Free State upset the odds
By Stephen Nell
October 16, 2004

It's a Blue Bulls versus Free State Currie Cup final following a stunning upset at Newlands on Saturday evening.

Free State beat Western Province 17-11 in an error-ridden contest in which they were simply the better side at playing in a persistent downpour. Earlier, the Blue Bulls had beaten the Lions 40-33 in the other semifinal at Loftus in Pretoria.

The first sign that things were not going to go according to plan in Cape Town was when the 30 per cent chance of rain actually materialised shortly before kick-off.

Province and Free State played the first half out in heavy showers and it showed as there were a frightful amount of unforced errors both ways.
Free State nevertheless carried a slender 9-8 lead into the break courtesy of three penalties by flyhalf Willem de Waal. They opened their account as early as the first minute when De Waal struck the ball perfectly from five metres inside his own half.

When WP eventually struck, over 20 minutes later, it was with venom from a turnover. The ball travelled down the line and flank Schalk Burger eventually scored after a vital cutback from right wing Breyton Paulse.
Ironically, this was by some distance the most sublime bit of skill in the game, but the conditions called for grit and patience more than anything else. The Cheetahs ultimately had more options with their powerful forwards.

It did not take the Cheetahs long to muster a reply to the WP try. Province were penalised for joining a ruck from the side and De Waal kept his cool to make it 6-5. He struck another three minutes before the hooter before WP fullback Gaffie du Toit, to the relief of the home crowd, drew WP within a point.

It was the same ugly and frustrating theme in the second half. Province were, however, staggering when a charge down kick ended in Free State centre Jacques Claassens beating Paulse to the ball in their goal area.
A six-point in the conditions was a big one and WP were chasing the game. They got themselves into scoring positions on a number of occasions, but were thwarted by a combination of a stubborn defence and the weather.

Province nevertheless drew within three points 12 minutes from time when Du Toit struck his second penalty.
But try as they might after that, they could not break down the Cheetahs, who eventually struck the decisive blow with a drop goal by De Waal.
It was a richly deserved victory for the Cheetahs, who exploited the conditions to their advantage. Province were always going to struggle in the rain as their strength lies in their backs, but they nevertheless contributed to their own downfall as they tried to win via the expansive route when a more measured approach was called for.

In Pretoria, Heyneke Meyer's Bulls blazed into a 17-6 lead after just 18 minutes thanks to tries by right wing Keegan Fredericks and flyhalf Derick Hougard.
However, the Lions drew back within five points by halftime through the trusty boot of flyhalf Andre Pretorius and controversially took the lead in the first minute of the second half when hooker Schalk Brits tore down the touchline to score in the corner.
Pretorius' conversion made it 19-17, but replays suggested the try should not have been awarded as Brits, outstanding throughout, had stepped out.
But that ultimately proved inconsequential. The Bulls briefly looked flustered before producing some power-play, scrumming the Lions off their ball and scoring as No 8 Anton Leonard latched onto the ball.
Hougaard's conversion made it 24-19, but again Brits would prove a thorn in their flesh. This time there was no stepping up as the ball had travelled swiftly down the line, but the television match official nevertheless had to rule whether the livewire No 2 had grounded the ball before he started celebrating.
It was touch and go, but the ruling went in Brits' favour. Pretorius converted and it was 26-24.
But the Bulls showed their championship pedigree by absolutely dominating the last 25 minutes. Hougaard struck two more penalties before scrumhalf Fourie du Preez touched down in the 68th minute to make it 37-26.

Then, with seven minutes left, Hougaard succeeded with another penalty as the Lions strayed off-side. At 40-26 it was going to take two converted tries just to draw level.
The Lions managed one from a tap-and-go by pacy centre Bryan Habana right at the end, but it was too late.

SCORERS
WESTERN PROVINCE VERSUS FREE STATE SCORERS
WP: Try: Flank Schalk Burger. Penalties: Fullback Gaffie du Toit (2).
Free State: Try: Centre Jacques Claassens. Penalties: Flyhalf Willem de Waal (3). Drop goal: De Waal.

BLUE BULLS VERSUS LIONS SCORERS
Blue Bulls: Tries: Right wing Keegan Fredericks, flyhalf Derick Hougaard, No 8 Anton Leonard, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez. Conversions: Hougaard (4). Penalties: Hougaard (4).
Lions: Tries: Hooker Schalk Brits (2), centre Bryan Habana. Conversions: Flyhalf Andre Pretorius (3). Penalties: Pretorius (3). Drop goal: Pretorius.

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