Shaun Goosen looks back at what was an incredible weekend of semi-final action across the URC, Gallagher Premiership and Super Rugby.
All SA URC final set for Mother City
Both the Bulls and Stormers came out trumps in their United Rugby Championship semi-finals on the weekend to set up a mouth-watering Grand Final clash in Cape Town this weekend. On Friday in Dublin, the Bulls, written off by all and sundry heading into their last-four clash with all-conquering Leinster, produced arguably the best performance of any team this season to squeak it 27-26. Jake White’s men were at their brutal best and outmuscled the Irish outfit; a side so used to dominating the competition over the past several years.
The men from the Cape meanwhile bagged a late converted try to beat Ulster 17-15 at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and confirm their hosting of the season finale. The Belfast boys looked like they had it in the bag after a solid second-half showing, but Warrick Gelant’s late score, cooly converted by Manie Libbok, means they miss out yet again.
Cheetahs cement top spot on Currie Cup standings
The Free State Cheetahs thumped a second-string Bulls outfit 35-5 in Bloemfontein to finish one point ahead of the Pretoria side in first place on the Currie Cup log. Elsewhere, the Griquas pipped the Pumas 45-44 in Mbombela and Western Province ended the Sharks’ hopes of winning silverware this season following a 28-21 victory in Stellenbosch.
With the playoffs set to kick off this weekend, the Cheetahs will welcome the Pumas to Free State Stadium while the Griquas tackle the Blue Bulls at Loftus.
Top two in England progress to Twickenham
Having finished the regular season first and second respectively, Leicester and Saracens will battle it out for the Gallagher Premiership title at Twickenham after convincing semi-final performances. Saracens hosted defending champions Harlequins at the StoneX in Saturday’s first encounter, and while the energetic away side started off well and scored early on, Mark McCall’s men ultimately proved a class apart and came away with a 34-17 victory.
Later in the day, a George Ford masterclass led the Tigers to a 27-14 win over Northampton at Welford Road. Ford bagged 22-points, including a try, drop goal and four penalties as Steve Borthwick’s men took the game away from a good Saints side, who were undone by a series of missed opportunities. The last time Saracens and Leicester met in a final was 2011 when Borthwick, then Sarries captain, led his team to a 22-18 win.
Crusaders/ Blues confirm Super Rugby Pacific showdown
A 14-man Crusaders outfit held off the Chiefs 20-7 in Christchurch on Friday, while the Blues edged the Brumbies 20-19 at Eden Park to set up a Grand Final in Auckland this weekend. The Blues were the winners of last year’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, while Scott Robertson’s men claimed 2021’s Super Rugby Aotearoa title. With both teams having dominated the regular season (the second-placed Saders finishing six points back of the Blues on the log) it’s going to be another epic at Eden Park.
Weekend Rugby Stunners
With knockout rugby being played all over at the moment, here are a few of the best moments from the past weekend.
Bulls use brain and brawn
The Bulls scored this wonderful effort in the famous win over Leinster on Friday. The tap and go is well and truly back!
Esterhuizen sits down Big Billy
Despite Harelquins’ semi-final defeat to Saracens on Saturday, newly-recalled Bok midfielder Andre Esterhuizen shone and unleashed this typical bit of physicality on former England hardman, Billy Vunipola.
Roos slams Vermeulen
Evan Roos powered past Duane Vermeulen during the Stormers’ win over Ulster on Saturday. The ‘Boks have some serious loose-forward firepower at their disposal. And with Roos getting into the squad at the expense of Vermeulen, a new era is upon us.
Farrell shows flash of class
Owen Farrell was titanic for Sarries against Quins and pulled off this lovely piece of deception to set up Nick Tompkins for a score.
Dupont does it again
Antoine Dupont was instrumental in Toulouse’s 33-28 win over European champions La Rochelle in the Top 14 playoffs on the weekend. Check this out. Is there anything he can’t do?
Death, taxes, the ‘Saders making Super rugby finals
The Crusaders will contest the Super Rugby Pacific final this weekend thanks to their win over the Chiefs; helped in large part by one Richie Mo’unga.