Semifinals: Sharks v Bulls and Lions v WP
The Blue Bulls secured themselves a place in the Currie Cup semifinals when they ran rampant against the Golden Lions, winning 50-29 in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The five-tries-to-two means the Bulls travel to Durban next week, where they face the table-topping Sharks in the first of the semifinals.
The defending-champion Lions are at home to Western Province, while the Free State Cheetahs will be involved in a two-match promotion-relegation series against the Eastern Province Kings over the next two weeks.
The Bulls overcame early jitters to secure their play-off spot in what was without doubt the most exciting game of the weekend.
Playing with a perceived weakened side, the Lions did not stand back to their provincial neighbours packed with Springbok players.
In the opening moments of the match, it even seemed like the Lions were in for an upset as they took an early 13-3 lead.
The scoreline put the Bulls' hopes of reaching the play-offs at risk with even the last place on the log looming.
The Pretoria outfit drew first blood as flyhalf Morné Steyn succeeded with his first attempt at goal after four minutes of play.
Three minutes later, Lions flyhalf and captain Butch James slotted a penalty goal for his side, to level the scores.
The Lions then stepped up the intensity as they smothered the Bulls of any possession while they also attacked the line with enterprising play.
James added three more points with his boot before the Lions finally pierced the visitors' defences when lock Michael Rhodes crossed the whitewash in the 13th minute.
The try resulted from solid interplay by the Lions players with hooker Callie Visagie playing a leading role in the try as he handled the ball twice before offloading to a speeding Rhodes on the sideline, with James converting.
Meanwhile, the Bulls patiently ground their way back in the match, keeping the Lions within sight through Steyn's accurate kicking.
Steyn slightly closed the gap as he punched over a drop-goal in the 26th minute, but James returned their lead to 13 points as he succeeded with a penalty kick a minute later.
The Bulls flyhalf brought his side within four points as two of his attempts at goal were on target.
With nine minutes left in the first half, the Bulls scored their first try, when flank Jacques Potgieter found a gap and sprinted towards the line where he was stopped short.
Potgieter popped the ball to wing Bjorn Basson, who just needed to fall over the line to gather the points, with Steyn converting to give his side a 19-16 lead, before adding another three points shortly before the half-time break.
The Lions levelled the scores shortly after the restart with James succeeding with two penalty kicks.
The visitors, however, stepped up a gear in the 48th minute when scrumhalf Jano Vermaak made a dart for goal after a solid pass from eighthman Arno Botha, with Steyn converting.
The hosts then equalled the scores once again when wing Anthony Volmink went through the middle of a ruck inside the Bulls' 22 to score, while James converted (29-29).
The Bulls then ran away with the match as they added three more converted tries courtesy of Botha, Dewald Potgieter and Akona Ndungane to secure a play-off spot.
Man of the match: There is so much and so many players in the Lions team to admire. First there is veteran World Cup winners Butch James - with his sublime distribution skills and brilliant judgment of the game, not just putting other players into space but driving the Bulls back into their half. The Lions' seemed to lose direction when Elton Jantjies came on and the rookie Bok moved into first receiver and James to inside centre. There there was Willie Britz, he of the wild mop of blond hair that is everything that is good about the Lions - fast, furious and so full of running. There is also Jaco Kriel, who was involved in almost every raid and running so hard at those beefy Bulls forwards - often keeping half the Bulls pack busy. However, the Bulls had many heroes of their own. captain Dewald Potgieter lead from the front, fellow loose forward Jacques Potgieter showed some of the touches that made him a Bok this year and Arno Botha was the player that so often gave the Bulls forward momentum when they were charging at the Lions. There was scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, who sparked several of the Bulls' best attacking raids. However, our award goes to one of most talked about players this year - Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn, who again showed his true class and returned to his best match-winning form - both in terms of his distribution skills, goal-kicking and kicking out of hand. He constantly kept his team on the front foot and the 23 points he score certainly made his critics eat plenty of humble pie.
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Rhodes, Volmink
Cons: James 2
Pens: James 5
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Basson, Vermaak, Botha, D Potgieter, Ndungane
Cons: Steyn 4, Fouche
Pens: Steyn 4
Golden Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Andrew James (captain), 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Whestley Moolman, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Mapoe.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Juandré Kruger, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dean Greyling.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistants: Lourens van der Merwe, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johan Greeff