2022 Blue Bulls vs Griquas

Currie Cup Semifinals Preview: South Africa's Best Have Sights Set On Gold

Currie Cup Semifinals Preview: South Africa's Best Have Sights Set On Gold

Elite club rugby play is finishing around the world, and the South African scene is looking especially set for madness ahead in the Currie Cup semifinals.

Jun 14, 2022 by FloRugby Staff
Currie Cup Semifinals Preview: South Africa's Best Have Sights Set On Gold

The elite leagues in club rugby are finishing up around the world, and the South African scene is looking especially set for madness ahead.

The country's top club rugby competition, the Currie Cup, is perhaps as wide open as it's been in years, as several of the nation's historical powers found themselves out of the running for a championship, before the postseason even began. 

In fact, two clubs - one of which has never won, another of which hasn't in over 50 years - can make history with triumphs over the next couple of weeks.

However, some of the old guard of the competition remains in the way, and they'll be sure to put up hefty fights as they too look for additions to their trophy cabinets. It's as blue blood vs. underdog as it gets, and the tension should match the stakes.

What is there to watch out for as the Currie Cup semifinals get underway this weekend? Take a peek at both matchups, as the Currie Cup finalists are decided live on FloRugby:

Free State Cheetahs Vs. Pumas

Having edged past the two-time defending champions in the Blue Bulls on the regular season's final day to secure the playoff's top seed, the Cheetahs now have home-field advantage the rest of the postseason. That's particularly important if they and the Blue Bulls meet again in next weekend's final. 

Before that happens, coach Hawies Fourie's men have a score to settle with the Pumas. 

The Cheetahs were a force to be reckoned with over the past 14 matchweeks, only losing two games out of 12, while star man and hooker, Louis van der Westhuizen, led the Currie Cup with an astounding 15 tries - nearly double the amount of the runner-up in that list, Western Province's Angelo Davids (who had eight). 

The Namibian van der Westhuizen scored twice in the second of his team's two meetings this season against the Pumas back in Round 13, but the Mbombela-based club managed to pull off a thrilling 29-28 win, thanks to a double of its own from winger Devon Williams. 

The upcoming rematch has much grander stakes now. 

While the Cheetahs are considered one of South Africa's "Big 5" teams known for historical success in the sport, and last won the Currie Cup in 2019, the Pumas have never won the competition and are one win away from their first final in team history. They find themselves amid a resurgence under coach Jimmy Stonehouse, who is in his second stint with the club after originally being on the touchline from 2008-2015. 

With a defense that has allowed the joint-fewest tries (31) in the competition, plus a chance to create history, the Pumas will hope a fairytale season can continue with a second straight victory over the Cheetahs. 

Against a Free State side that has scored at least 35 points in five matches this season, the underdogs will have to hold up one last attack in order to find themselves playing for a shot at Currie Cup glory.

Blue Bulls Vs. Griquas

The Blue Bulls historically don't tolerate not being the best for long. 

With 25 titles (only behind Western Province's 34) as one of the most successful clubs in South Africa's "Big 5," it still took the Pretoria-based squad over a decade of trying to get the top again between its Currie Cup championships, winning in 2009 and then 2020-2021. 

However, it appears that coach Gert Smal's team has found the formula again recently. 

As two-time defending Currie Cup winners, the Blue Bulls are in the hunt for the first three-peat in the competition since they did it from 2002-2004. With the most tries (56) in the Currie Cup this season, they certainly have the firepower to do it. 

Blue Bulls and Springboks legend, Morne Steyn, is chugging along at fly-half, despite being less than a month from his 38th birthday, with he and Chris Smith combining for 100 points this season as a lethal combination in attack. 

However, the team also is reeling from a recent shock to the system. With playoff rugby already assured in Round 14, the team was blitzed 35-5 by the Cheetahs, a performance that saw the Bulls slip to the second seed for the postseason as a result. 

The Griquas now await, having come off an excellent debut season from the touchline with coach Pieter Bergh, a longtime former Griquas assistant who got the top job after Scott Mathie left for Major League Rugby in the United States.

Comfortably making the postseason as one of three clubs to break the 50-try barrier, the Griquas should expect another fast-paced, high-scoring affair ahead in their semifinal meeting with the Bulls, after their prior two matches this year finished 53-27 and 48-38 - both Bulls wins. 

Perhaps a Griquas redemption victory is written in the stars. After all, the Blue Bulls (then known as Northern Transvaal) were the team the Griquas beat in their last Currie Cup title season in 1970, the only Currie Cup championship the team has won within the past 100 years. 

It would be a major shock if the boys from the Northern Cape were able to pull it off, but in a season in which three members of the "Big 5" - the Sharks, Golden Lions and Western Province - missed the playoffs, who's to say there can't be room for a little more chaos?

Currie Cup Tales Of The Tape

Free State Cheetahs (Bloemfontein, Free State): Six-time champions (Last title: 2019). Leading point scorer: Ruan Pienaar (113). Leading try scorer: Louis van der Westhuizen (15).

Blue Bulls (Pretoria, Gauteng): 25-time champions (Last title: 2021). Leading point scorer: Chris Smith (54). Leading try scorer: David Kriel (six).

Griquas (Kimberley, Northern Cape): Three-time champions (Last title: 1970). Leading point scorer: Zander du Plessis (95). Leading try scorers: Munier Hartzenberg and Hanru Sirgel (six). 

Pumas (Mbombela, Mpumalanga): Never Currie Cup champions. Leading point scorer: Eddie Fouche (66). Leading try scorers: Eduan Swart and Sebastian de Klerk (five).