It’s do or die for a number of clubs in the Cell C Community Cup this Saturday as the penultimate round of pool action kicks off with all eight quarter-final places in the Easter Championships still up for grabs.
The top two teams from each pool will fight it out at Outeniqua Park in George from 28 March to 1 April, and after three rounds none of the heavyweights – Jonsson College Rovers and Despatch (Pool A), Pretoria Police and Durbanville-Bellville (Pool B), Rustenburg Impala and Roodepoort (Pool C) or Brakpan and Broubart Old Selbornian (Pool D) – are assured of their place.
That will all change on Saturday, with a number of crunch fixtures ensuring that the Easter Championship line-up begins to take shape.
The pick of the weekend’s action takes place in Pool B, where second-placed Pretoria Police travel to the Northern Free State to face third-placed Welkom Rovers, who must reverse their loss to the Bobbies in last year’s final Club Championships to stay in the hunt. To add spice to what is already an intriguing encounter, the iconic Gold Cup trophy will be on display at Rovers Rugby Club as a reminder of the stakes on offer.
African Bombers still have a mathematical chance of qualifying from Pool B, but they cannot come away from Bloemfontein with anything less than five points from their clash with Bloem Police.
In Pool A, defending national open club champions Jonsson College Rovers will have to be at their best after their bye when they face wild cards SK Walmers of Western Province in a top-of-the-table clash in Durban.
Rovers will go into the match as favourites, but SK Walmers have been impressive in their bonus-point victories over United Bulk Villagers Worcester and Aveng Moolmans Sishen and will know that victory over the two-time national champions will take them to the brink of Easter qualification.
GAP Despatch, meanwhile, must beat Sishen at home to stay in the race to George, with a likely eliminator against SK Walmers looming in the final round of pool play next Saturday at the Green Point Track in Cape Town.
Roodepoort, currently third in Pool C, also can’t afford to slip up if they are to progress to George. Victory over Bloemfontein Crusaders in the City of Roses on Saturday will see the West Rand club leapfrog Raiders, who have a bye, into second place on the log.
BB Truck & Tractor Noordelikes host unbeaten Rustenburg Impala in Polokwane in a match where the team from North West should run out as clear favourites. Whatever happens, it seems likely that the qualifiers from Pool C will only be known after the match at the Bill Jardine Stadium in Johannesburg next Saturday between Rustenburg Impala and Raiders.
And in Pool D, Pacaltsdorp Evergreens will most likely book their place in the Easter Championships if they manage to beat Broubart Old Selbornian in East London. Brakpan, who lost to Evergreens last weekend but came away from George with two vital bonus points, will book their ticket back to the Southern Cape for Easter should they prevail over White River.
Round 4 fixtures, Saturday, 9 March:
15h00: Jonsson College Rovers vs SK Walmers (Kings Park 3, Durban)
15h00: GAP Despatch vs Aveng Moolmans Sishen (Central Rugby Fields, Despatch)
Bye: United Bulk Villagers Worcester
16h00: Bloemfontein Police vs African Bombers (Bobbies Park, Bloemfontein)
16h30: Welkom Rovers vs Pretoria Police (Rovers Rugby Club, Welkom)
15h00: BB Truck & Tractor Noordelikes vs Rustenburg Impala (Noordelikes Rugby Club, Polokwane)
16h00: Bloemfontein Crusaders vs Roodepoort (Clive Solomon Stadium, Heidedal)
15h00: Broubart Old Selbornian vs Pacaltsdorp Evergreens (Nashua Park, East London)
16h00: Brakpan vs White River (Bosman Stadium, Brakpan)
Bye: Roses United