The North Section of the Vodacom Cup – resuming after the Easter break – will have a proper shake-up this weekend when the top six teams clash in Kimberley, Pretoria and Welkom.
Northern log leaders, the Steval Pumas (one of only two unbeaten teams left in the competition along with the Sharks XV) have the tough task of travelling to Kimberley where they will face four-time champions, GWK Griquas, on Friday afternoon.
GWK Griquas are currently in third place on the log and will not want to lose another home game as the race to the quarter-finals heats up.
The team from the Northern Cape will go into the match on a high after crushing the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 124-5 two weekends ago. It was a new Vodacom Cup record for the biggest victory (119 points) and most points by a team in a match (124).
A week earlier, the Leopards XV’s win by 113-3 raised the previous record mark, set in 2001 by the EP Kings when they beat the Welwitschias by 110-17.
GWK Griquas’ 20 tries also bettered the 17 scored by the Leopards XV and EP’s 16 in 2001. Marnus Schoemand and Rocco Jansen, who scored five each in the romp against Limpopo, equalled the record jointly held by Stephen Brink (Sharks XV v Griffons in 1998) and Jannie van der Walt (Golden Lions v Welwitschias in 2001).
The second crunch match in the North Section will take place in Welkom on Friday evening when the MTN Golden Lions travel 250km south to the North West Stadium to take on the Down Touch Griffons. These two teams are fifth (Lions) and sixth (Griffons) on the log and defeat will be a serious blow to either side’s progress to the quarter-finals.
And on Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld B in Pretoria, the Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Leopards XV. They currently occupy positions two (Bulls) and four (Leopards) on the Northern log and will want to remain amongst the top four, with the group stages passing the halfway mark this weekend.
The two front-runners in the South Section face tricky away fixtures this weekend.
The table-topping Sharks XV travel to George, where the SWD Eagles – sixth on the log after one win from their first three matches – await them in what promises to be a tough encounter on Friday evening.
The Standard Bank Pampas from Argentina, Vodacom Cup champions in 2011, travel to Wellington to play the Regent Boland Cavaliers, while DHL Western Province, currently third on the Southern log, will face the Border Bulldogs down the road in Paarl. Both of these matches are on Saturday afternoon.
In Bloemfontein, a mid-table South Section clash between the Toyota Free State XV and the EP Kings should produce fireworks. Both are on seven league points, with the Free Staters ahead on points’ difference.
The Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls, on the receiving end of some big defeats lately, will be aiming for their first win of the season when they host the Valke in Tzaneen on Saturday afternoon.
Round 4 fixtures:
Friday, 5 April
GWK Griquas v Steval Pumas
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Down Touch Griffons v MTN Golden Lions
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
SWD Eagles v The Sharks XV
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Saturday, 6 April
Toyota Free State XV v EP Kings
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Leopards XV
Venue: Loftus Versfeld B, Pretoria
Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls v Valke
Venue: Hans Merensky HS, Tzaneen
DHL Western Province v Border
Venue: Paarl RFC, Paarl
Regent Boland Cavaliers v Standard Bank Pampas
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington