The Free State Cheetahs hammered the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein on Saturday night to finish first in the Currie Cup standings.
Both teams had already secured home semi-finals going into this match at Free State Stadium but the Cheetahs needed to win with a four-try bonus point and deny the Bulls a losing bonus point.
The Free Staters did just that, delivering an authoritative five-tries-to-one, 35-5 victory to set up a last-four clash with the fourth-placed Pumas in Bloem. The Bulls will return to Pretoria where Gert Smal’s charges will host third-placed Griquas at Loftus Versfeld.
A string of early penalties conceded by a young Bulls outfit gifted the Cheetahs a platform to launch their attacking lineout from, and hooker Louis van der Westhuizen gave the hosts the perfect start when he crashed over for two maul tries in the first quarter, captain Ruan Pienaar adding the extras for a 14-0 lead.
Right wing Daniel Kasende popped up in the left tramlines in the 25th minute to complete a well-worked effort for the Cheetahs’ third touchdown and Pienaar split the uprights again with precision.
Outside centre David Brits clinched the bonus-point try seven minutes before the interval – Pienaar on song once more – and the men from Bloem went into half time with a commanding 28-0 lead.
The Bulls were down to 14 men soon after the restart when rake Sidney Tobias was yellow-carded for deliberately slapping the ball down. Fullback Clayton Blommetjies then ran straight through for the Cheetahs’ fifth try, and another super kick from Pienaar extended their lead.
Bulls centre Stedman Gans finally opened the visitors’ account when he crossed over out wide in the 52nd minute, but flyhalf Juan Mostert missed the conversion.
Exemplary defence from the hosts in the final quarter quelled any hopes of an unlikely comeback, and the final hooter signalled the end to a full-value performance from the Cheetahs.