Ulrich Beyers. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (7). Penalty Goal: Tian Schoeman.

Griquas – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Wandile Putuma. Conversions: Clinton Swart (2). Penalty Goals: Clinton Swart (2).

Toyota Free State Cheetahs 37 (15) Xerox Golden Lions 29 (26)

Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Reniel Hugo, Ryno Benjamin, Shaun Venter, Tian Meyer. Conversions: Niel Marais (3). Penalty Goals: Niel Marais (2).

Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Robbie Coetzee, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Jako van der Walt (2). Penalty Goals: Andries Coetzee, Jako van der Walt (4).

Currie Cup First Division results and scorers:

Border 31 (17) SWD 24 (18)

Border – Tries: Athenkosi Khethani, Masixole Banda, Mbeko Kota, Onke Dubase. Conversions: Masixole Banda (4). Penalty Goal: Masixole Banda.

SWD – Tries: Kurt Haupt (2), Luzuko Vulindlu. Penalty Goals: Thomas Kean (3).

Windhoek Draught Welwitschias 20 (6) Hino Valke 50 (19)

Windhoek Draught Welwitschias – Tries: Eugene Jantjies (2). Conversions: Eugene Jantjies (2). Penalty Goals: Eugene Jantjies (2).

Hino Valke – Tries: Anrich Richter, Charles Mayeza (2), Etienne Taljaard (2), Johan Pretorius (2), Reg Muller. Conversions: Karlo Aspeling (3), Warren Potgieter (2).

Currie Cup Premier Division log:

Free State Cheetahs 6 6 0 0 251 145 106 32 13 0 5 29
Sharks 7 5 2 0 256 145 111 31 18 1 4 25
Blue Bulls 7 5 2 0 262 181 81 32 22 1 4 25
Griquas 6 4 2 0 208 208 0 25 26 0 3 19
Western Province 6 3 3 0 184 191 -7 26 21 1 5 18
Golden Lions 6 3 3 0 256 168 88 35 21 1 4 17
Boland 6 2 4 0 123 223 -100 16 31 0 1 9
Pumas 6 0 6 0 130 239 -109 17 32 2 3 5
Eastern Province 6 0 6 0 100 270 -170 12 42 0 1 1

Currie Cup First Division log:

Leopards 5 5 0 0 214 149 65 31 23 0 5 25
Border 5 4 1 0 211 110 101 31 15 1 5 22
Griffons 5 3 2 0 224 163 61 29 23 0 3 15
Valke 5 2 3 0 159 198 -39 26 27 0 4 12
SWD 5 1 4 0 168 170 -2 23 22 3 3 10
Welwitschias 5 0 5 0 117 303 -186 15 45 0 2 2
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