Blue Bulls fly-half Louis Fouche kicked a penalty from beside the touchline three minutes into stoppage time to snatch a 22-22 draw at Free State Cheetahs on Saturday in a Currie Cup thriller.
Cheetahs allowed a 10-point lead slip in the closing stages at Free State Stadium as centre Francois Venter burst over for a try that Fouche converted before his late rescue act.
The other two games delivered ultimately comfortable victories for top-four sides Western Province and Sharks after early scares from lowly rivals Platinum Leopards and Mpumalanga Pumas respectively.
Province turned a two-point half-time advantage into a 49-21 triumph at Newlands in Cape Town while Sharks overcame a three-point deficit at the break to finish 33-20 victors at Kings Park in Durban.
Golden Lions retained a five-point lead at the top of the table with five league rounds left after surviving a second-half comeback from Griqualand West Friday to win 41-25 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Seeking to win the oldest domestic inter-provincial championship in the world for the first time since 1999, Lions have 37 points followed by Province (32), Sharks (31), Cheetahs (25), Griquas (23) and 23-time champions Bulls (20).
Bulls travelled to central city Bloemfontein knowing a defeat could spell the end of their challenge for a semi-finals place and despite the absence of numerous stars on Rugby World Cup duty in New Zealand, fielded nine Springboks.
Cheetahs looked set to inflict a fifth loss this season on the Pretoria visitors with fly-half Johan Goosen defying his youth to land all six shots at goal before cramp forced a mid-second half retirement.
Goosen kicked five penalties and converted the try he set up for replacement lock Wilhelm Steenkamp while Fouche also finished with 17 points although he missed two second-half penalty attempts.
Province conceded two early tries before bouncing back to lead 16-14 at half-time and finish convincing winners with fly-half Isma-eel Dollie, deputising for injured Demetri Catrakilis, top scoring with 15 points.
All Sharks tries were scored by forwards with Jacques Botha dotting down twice and Craig Burden, Jean Deysel and Anton Bresler once while usually deadly accurate French place kicker Frederic Michalak had a rare off day, landing just four of seven kicks. — AFP