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Semi-finalists identified in Absa Currie Cup Premier Division

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The Sharks and defending champions the MTN Golden Lions will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls and DHL Western Province respectively in this year's Absa Currie Cup Premier Division semi-finals, after an enthralling final weekend of round-robin matches.

GWK Griquas' season is now over after they finished fifth in the final standings, but their disappointment at having lost out on the play-offs will at least be tempered by the fact that they finished the regular season having managed to retain their Premier Division status for 2013.

Not so lucky are the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, who must now play an additional two matches, in the form of a home-and-away promotion-relegation series against the Eastern Province Kings, for the opportunity to remain in the top flight. The first of those matches will be played in Bloemfontein on Friday and the second in Port Elizabeth a week later.

The Durbanites just needed to win to make sure of prime position on the log going into the playoff phase, and once they had taken a 10-0 lead after 14 minutes there was seldom any doubt that they would achieve their objective.

The Sharks didn't need to get the four-try bonus point but they got it anyway, with replacement flanker Lubabalo Mtembu dotting down as the Sharks worked the ball left with 10 minutes to go in a one-sided game.

While the winners never really engaged top gear, they were always significantly better than a well-beaten Griquas side who lacked the intensity they displayed in their home games in Kimberley this season and against the Lions last week.

Griquas actually shaded the possession battle early on but slipped too many tackles, as many as five in the first 14 minutes, and that played a role in the Sharks dominating territory. Patrick Lambie, playing his first full game at flyhalf for quite a while, did everything and perhaps even a little more than could have been expected of him in his first game back after warming the Springbok bench.

He did miss a first-half penalty but he slotted most of his kicks, including the touchline conversion of Mtembu's try. His distribution was good, his tactical kicking was excellent and while Griquas were well below Test level, he did at least show that he has remembered the essentials of flyhalf play.

It was his little kick through after taking the ball flat following a crash up by JP Pietersen that set up the second try in the 27th minute, with fullback Louis Ludik coming through to grab the ball and score.

Lambie missed that conversion, but it meant the Sharks led 15-3 following a ninth-minute try scored by the impressive young scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who featured twice in the movement as he drew in Odwa Ndungane before taking the return pass from the wing.

Lwazi Mvovo, on for Ndungane when he was injured in helping set up the first try, scored the third try two minutes from the break to propel his team into a 22-3 halftime lead.

Lambie was the deserved recipient of the man of the match award and seemed to become more assured the longer the game lasted, and he was in the thick of things as the Sharks closed out the game in the second half.

He kicked penalties in the 44th minute and the 50th before the Mtembu try and then a turn-over effort completed by replacement scrumhalf Charl McLeod ensured that there was plenty of light between the teams on the score that shone on the Kings Park scoreboard at the final hooter.

The Sharks made sure of top spot in the final standings with a 42-3 win over Griquas in Durban on Friday – a result which means that John Plumtree's men will host the final should they overcome the Blue Bulls.

DHL Western Province hung onto third place thanks to a convincing 36-15 victory over the Cheetahs in Cape Town in the weekend's second match – a result which meant that the Blue Bulls had to win their match, against defending champions the Lions in Johannesburg, to ensure they avoided the wooden spoon.

This they duly accomplished in style with a 50-29 victory to set up a titanic semi-final against the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park this coming Saturday (kick-off 16:30). The Lions will host WP at Coca-Cola Park in the second semi, which kicks off at 19:00.

Scorers:

Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Tera Mtembu, Louis Ludik, Cobus Reinach, Charl McLeod. Conversions: Pat Lambie (4). Penalties: Lambie (3).

Griquas – Penalty: Francois Brummer.

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