Province top table after Lambie wastes chances
Demetri Catrakilis kicks a conversion in Melbourne on April 13, 2013
Returning Springbok reserve fly-half Patrick Lambie missed two relatively easy penalty kicks at Kings Park for the home team, who had to settle for second place after the 10-round league.
Both sides will enjoy home advantage in the semi-finals next Saturday with title-holders Province facing Lions in Cape Town and Sharks confronting Cheetahs in Durban.
But if Province reach the final, they play at Newlands again because they topped the table with 37 points from eight victories, two draws and a solitary bonus point.
Lions left it late to overcome gutsy bottom side Griquas 35-28 in Johannesburg and Cheetahs deprived Bulls of a knockout place by winning 22-7 in Bloemfontein.
After sharing third place, the Bloemfontein Cheetahs finished ahead of the Johannesburg Lions on the head-to-head rule through narrow home and away wins.
The accurate goal-kicking of fly-half Demetri Catrakilis was a key factor when Province shocked hot favourites and hosts Sharks in the 2012 final.
And he once again proved a thorn in the home side, slotting three penalties and a drop goal while flanker and skipper Deon Fourie claimed his fourth try of the season.
Young Sharks fly-half Fred Zeilinga contributed two penalties before giving way to Lambie, and holds a one-point advantage over Lion Marnitz Boshoff in the individual scorers' chart.
Loose forward Keegan Daniel scored a try which Lambie converted for Sharks, who trailed 14-6 at the break in wet, mid-spring conditions.
The Daniel score far out left Province clinging to a one-point advantage eight minutes into the second half, and Sharks confident of overtaking it.
But a Catrakilis penalty just past the hour closed the scoring as Lambie squandered his chances to alter the result.
Bulls needed a bonus-point win at Free State Stadium to squeeze into the semi-finals after a disappointing campaign.
Springbok call-ups, injuries and the loss of stars to France, Japan and Ireland contributed to the failure of the 23-time champions from Pretoria.
However, Province, Sharks and Cheetahs also lost their best players for the Rugby Championship with green-and-gold squad members returning to provincial action only this weekend.
Ironically, Springbok reserve centre Jan Serfontein contributed to the downfall of the Bulls, who has prop Schalk van der Merwe red carded late on for a dangerous tackle.
A Serfontein chip was intercepted by Cheetahs playmaker Elgar Watts, who darted over the line and converted to stretch a 10-7 half-time lead into a 10-point advantage.
There was no way back for Bulls and a late try from national team hooker Adriaan Strauss completed a rare Cheetahs success over the visiting team.
Lions needed a 76th-minute try from replacement loose forward Willie Britz to secure victory against understrength Griquas at Ellis Park.
The Kimberley outfit were considered cannon fodder after eight straight losses, and they rested several regulars with a promotion-relegation play-off against second-tier champions Pumas looming.
But while Lions won the try-scoring contest 4-1, flawless goal-kicking from 23-point full-back Gouws Prinsloo had Griquas level until Britz stormed down the middle to score between the posts.