Preview: New champs on the cards?

Wed, 08 May 2013 13:42
Large cheslinkolbewesternprovince Large golden lions v sharks Large epkingswesleydunlop Large matthew dobson bleeding

The Vodacom Cup final will see a rookie and, potentially, not see the defending champions after the semifinals in Johannesburg and Nelspruit this weekend.

The Vodacom Cup Final will see a rookie and, potentially, not see the defending champions after the semifinals in Johannesburg and Nelspruit this weekend.

The Pumas and EP Kings have never played in a Vodacom Cup Final before - in fact, for the team from Port Elizabeth, this will be their first-ever semifinal in this competition.

On Friday these two teams will contest the first Vodacom Cup semifinal at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

It will be the Pumas' third appearance at this stage of the competition and after their good performances in the pool stages - they topped the North Section - they will be hard pressed to qualify for their first-ever Final.

The Pumas, coached by Jimmy Stonehouse, lost only one of their pool matches this season. It happened in Nelspruit when the Golden Lions, with their backs to the wall and fighting for Vodacom Cup survivial, beat the team from Mpumalanga by 23-14 on April 19.

David Maidza's EP Kings, third in the South Section after losing only two of their pool fixtures, qualified for their first semifinal after causing one of the biggest quarterfinal upsets in Vodacom Cup history when they staged a late fight to beat the Blue Bulls by 34-31 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Not only did the team from the Eastern Cape qualify for their first semifinal, but they also knocked out the side that has played in the most semifinals since the inception of the Vodacom Cup in 1998. It was the Blue Bulls' first quarterfinal defeat in 13 years.

The second semifinal will feature the Golden Lions at their Ellis Park home against the defending Vodacom Cup champions, Western Province, on Saturday.

The team from Johannesburg, under Johan Ackermann's coaching, has a very good strike rate in semifinals - they've played in five and won four. And each time they've progressed to the Final, they took home the spoils.

The Golden Lions, who sneaked into the playoffs as the fourth placed team in the North Section after losing three of their first four pool matches, will be a difficult opponent for the Capetonians on Saturday. They upset the Sharks XV, South Section winners, in Durban last weekend and are on a four-match winning streak.

Western Province will play in their fourth semifinal. They've only won one and that was last year, when they also bagged the Vodacom Cup for the first time ever by upsetting Griquas in a tense Final in Kimberley.

John Dobson's team from Cape Town lost only one of their seven pool matches to finish second in the South Section, but they also drew one, in the opening round against the Boland Cavaliers.

Semifinal fixtures:

Friday, May 10:

Pumas v EP Kings
Kick-off: 16.30
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Johan Greeff

Saturday, 11 May:

Golden Lions v Western Province
Kick-off: 14.15
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Sieg van Staden
TMO: Johan Greeff

Previous semifinal results:

Griquas bt Sharks XV (Wildebeest) 47-28, Kimberley
Golden Lions bt SWD Eagles 31-19, Johannesburg

Golden Lions bt Sharks XV (Wildebeest) 36-3, Johannesburg
Griquas bt Boland Cavaliers 24-17, Wellington

Free State XV bt Valke 42-22, Bloemfontein
Griquas bt WP 41-27, Kimberley

Blue Bulls bt Free State XV 39-38, Pretoria
Boland Cavaliers bt Griquas 47-31, Wellington

Golden Lions bt Valke 36-17, Johannesburg
Blue Bulls bt Boland Cavaliers 47-45, Wellington

Golden Lions bt Free State XV 20-16, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 47-19, Pretoria

Blue Bulls bt Free State XV 23-20, Bloemfontein
Golden Lions bt Valke 47-17, Johannesburg

Leopards XV bt Blue Bulls 17-11, Pretoria
Griquas bt Boland Cavaliers 16-13, Kimberley

No semi-finals

Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 32-25, Pretoria
Griquas bt Pumas 46-26, Kimberley

Blue Bulls bt Griquas 40-20, Kimberley
Free State XV bt WP 27-22, Cape Town

Griquas bt Sharks XV 36-25, Durban
Blue Bulls bt Leopards XV 45-34, Pretoria

Free State XV bt Boland Cavaliers 22-14, Wellington
Blue Bulls bt Sharks XV 33-3, Pretoria

Pampas XV bt Sharks XV 41-26, Potchefstroom
Blue Bulls bt Griquas 47-34, Kimberley

WP bt Pumas 33-20, Cape Town
Griquas bt Blue Bulls 30-17, Kimberley

Most semifinals (including 2013):
11: Blue Bulls
10: Griquas
6: Free State XV, Golden Lions
5: Sharks XV (Wildebeest), Boland Cavaliers
4: Leopards XV, Western Province
3: Pumas, Falcons
1: SWD Eagles, Pampas XV, EP Kings

Top points scorers:
154 - Fred Zeilinga (Sharks XV - three tries, 29 conversion, 27 penalties)
93 - André Pretorius (Leopards - two tries, 28 cons, nine pens)
91 - Carl Bezuidenhout (Pumas - three tries, 26 cons, eight pens)
79 - Tony Jantjies (Blue Bulls - two tries, 18 cons, 11 pens)
70 - Willie du Plessis (Blue Bulls - two tries, 30 cons)

Previous Winners:
1998: Griquas
1999: Golden Lions
2000: Free State Cheetahs
2001: Blue Bulls
2002: Golden Lions
2003: Golden Lions
2004: Golden Lions
2005: Griquas
2006: Falcons
2007: Griquas
2008: Blue Bulls
2009: Griquas
2010: Blue Bulls
2011: Pampas XV
2012: Western Province