Preview: Vodacom Cup, Round 6
It's the penultimate round of the Vodacom Cup pool phase and 14 of the 16 teams in action can still make the quarter-finals, with only one team, the unbeaten Pumas, assured of a place in the play-offs.
For the Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles, Valke and Griffons, another defeat would probably spell the end of their play-off aspirations.
The South Section is proving to be quite tough this year, with any of the top seven teams on the log still in with a chance to reach the play-offs. Yes, it’s mathematical for Boland and the SWD Eagles, but if they win and some other results go in their favour, they can still make it.
The Bolanders travel to East London to take on the Border Bulldogs on Friday, and the Eagles have a tough task against the defending champions, Western Province, in Strand on Saturday.
It’s also highly unlikely, but even the unbeaten Sharks XV, who lead the South Section log on 23 points, can still be overtaken by four teams. One bonus point though will be enough to put the KwaZulu-Natalians in the quarter-finals, but they will be eager to continue their winning run into the play-offs.
The Sharks XV travel to Port Elizabeth this weekend for what promises to be an exciting match against the EP Kings on Saturday. The Kings are fourth on the South Section log on 16 points, level with the Pampas XV, and still have their destiny in their own hands.
The home team will have to repeat their feat of 2007 though - the last time they managed to beat the Sharks XV (then still called the Wildebeest). The men from EP won that match by 45-0, but lost their next three Vodacom Cup encounters against the KwaZulu-Natalians.
The fifth-placed Free State XV (13 points), who take on the Argentineans in Stellenbosch on Saturday, can hardly afford another defeat, but it won’t be easy against the 2011 Vodacom Cup champions.
The Pumas, log leaders in the North Section on 25 points, cannot finish outside the top four. They are followed on the log by the Leopards XV and Blue Bulls (both on 18 points) and Griquas and the Golden Lions (both on 12).
Defeat this weekend will probably mean the end of the road for the teams from Kimberley or Johannesburg.
The Golden Lions have a very difficult away fixture on Friday, when they travel to Nelspruit to take on the high-flying Pumas.
It is interesting to note that the Golden Lions have not beaten their Mpumalanga counterparts in the Vodacom Cup since 2002. In that time, the Gautengers lost six straight matches against the Pumas.
Griquas host the Leopards XV at GWK Park in Kimberley on Saturday. The home team, despite struggling this year, should take to the field as favourites, considering that they had won their last seven encounters in the Vodacom Cup against the side from Potchefstroom, dating back to 2002.
The Blue Bulls play the Limpopo Blue Bulls in Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) this weekend and are heavy favourites to beat the team from the Far North - along with the Border Bulldogs definitely out of the running for the play-offs.
In the other North Section match this weekend, one of the Griffons or the Valke, who play each other in Welkom on Friday, will probably drop out of the race to the quarter-finals, although both are still only in the reckoning on a mathematic probability.