The Vodacom Cup competition is set to heat up significantly this weekend as the reality sets in that there are only three pool rounds remaining, including this weekend’s matches, for the teams to play their way into the quarterfinals.
The pick of the weekend’s matches in the North Section will be GWK Griquas against the Golden Lions at GWK Park in Kimberley on Saturday, where the favourable second place on the section’s log standings is expected to be up for grabs.
Should the winless Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls create an upset against North Section log-leaders the Steval Pumas in their match at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, however, the Golden Lions or GWK Griquas could leap into the top spot on the log.
In the South Section, the clash between the SWD Eagles and EP Kings in George on Friday is expected to be thrilling.
While the SWD Eagles could climb into second or third place on the South Section log depending on the other results should they win, the EP Kings will be desperate to close the gap between themselves and the top four teams to keep alive their playoff hopes following only one victory in four matches so far this season.
In the other matches on Friday, the Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Valke on the Loftus Versfeld B field in Pretoria and the Down Touch Griffons go up against the Leopards XV in Welkom.
On Saturday the Toyota Free State XV host the Border Bulldogs in Bloemfontein, the Regent Boland Cavaliers take on the unbeaten Cell C Sharks XV in Ceres, and DHL Western Province fronts up against Kenya’s Tusker Simba XV at DHL Newlands.
Each week we will feature emerging young players from the North and the South Sections who are making their way up the rugby ladder. This week we look at Vodacom Blue Bulls lock Marvin Orie and Regent Boland Cavaliers No8 Conway Pretorius.
Vodacom Cup Rising Star (No9) – Marvin Orie (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
The up's and down's experienced by a young professional player is often not highlighted enough, but if you need a motivational speaker on how to pick yourself up following a severe setback, be sure to invite Vodacom Blue Bulls lock Marvin Orie.
The Cape Town-raised player certainly knows about the highs of rugby, having been a member of the Junior Springboks team in 2012 that famously won the IRB's Junior World Championship. He was also a member of the UP Tuks run-on team that thrashed Maties in the final of the 2013 FNB Varsity Cup in Stellenbosch, after having led their Young Guns to the Under-19 title the previous year.
Tragedy, however, struck the likeable former Tygerberg High School scholar in the 2013 final. Having already being earmarked to lead the Junior Springboks at the 2013 JWC tournament in France in June, Orie broke his leg so badly that some of his team mates on the field became physically ill witnessing that.
But Orie does not know how to quit.
He worked hard to return to form and finally received the green light to return to competitive rugby last weekend, where he played his first 29 minutes of rugby in almost a year against the Leopards XV in Leeudoringstad.
His impact could not have been more telling, as the Vodacom Blue Bulls, trailing 13-6 at the break, found another gear and scored three tries en route to a 30-26 win.
He will continue his comeback trail at Loftus B this weekend, again off the bench, as the Blue Bulls host the Valke.
Coach Nollis Marais will have the comfort of having the athletic ability and leadership of Orie on the bench and will be able to use the work-rate and ball sense of the energetic player when needed.
For the 21 year old lock any time on the field will be valued.
Having being out of rugby for so long and working tirelessly to get back to the required level of fitness, Orie will be ready to show off his skills in a competition earmarked for exactly that - to give young and upcoming players a change to confirm their credentials as the champions of tomorrow.
Vodacom Cup Rising Star (Nr 10) – Conway Pretorius (Regent Boland Cavaliers)
At 21 years old Regent Boland Cavaliers No8 Conway Pretorius has proved to be a great talent for the union. Pretorius was born in Pretoria, but attended Lochnerhof Primary School and later Strand High School in Cape Town.
He then moved to the Northern Free State where he joined the Harmony Sports Academy and soon after played his way into the Griffons Rugby Union’s junior structures.
Pretorius, who is 1,87m tall and weighs in at 92kg, has a similar build to that of Springbok and Vodacom Bulls looseforward Dewald Potgieter.
He made his junior provincial debut for the Down Touch Griffons Under-19 team in the Absa Junior Provincial Championship in 2011, but returned to the Western Cape where he joined the Regent Boland Cavaliers Under-21 team in 2013.
Such was the high quality of his performances he scored an impressive five tries in the competition, and given his consistent efforts it was no surprise that he graduated to the union’s Vodacom Cup team this season.
Pretorius made his senior provincial debut for the Regent Boland Cavaliers against the SWD Eagles in Swellendam last month and earned his second start against Kenya’s Tusker Simba XV last week in which he scored a brace of three tries to assist his team to their first victory in the competition and an invaluable bonus-point win.
He will make his third back-to-back start against South Section log leaders the Cell C Sharks in Ceres on Saturday.
Given Pretorius’ impressive rise through the provincial rugby structures, he undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him.
Round 5 fixtures:
Friday, 4 April
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Valke
Venue: Loftus Versfeld B field, Pretoria
Referee: Stuart Berry
Down Touch Griffons vs Leopards XV
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
SWD Eagles vs EP Kings
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Ben Crouse
Saturday, 5 April
Toyota Free State XV vs Border Bulldogs
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
GWK Griquas vs Golden Lions
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls vs Steval Pumas
Venue: New Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
Referee: Oregopotse Rametsi
Regent Boland Cavaliers vs Cell C Sharks
Referee: Jaco Kotze
DHL Western Province vs Tusker Simba XV
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Tahla Ntshakaza