The Steval Pumas upset the formbook as they booked their place in the Vodacom Cup final thanks to a fine 43-20 (halftime 25-6) win over the Xerox Golden Lions in their semifinal at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday.
The Golden Lions had been unbeaten in the league phase of the competition while they beat the Pumas 24-16 earlier in the year.
But the Pumas ran in five tries to two to secure their place in the final against either DHL Western Province or the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
The Pumas had, by far, the better of the first half as they dominated territory and shaded possession for much of the half.
Pumas Flyhalf JC Roos opened the scoring with a sixth minute penalty before the visitors grabbed their first try when they took the ball through six phases before right wing Bernado Botha was set free on the touchline.
The wing sniped over in the corner with Roos slotting the difficult conversion kick as the Pumas took a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Roos kicked his second penalty before the hosts finally opened their account when replacement scrumhalf Lohan Jacobs snapped over a 25-metre drop goal in the 24th minute.
But the score only seemed to invigorate the Pumas and, two minutes later, flank Lambert Groenewald took a crash ball before powering his way over from five metres out with the conversion pushing the Pumas into a 20-3 lead.
The Pumas extended their lead when lock Rudi Mathee, who turned in a storming performance, grabbed a well-deserved try when he muscled his way past three would-be defenders to dot down in the right-hand corner. The try was not converted but the visitors had powered their way into a 25-3 lead.
The Lions had the better of the final exchanges of the half and they cut the deficit with a penalty from fullback Kobus de Kock with what turned out to be the last kick of the half.
The Pumas suffered a setback soon after the restart when outside centre Jerome Pretorius was yellow-carded for tackling a player in the air.
The Lions took almost immediate advantage of their numerical superiority as right wing Damian Engledoe crashed over alongside the posts for a converted try.
The home team had their tails up and they cut the deficit to just five points, after 50 minutes, when inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg jinked his way over for a converted try.
But the Pumas struck back thanks to a superb individual try from replacement flank Marnus Schoeman who burst clear from 40 metres out before bumping off two would-be tacklers on his way to crashing over in the left-hand corner.
Roos extended the lead with a long-range penalty before Schoeman made sure of the win with his second try with eight minutes left in the match before Roos nailed his fourth penalty with the last kick of the match.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Damian Engledoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg: Conversions: Kobus de Kock (2); Penalty: De Kock; Drop goal: Lohan Jacobs.
Steval Pumas – Tries: Bernardo Botha, Lambert Groenewald, Rudi Mathee, Marnus Schoeman (2); Conversions: JC Roos (3); Penalties: Roos (4).