Late try wins it for Western Province
A last-minute Duane Vermeulen score helped Western Province to record a dramatic 21-16 victory over the Golden Lions at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.
It had looked as though the Lions were set to make it a repeat of last year's Currie Cup final against the Sharks but WP would not bow down.
From a line-out 15 metres out, Province mauled their hosts towards the whitewash to allow their number eight the chance to claim the winner.
Allister Coetzee's outfit will now travel to Durban for next week's clash with The Sharks, who had earlier beaten the Blue Bulls 20-3 at Kings Park.
It was a classic battle of attrition in Jo'burg as neither side dominated any areas of play and it was clear the match would go down to the wire.
Province drew first blood with fly-half Demetri Catrakilis succeeding with a penalty three minutes into the match. The visitors handed the defending champions an advantage a few minutes later when wing Gerhard van den Heever was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-down in the sixth minute.
Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies, who had a difficult night with his place-kicking, missed a shot at goal a minute later. The defending champions did finally get onto the board with a penalty in the 16th minute to draw the scores level.
After a few attacking exchanges WP got themselves back in the lead as Catrakilis converted his second penalty of the game on the half-hour mark.
The Lions were afforded three more chances to open a gap but Jantjies' and Ruan Combrinck's attempts at goal were off target, handing the Capetonians a 6-3 lead.
Johan Ackermann's side were the first to benefit from the change in pace after the break with Jantjies receiving an opportunity and succeeding with a penalty to level on 44 minutes.
The home side took advantage of their new-found confidence as they ran in the first try with flanker Michael Rhodes crossing in the 49th minute. Scrum-half Michael Bondesio had attacked from a loose scrum inside his own 22 and grubbered the ball up field. Provinces centre Juan de Jongh fumbled and conceded at the breakdown which led to the Lions establishing quick ball with Jantjies offloading to Rhodes who sprinted through to score.
The next ten minutes saw the visitors launching a series of attacks, but the Lions' defence held strong to deny the visitors a chance to close the gap.
WP finally pierced their defences, however, after continuous pressure, with replacement Joe Pietersen taking an inside gap inside the hosts' 22 to score.
Pietersen missed the conversion, which would have levelled the scores, but he made up for his slip-up a minute later when he converted a penalty to give his side a one-point lead.
With only four minutes left in the match, WP seemed to have secured a Currie Cup final berth but Jantjies converted a penalty to snatch back the lead for the hosts.
The visitors then drove more than 15 metres from a line-out to score the winning try, with number eight Vermeulen dotting down from the back of the maul, with Pietersen converting.
For Golden Lions:
Pen: Combrinck, Jantjies 2
For Western Province:
Tries: Pietersen, Vermeulen
Pen: Catrakilis 2, Pietersen
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach/Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Hendrik Roodt, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Deon Helberg.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Damian de Allende, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Marius Jonker