TWO Golden Lions clubs, Raiders and the University of Johannesburg, will contest the final of the inaugural cross-border Predator Super League next month after both teams registered nail-biting, come-from-behind victories in their respective semi-finals played at the UJ Stadium last weekend.
Raiders beat Rustenburg Impala 41-38 after trailing 38-27 with just minutes left on the clock, while UJ needed extra time to beat Brakpan 27-23 after their match finished 20-all after the regulation 80 minutes.
For Raiders, 21 points from flyhalf and man of the match, Shaun Davids, helped Raiders beat their great rivals from Rustenburg, against whom they drew 30-all in the Cell C Community Cup earlier this year.
For UJ, it took a try in in extra time from scrumhalf Jacques Pretorius to subdue Brakpan, the Community Cup bronze medallists and one of the form open clubs in SA club rugby, who had enjoyed an unbeaten domestic season.
The two sides will now play for the title of best club in the northern unions when they face off at the neutral venue of Wits University on 7 September (kick-off 16h00).
The curtain-raisers see Pukke play Tukkies in the under-21 final at 12h00, and Pukke up against UJ in the 2nd XV final at 14h00. The 3rd XV and under-19 finals will take place on the University B field at 12h00 and 14h00 respectively.
Elsewhere around the country, NMMU Madibaz reclaimed the Eastern Province Grand Challenge title after finishing five points clear of Community Cup champs Despatch and 11 points ahead of third-placed Spring Rose, the competition's surprise package against whom the PE students suffered their only loss of the season.
Despatch's runner-up place was however good enough to see them book their 2014 Community Cup place by right as EP's top open club, instead of relying on an invitation from SARU as defending champions, as is permitted by the tournament rules.
With less than 200 days until the kick-off of the 2014 Community Cup, eight teams are confirmed: Despatch (EP), Ferros (Mpumalanga), College Rovers (KZN), Brakpan (Falcons), Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Sishen (Griquas), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State) and Centurion (Blue Bulls).
Elsewhere around the country, the race for Community Cup places couldn't be closer in a number of provinces. Hamiltons opened up an invaluable four-point lead over Durbanville-Bellville in the Western Province Super League A after Hammies' 20-16 win over Maties in Green Point, while Durbell, who have a game in hand over their city rivals, could only draw 17-all against lowly Bellville.
A full haul of 10 log points for Hamiltons in their final two matches, against Tygerberg away on Saturday and Helderberg away on 7 September, will force Durbell to win all three of their remaining matches – against Helderberg at home on Friday night, Maties at home next Wednesday, and UCT away next Saturday – with bonus points if they hope to re-qualify for the Community Cup.
Things are just as tight in the Boland Premier League, where Roses United's first loss of the season, 34-27 to Robertson, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons in what has now become a three-horse race.
Wellington-based Roses still hold a six-point lead over second-placed Villagers Worcester, the defending champions, and third-placed Wesbank, but with all three teams yet to play each other, things look set for a photo finish when the final league matches take place next month.
And in the SWD Premier League, champions Evergreens and second-placed Barbarians, who are separated by just two log points, have both booked home semi-finals with two rounds to play, ahead of what is widely expected to be a final showdown between these two clubs on 28 September when the Cup final takes place at Outeniqua Park in George and SWD's Community Cup representative is decided.
However, third-placed Grootbrakrivier and fourth-placed Bridgton will want to upset the form book and both will fancy their their chances in the knockout rounds, while fifth-placed Silver Stars are not yet out of contention either in what has been one of the most competitive premier leagues in the country this year.
This weekend's Premier League club fixtures from around SA (as supplied to SARU by its provincial unions):
Cross-border Predator Super League:
No matches – final between UJ vs Raiders, 7 September
Blue Bulls – Carlton League:
League & Cup final won by Tuks.
Blue Bulls Limpopo – Boet Fick Senior League, Saturday:
Letaba vs Louis Trichardt
Boland – Premier League, Saturday:
Roses United vs Villagers Worcester
Robertson vs Ceres
Black Leaves vs Saldanha
Hawston vs Vredenburg
Wellington vs Wesbank
Border – Premier League, Saturday (Quarter-finals, Buffalo City Stadium, East London):
Buffalo vs Cambridge
Fort Hare vs Berlin Tigers
East London Police vs WSU
Winter Rose vs Old Selbornian
EP – Grand Challenge:
No matches – League won by NMMU Madibaz
Free State – City League:
No matches – 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:
No matches – date of final between Welkom Rovers and Welkom TBC
Griquas – Super League:
No matches – League won by Sishen.
KZN – Castle Lager Murray Cup, Saturday (Quarter-finals, 15h00):
Zululand Rhinos vs Harlequins
Piet Retief vs UKZN Impi
College Rovers vs Crusaders
Durban Collegians vs Varsity College
Leopards – Neser A League:
League & Cup final won by Potch Dorp. See above for Predator fixtures involving Leopards teams.
Mpumalanga – Buscor Super League:
No matches – League & Cup final won by Ferros.
SWD – Premier League, Saturday (Round 21 of 22):
Blanco vs All Blacks
Crusaders vs Progress
Silver Stars vs Barbarians
Bridgton vs Groot-Brakrivier
Uniondale vs Evergreens
Bonnievale Utd vs Swellendam
Valke – Peregrine Super League:
League & Cup final won by Brakpan
WP – Super League A, Friday/Saturday (Week 21 of 25):
Durb-Bell vs Helderberg (Fri)
Maties vs Bellville
SK Walmers vs Victorians
Belhar vs UCT
Tygerberg vs Hamiltons