The Toyota Cheetahs beat the Vodacom Bulls by 39-10 on Saturday to secure home advantage for the season decider, while the Airlink Pumas earned the right to defend their title courtesy of a shock 26-20 win over the Cell C Sharks in the second playoff, staged in Durban.

The Premier Division Final will kick off at 16h00 on Saturday 24 June at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, with the First Division Final scheduled for 13h00 in Wellington, where the Boland Kavaliers will host the newly-crowned Mzansi Challenge champions, the Valke. Both matches will be televised live on SuperSport.

The Free Staters and defending champions were touted as early favourites for the title after dominating the initial stages of the tournament. Both teams were less consistent towards the end of the league phase, yet Hawies Fourie’s charges did enough to finish at the top of the standings, and the men from Mpumalanga managed to secure third place.

Both went into the semi-finals as underdogs, and both proceeded to deliver a statement regarding their championship quality. The Toyota Cheetahs dominated a star-studded Vodacom Bulls side in the first playoff, while Jimmy Stonehouse’s men were in control for much of the second fixture against the Cell C Sharks.

The upshot is that both teams will progress to the final, and while the Toyota Cheetahs will go into that decider as favourites, they will be wary of an Airlink Pumas side that managed to win last year’s semi-final in the Free State capital.

Meanwhile, the Mzansi Challenge final was staged in Kempton Park on Saturday afternoon and the Valke scored six tries in an emphatic 55-38 win over the SWD Eagles, with no less than 12 tries scored in the match.

Flyhalf Keagan Fortune landed 10 successful goal kicks and contributed 25 points for the Valke, whose senior men’s team secured their first trophy since 2006, when they won the Vodacom Cup.


Pienaar punishes errant Vodacom Bulls in Bloem

Ruan Pienaar kicked 22 points as the Toyota Cheetahs claimed an emphatic 39-10 win over the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein on Saturday to secure home advantage in the Currie Cup final.

The Vodacom Bulls travelled to the City of Roses with a host of Springboks in their ranks, and ultimately a good chance of forcing an upset. On the day, however, they struggled to match the Free Staters at the collisions and breakdowns, and were made to pay handsomely for their errors.

An incident in the second minute set the tone for the rest of the game. Toyota Cheetahs centre Reinhardt Fortuin charged down fullback Johan Goosen’s attempted clearance, and went on to score. Pienaar added the extras for the hosts.

Tighthead prop Conraad van Vuuren was shown a yellow card for a cynical offence in the ninth minute. Despite the one-man handicap, the hosts repelled wave after wave of opposition attack – and kept the Vodacom Bulls’ dangerous backline tryless throughout the first half.

Pienaar – back at flyhalf after missing last week’s match due to a family bereavement – had an outstanding game in general play and from the kicking tee. The former Bok surpassed 600 Currie Cup points when he nailed a penalty goal in the 32nd minute.

A terrific attacking play from the scrum culminated in a try for Toyota Cheetahs fullback Tapiwa Mafura shortly before half-time. Pienaar’s unerring boot ensured that the hosts went to the break with a 20-3 advantage.

The Vodacom Bulls lifted their physicality and intensity in the second stanza, and earned some reward. Johan Grobbelaar (hooker) crashed over the line after a successful maul and drive by the visitors in the 50th minute.

But the Toyota Cheetahs forwards continued to fight in the trenches, and Pienaar continued to convert opportunities in front of goal. Three more penalty goals by the veteran took the game away from the men in blue.

The Vodacom Bulls suffered yet another setback, when replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels was shown a yellow card in the 74th minute. By contrast, the hosts finished the game with a flourish, as replacement Ewardi Boshoff chased down a kick to score his team’s third try.

The result marks the Free Staters’ third consecutive win against Jake White’s team in this season’s Currie Cup.


Toyota Cheetahs 39 (20) – Tries: Reinhardt Fortuin, Tapiwa Mafura, Ewardi Boshoff. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (2), Boshoff. Penalty goals: Pienaar (6).

Vodacom Bulls 10 (3) – Try: Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Penalty goal: Goosen.


Gutsy Airlink Pumas deny Cell C Sharks in Durban

The Airlink Pumas withstood a brave fightback by the Cell C Sharks to win their semi-final by 26-20 in Durban on Saturday and qualify for their second successive Currie Cup final.

This fixture was always going to be tight. The KwaZulu-Natalians were the tournament’s top-ranked defensive team over the course of the league phase, conceding the fewest tries and points. The defending champs conceded the second-fewest in both categories.

On Saturday, however, the Cell C Sharks failed to live up to that defensive reputation in the early stages of the semi-final. The more clinical Airlink Pumas crossed the line twice – by props Corné Fourie and  Simon Raw – in the first quarter to take a 12-0 lead.

The hosts registered their first points in the 19th minute when flyhalf Lionel Cronjé slotted a penalty goal. After lock Corné Rahl crashed over the line for his team’s first try, and Cronjé added the extras, the momentum appeared to be with Joey Mongalo’s side.

The decision to attack from their own line in the 32nd minute backfired, though, when Airlink Pumas wing Andrew Kota intercepted a pass and rounded the defence. The hosts scored again through hooker Fez Mbatha before half-time, but the visitors took a 19-17 lead into the break.

Both teams were punished for their poor discipline in the second stanza. Wing Etienne Tajaard was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and this presented Cronjé with a chance to kick his team into the lead for the first time in the contest.

Four minutes later, Cell C Sharks No 8 Henco Venter was sin-binned for a similar offence. The Airlink Pumas marshalled their forwards into position, and scored through hooker PJ Jacobs. Tinus de Beer’s accurate kicking stretched the lead for the visitors.

Just as the hosts appeared to be clawing their way back, centre Alwayno Visagie took Taljaard out in the air, causing the winger to land heavily. Referee Marius van der Westhuizen brandished a red card, and the Cell C Sharks were forced to play the final 15 minutes with 14 men.

The Airlink Pumas struggled to close the game out, with several poor exits allowing the Cell C Sharks multiple counter-attacking opportunities. At one stage, the hosts took the ball through 24 phases before losing possession.

The KwaZulu-Natalians enjoyed one more surge before the fantastic Airlink Pumas defence had the final say, and emerged with a hard-earned win.


Cell C Sharks 20 (17) – Tries: Corné Rahl, Fez Mbatha. Conversions: Lionel Cronjé (2). Penalty goals: Cronjé (2).

Airlink Pumas 26 (19) – Tries: Corné Fourie, Simon Raw, Andrew Kota, PJ Jacobs. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (3).