THE Cell C Community Cup race in SWD hits the home straight this weekend with three clubs vying for the two remaining play-off slots in an intriguing final round of the Premier League's round-robin stages.
With 21 of 22 rounds completed in what is arguably the country's most taxing premier league, champions Pacaltsdorp Evergreens, who finished eighth in the inaugural Community Cup, and fierce rivals Mossel Bay Barbarians have already booked home semi-finals on 14 September ahead of the grand final at Outeniqua Park in George a fortnight later.
Barbarians, who have not lost to Evergreens this season (they won 26-11 at home and drew 16-all away), are many people's favourites to represent SWD at next year's Community Cup but they first have to get past one of Groot Brak, Bridgton or Silver Stars in the semis – and just who has to travel to Mossel Bay will be decided this weekend.
The three teams are separated by just three log points, with third-placed Groot Brak (72) at home to fifth-placed Silver Stars (69), and fourth-placed Bridgton (71) away to Evergreens, whose position at the top of the log is guaranteed.
Barbarians' final league match, against sixth-placed Crusaders, is effectively a dead rubber as neither team can improve on their log position.
Elsewhere around the country, Wesbank have moved to within five points of log leaders Roses United with just four round remaining of the Boland Premier League.
Wesbank's 45-5 away win over Wellington has moved them up to 57 points, four ahead of third-placed Villagers Worcester, the defending champions, whose 24-20 away loss to Roses last week has lengthened the odds on them retaining their title.
The league race however looks set to go down to the wire, especially as Roses must still travel to Malmesbury to play Wesbank in what is one of the great derbies in South African club rugby.
And in the Western Province Super League A, Hamiltons have retained their four-point lead over Durbanville-Bellville after the 2009 national club champions recorded a 53-24 away win over Tygerberg.
Durbell kept their Community Cup hopes alive with a victory over Helderberg, but the northern-suburbs side now face the challenge of needing bonus-point wins over UCT this Saturday and Maties next Wednesday in their final two matches to guarantee their place in next year's national tournament.
Anything less than 10 log points from these encounters against the students will mean that Hamiltons could clinch WP's automatic slot with an away win over Helderberg on 7 September.
With less than 200 days until the kick-off of the 2014 Community Cup, the Pool draw has been done and eight teams are confirmed qualifiers: Despatch (EP), Ferros (Mpumalanga), College Rovers (KZN), Brakpan (Falcons), Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Sishen (Griquas), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State) and Centurion (Blue Bulls).
The Griffons First League final, between champions Welkom Rovers and Welkom, will take place on Monday 9 September, with the winner qualifying automatically.
Rustenburg Impala, who finished fourth in the 2013 Community Cup, will play Vaal Reefs in an eliminator on a date to be confirmed, to decide who will represent the Leopards at the tournament.
And Border's qualifier will be one of defending champions Old Selbornian, Buffalo or East London Police, after all three won through to the Super League semi-finals, where they will be joined by the University of Fort Hare.
This weekend's Premier League club fixtures from around SA (as supplied to SARU by its provincial unions):
KZN – Castle Murray Cup, Friday (Semi-finals, Riverside Sports Complex):
Durban Collegians vs Zululand Rhinos, 18h30
College Rovers vs Piet Retief, 20h00
SWD – Premier League, Saturday (Final round – 22 of 22):
All Blacks vs Bonnievale Utd
Progress vs Blanco
Barbarians vs Crusaders
Groot-Brakrivier vs Silver Stars
Evergreens vs Bridgton
Swellendam vs Uniondale
WP – Super League A, Saturday (Week 22 of 25):
Maties vs SK Walmers
UCT vs Durb-Bell
Victorians vs Helderberg
Tygerberg vs Belhar