Hamiltons could take a big step towards qualifying for next year's Cell C Community Cup when they host Durbanville-Bellville in a top-of-the-table Western Province Super League A clash in Green Point, Cape Town on Saturday (kick-off 16h00).
With seven rounds remaining of one of the country's toughest provincial premier leagues, Durb-Bell (44 points) and Hamiltons (41) are currently one and two on the 10-team log, followed by Maties (39) and UCT (36) – both of whom have played two matches fewer than their open club rivals.
While all four sides are in the mix for Grand Challenge league honours, Durb-Bell and Hamiltons are also locked in a separate, two-horse race to see which of the two sides represent WP at the 2014 Community Cup.
Given that they finished a creditable fifth in the inaugural Community Cup and that they are current log leaders, Durb-Bell may be viewed as favourites, but in Hamiltons' favour is home-ground advantage and the confidence of having beaten Durb-Bell 48-13 away in their first-round encounter in May.
Whichever of the two sides eventually qualify automatically, they will be joined by six other teams who have already booked their places – Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Sishen (Griquas), GAP Despatch (as defending champions), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State) and newcomers Centurion (Blue Bulls).
Brakpan, who finished third in the 2013 Community Cup, beat Boksburg 49-26 in last weekend's Valke Peregrine Super League final to become the sixth team to qualify.
The East Rand outfit, arguably the form open club team in South Africa at present, will face their toughest match of the domestic season so far when they host Varsity Cup champions Tuks in a highly-anticipated clash at the Bosman Stadium on Saturday in the first round of the new cross-border Predator League.
The Predator League is divided into a Cup and Plate section and features the top 24 clubs from the Leopards, Golden Lions, Valke and Blue Bulls, including four Varsity Cup sides (Wits, UJ, Pukke, Tuks) and six Community Cup teams in Brakpan, Roodepoort, Pretoria Police, Centurion, Raiders and Rustenburg Impala.
Elsewhere around the country, Community Cup champions Despatch suffered a shock 27-23 defeat to Gardens in the Eastern Province Grand Challenge to ensure the final rounds will be a nail-biting affair, with a number of teams still in the running for league honours and the all-important Community Cup qualifying slot.
Heading into the final straight, Despatch still lead the standings with 45 points from 11 of their 15 matches, with surprise package Spring Rose one point behind in second place, followed by NMMU (40), Gardens (38), Crusaders (35) and Progress (33).
The Madibaz have played two matches fewer than their five open club rivals, thereby giving them a slight edge in the race for Grand Challenge honours, all of which makes for an exciting conclusion to what has been the most competitive competition in many years.
Community Cup runners-up College Rovers will book their place in next year's tournament and win their eighth straight KZN Moor Cup title this weekend if they pick up three points away against fourth-placed Varsity College, while second-placed Durban Collegians will keep their slim title hopes alive with a big home victory over fifth-placed UKZN Impi.
Should Rovers lose and Collegians win, the scene will be set for a titanic struggle at the Kings Park fields next Saturday when the two sides clash in a top-of-the-table final-round encounter, with Collegians' postponed match in hand against lowly Zululand Rhinos possibly assuming great importance should they manage to topple the seven-time champions away from home.
And in the Mpumalanga Buscor League, Witbank Ferro's, who cannot be caught at the top of the table, will host Nelspruit in one semi-final next weekend, while third-placed Malelane (41 points) are at home to second-placed Middelburg (45 points) in the final round, in a match that will determine which of the two sides have home-ground advantage for their semi.
This weekend's Premier League club fixtures from around SA (as supplied to SARU by its provincial unions):
Gauteng/North West Predator Cross-Border Super League, Saturday (Round 1):
Pool A – Brakpan vs Tuks. Bye: Roodepoort.
Pool B – Boksburg vs Centurion, NWU Pukke vs Raiders
Pool C – Wits vs Rustenburg Impala, Oostelike Eagles vs NWU Vaal
Pool D – Pretoria Police vs UJ, Pretoria Harlequins vs Pirates
Pool A – Union vs Naka Bulls, Wanderers vs Randfontein. Bye: Springs.
Pool B – Alberton vs TUT. Bye: Diggers, Kempton Wolves.
Blue Bulls – Carlton League:
League & Cup final won by Tuks. See above for Predator fixtures involving Blue Bulls teams.
Blue Bulls Limpopo – Boet Fick Senior League:
No matches – Round 8 of 10 takes place on 3 Aug.
Boland – Premier League, Saturday (rearranged fixture):
Wellington vs Saldanha (postponed Round 7 match)
Note: Wesbank vs Roses Utd (Round 12 match brought forward) has been postponed.
Border – Premier League:
Round-robin stages completed. Quarter-finals 23/24 August.
EP – Grand Challenge, Saturday (Round 13 of 16):
PE Harlequins vs Gardens
Despatch vs Crusaders
NMMU Madibaz vs Orlando Eagles
Spring Rose vs United Barbarians
SAPS vs Suburban
Progress vs St Marks
Grahamstown Brumbies vs Kruisfontein
Park vs African Bombers
No matches – City League & Cup final won by Shimlas.
Golden Lions – Pirates Grand Challenge:
League won by Roodepoort. See above for Predator fixtures involving Lions teams.
Griffons – 1st League, Friday (Final):
No matches – date of final between Welkom Rovers and one of Welkom or Henneman TBC.
Griquas – Super League:
No matches – League won by Sishen.
KZN – Fidelity Security Moor Cup, Friday (Round 13 of 14):
Durban Collegians vs UKZN Impi
Varsity College vs College Rovers
Harlequins vs Pietermaritzburg Collegians
Zululand Rhinos vs Northwood Crusaders
Leopards – Neser A League:
League & Cup final won by Potch Dorp. See above for Predator fixtures involving Leopards teams.
Mpumalanga – Buscor Super League, Saturday (Final round before play-offs):
Witrivier vs Nelspruit
Malelane vs Middelburg
Sasol vs Rooikatte
SWD – Premier League, Saturday (Round 16 of 22):
All Blacks vs Evergreens
Progress vs Groot-Brakrivier
Crusaders vs Silver Stars
Bonnievale Utd vs Uniondale
Blanco vs Bridgton
Swellendam vs Barbarians
Valke – Peregrine Super League, Saturday (Final):
League & Cup final won by Brakpan. See above for Predator fixtures involving Valke teams.
WP – Super League A, Saturday (Week 16 of 24):
Hamiltons vs Durbanville-Bellville
Bellville vs Tygerberg