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 Steval Pumas, assured of a place in the playoffs.
For the Regent Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles, Valke and Down Touch Griffons, another defeat would probably spell the end of their playoff 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 playoffs. Yes, it’s mathematical for the Regent Boland Cavaliers 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, DHL 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 playoffs.
The Sharks XV travel to Port Elizabeth this weekend for what promises to be an exciting match against the EP Kings on Saturday afternoon. The Kings are fourth on the South Section log on 16 points, level with the ICBC 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 Toyota Free State XV (13 points), who take on the Argentineans in Stellenbosch on Saturday afternoon, can hardly afford another defeat, but it won’t be easy against the 2011 Vodacom Cup champions.
The Steval 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 Vodacom Blue Bulls (both on 18 points) and GWK Griquas and the MTN Golden Lions (both on 12).
Defeat this weekend will probably mean the end of the road for the teams from Kimberley or Johannesburg.
The MTN Golden Lions have a very difficult away fixture on Friday, when they travel to Nelspruit to take on the high-flying Steval Pumas.
It is interesting to note that the MTN 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 Steval Pumas.
GWK Griquas host the Leopards XV at GWK Park in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon. 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 Vodacom Blue Bulls play the Assupol 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 playoffs.
In the other North Section match this weekend, one of the Down Touch 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.
Round 6 fixtures:
Friday, 19 April
Border Bulldogs v Regent Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Buffalo City Municipality Stadium, East London
Down Touch Griffons v Valke
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
Steval Pumas v MTN Golden Lions
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday, 20 April
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Mogol Club, Lephalale
ICBC Pampas XV v Toyota Free State XV
Venue: AF Markötter Stadium, Stellenbosch
GWK Griquas v Leopards XV
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
DHL Western Province v SWD Eagles
Venue: Helderberg RFC, Strand
EP Kings v Sharks XV
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth