Earlier this weekend, the Lions secured top spot on the log by beating Eastern Province 53-20, while DHL Western Province moved into second spot with a commanding 64-14 win over Toyota Free State in Bloemfontein.
The Lions finished on 27 points, while WP finished second on 24 points, just ahead of the Vodacom Bulls (23). The Sharks (16 points) forced themselves into the last four by beating the Leopards (14 points) in Durban. Free State (6) and EP (1) dropped out of the play-off race a while back.
The Lions will now host the Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday, 15 October (kick-off 13h00), and WP await the Bulls at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday, 16 October (14h00).
The semi-final between the Lions and the Sharks is not as straight-forward as it seems. The hosts have won five out of six with one draw, and the Durbanites won only three of their six league matches, but the visitors have a number of Junior Springboks in their midst than can deliver the big moments.
The Lions won their previous clash 27-15 at Emirates Airline Park and with the knowledge that another win would secure a home final, the Jozi side should be very determined.
On paper, the other semi-final between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Bulls will be very tight.
The Cape side scored 35 tries in their four wins and two draws to date, but the men from Pretoria scored more tries than anyone else in the competition (37), as well as the most points (252).
The Bulls were edged 17-11 by WP last month in Cape Town, so they will know exactly what to expect. They also had a bye in the last round and will hit the field fresh and eager.
On the final weekend of league play, WP delivered another strong second half in their Bloem win. They were ahead 24-7 at the break and moved into another gear in the second half, scoring a further 40 points. They have a very strong bench and they again showed that in the second half of the clash.
The Lions were already locked in for a semi-final spot before they took on EP, but still had to deliver a solid win to make sure they came out top of the log.
With Tyler Bocks pretty influential in the midfield, the Lions always had the game under control, but EP will be pleased with the way they finished their campaign, scoring three tries against the log leaders, the most they have scored in a match all season.
The Leopards had some good results this year, but sadly their discipline failed them in their most important league match against the Sharks. They conceded penalties on the wrong side of the field in a must win match and five penalty goals by Junior Boks’ flyhalf Kian Meadon all but secured the win for the Durbanites.
The fact that flyhalf Martin Venter (46 points) finished top of the scoring charts after the regular season will be scant reward for the ‘Mielieboere’ who will count themselves unlucky not to have made the play-offs.
Toyota Free State 14 (7), DHL Western Province 64 (24)
Free State - Tries: Lohan Potgieter, Gideon van Wyk. Conversions: Wikus Basson (2).
WP - Tries: Keagan Blanckenberg, Jarrod Taylor, Ruben Labuschagne, Ethan James, Conwill Conradie, Ebenzer Tshimanga (2), Isaiah Warton (2). Conversions: Sacha Mngomezulu (8). Penalty goal: Mngomezulu.
Cell C Sharks 29 (16), Leopards 16 (10)
Sharks - Tries: Jacques Goosen (2), Conversions: Kian Meadon (2). Penalty goals: Meadon (5).
Leopards - Try: Franco du Plessis. Conversion: Martin Venter. Penalty goals: Venter (3).
Lions 53 (31), Eastern Province 20 (10)
Lions - Tries: Ruan Venter (2), Izan Esterhuizen, Nico Steyn, Boldwin Hansen, Tyler Bocks (2), Josh van Vreden, Liyema Matyolweni. Conversions: Jurich Claasens (4).
EP - Tries: Marco Nortje, Okkie Muller, Dylan Halgreen. Conversion: Diego Swartz. Penalty goal: Swartz.