With Western Province threatening to disappear over the horizon in the South Section, at least four teams will be keen to make decisive moves in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge this weekend.
The Capetonians have accumulated the maximum of 20 log points so far, with Boland (15), Free State Cheetahs XV (15), Sharks XV (11) and EP Elephants (10) the other teams who scored two or more wins halfway through the pool stage.
The EP Elephants are facing the high-flying WP side at Newlands and could find their surge up the log halted and their campaign derailed.
Boland have been the most-improved side in this campaign and have already outplayed the Free State Cheetahs XV and narrowly lost to the Sharks XV last weekend, so bar their match against the WP, will be playing teams in lower log positions in their remaining fixtures.
The first of those is in George this weekend, where the SWD Eagles could prove a real spoiler for the Cavaliers at Rosemore Stadium. This clash will also see the debut of female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron in the competition.
The Sharks XV (against Border in Durban) and the Free State Cheetahs XV (against Zimbabwe Academy in Constantia) will start their matches as favourites to win, but will underestimate their opponents at their own peril.
South Section fixtures – Saturday 25 May:
Western Province vs EP Elephants
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Kotze
Sharks XV vs Border
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Stuart Berry
SWD Eagles vs Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Rosemore Stadium, George
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Zimbabwe Academy vs Free State Cheetahs XV
Venue: False Bay Rugby Club, Cape Town
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Top sides clash in the North Section
The two finalists of last year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge and current front-runners in the North Section of the competition, the Pumas and Griquas, will meet in a highly-anticipated match on Saturday.
Both teams have won all four their matches with bonus points so far, but this clash at Nelspruit Rugby Club will see one of the two take a firmer hold on the top of the standings.
The hosts – and defending champions Pumas – are currently in second spot, behind the visitors from the Northern Cape, due to points’ difference, and will look at this clash with anticipation as they will play in front of a supportive crowd.
The two sides have only met once in the three years of the competition, with Pumas beating the Griquas 32-20 in Oudtshoorn in last year’s final.
So far in 2019, the men from Kimberley have scored 27 tries and conceded only nine, while the Lowvelders have scored 21 and conceded 14. In fact, the ‘Kwaste’ have the best points’ difference in the North Section and are the only side not to concede more than 100 points.
Elsewhere in the North Section, some significant matches will take place. On Saturday, both the Leopards and Welwitschias will be chasing a first win in the competition in Windhoek, while at Sunday’s Rugby Festival at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan, two competitive matches will thrill the crowd.
The Golden Lions XV and Blue Bulls will be involved in a fierce battle, with the Johannesburg side (16 log points) looking to improve on their third place on the log.
The Blue Bulls have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially if the Griffons, also on 10 log points, manage to get past the Valke.
The hosts could in fact be the biggest winners at the East Rand spectacle, should they beat the Welkom team and the Blue Bulls come up short. This will allow them to move past both the Welkom and Pretoria sides to fourth on the log.
North Section fixtures –
Pumas vs Griquas
Venue: Nelspruit Rugby Club, Nelspruit
Referee: Ben Crouse
Welwitschias vs Leopards
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
Sunday (Rugby Festival, Bosman Stadium, Brakpan)
Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions XV
Referee: Quinton Immelman
TMO: Pro Legoete
Valke vs Griffons
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Pro Legoete
Issued by SA Rugby Communications