A new Currie Cup champion will be crowned next week after a weekend of dramatic semifinal action, which saw Griquas and the Pumas record dramatic victories.
The Griquas stunned holders Bulls in Pretoria, while the Pumas staged a brilliant late rally to shock the Cheetahs in their pulsating match in Bloemfontein.
That means that the 2022 Final will be staged in Kimberley next Saturday, when Windhoek Draught Griquas play in their first decider since 1970, the Airlink Pumas, who have reached the top two for the first time.
Meanwhile, in the Carling Currie Cup First Division, the Down Touch Griffons and Eastern Province booked their places in next weekend’s final after winning their playoffs.
The team from the Northern Free State clinched a dramatic semi-final by 41-38 after extra time against the Georgian Black Lion in Welkom on Friday, and on Saturday, EP outplayed SWD Eagles 26-12 at a wind-swept Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Two tries at the death saw the Airlink Pumas stun the Toyota Cheetahs 38-35 in Saturday’s semi-final in Bloemfontein to set up the unlikeliest of deciders against Windhoek Draught Griquas next weekend.
The never-say-die visitors outscored the Free Staters by six tries to four to put themselves in a position to secure a maiden Carling Currie Cup title.
The Toyota Cheetahs found themselves in a sticky situation, trailing 17-7 and suffering a major blow when inspirational captain Ruan Pienaar limped off at the end of the first quarter.
However, a yellow card offence by flank Daniel Maartens, for illegally sacking a driving maul, spawned a 24-point swing in what looked to be a decisive 10-minute period before and after halftime.
The hosts remained in control up until the 75th minute when, leading by 11 points, speedster Rosko Specman saw yellow for a deliberate knockdown and the Airlink Pumas, in their first semi-final in 42 years, pounced, with replacements Simon Raw and Ali Mgijima scoring and Tinus de Beer converting both tries to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Cheetahs 35 (24): Tries: Jeandre Rudolph (2), Penalty try, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar, Siya Masuku. Penalty goals: Masuku (3).
Pumas 38 (17): Tries: Eddie Fouche, Sebastian de Klerk (2), Giovan Snyman, Simon Raw, Ali Mgijima. Conversions: Fouche (2), Thinus de Beer (2).
A stirring second half display – which delivered two tries and a penalty try – paved the way for a well-deserved 30-19 victory for Griquas over the Bulls in their semi-final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday evening.
The two sides went into the halftime break separated by just four points with the score 7-3 in favour of the defending champions after their captain, Lizo Gqoboka (prop), scored the only try of a tightly contested first half when he forced his way over following a successful lineout, with Juan Mostert adding the extras.
In turn, the experienced George Whitehead, who came on as an injury replacement midway through the first half, slotted a penalty goal for Griquas’ only points of the opening stanza.
Right from the restart, the visitors from Kimberley shifted to a higher gear which netted three tries and two penalty goals, which were enough to hand them their first final appearance in more than five decades.
Whitehead, who has captained Griquas often in the past, led from the front and made a personal contribution of 18 points through one try, two conversions and three penalty goals.
Bulls 19 (7): Tries: Lizo Gqoboka, Bernard van der Linde, Juan Mostert. Conversions: Mostert (2).
Griquas 30 (3): Tries: Hanru Sirgel, George Whitehead, Penalty Try. Conversions: Whitehead (2). Penalty goals: Whitehead (3).