The winner of the 15th Vodacom Cup will be crowned in a few weeks’ time, but this weekend quarterfinal action takes place in Kimberley, Nelspruit, Durban and Cape Town.
Interestingly, seven of last year’s eight quarterfinalists are back, the only team not making it this year being the Toyota Free State XV. They have been “replaced” in the 2012 playoffs by the EP Kings, who missed out last year after they were docked points for fielding two ineligible players.
The Sharks XV, second in the South Section after winning five from seven, will have their work cut out for them when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup quarterfinal round at Mr Price Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon at 14:00.
The Pretorians, who ended third in the North Section with four wins, one draw and one defeat, have been superb in Vodacom Cup playoffs, reaching the final every year since 2006, when the Sharks XV, then still called the Wildebeest, lost in the final to the Valke in Brakpan.
In the history of the competition, the Vodacom Blue Bulls have won the title three times, finished runners up six times, lost in the semifinals once and lost in the quarterfinals once as well.
On the contrary, the KwaZulu-Natalians have only reached one final and lost in five semifinals and one quarterfinal.
Although they have lost three from the last five finals, but the Vodacom Blue Bulls know how to win playoffs. This was perfectly illustrated last year, when they almost went all the way after finishing fourth in the North Section.
In the end, the Pampas XV had too much fire power for the Vodacom Blue Bulls to take their maiden Vodacom Cup title by winning the final by 14-9 in Potchefstroom.
The Argentineans have to travel to Kimberley, where the face GWK Griquas, along with the MTN Golden Lions the most successful Vodacom Cup team ever with four titles. This is the first quarterfinal of the weekend and is scheduled for 15:00 at GWK Park on Friday.
GWK Griquas won the North Section (five wins and one defeat), while the Pampas XV struggled to replicate their 2011 form and finished fourth in the South, winning four and losing three league matches. In their 10 playoff appearances, the team from the Northern Cape have only lost in the quarterfinals once before.
The top side in the South Section and the only unbeaten team thus far this year with seven victories from seven matches, DHL Western Province, will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s quarterfinals when they host the MTN Golden Lions at City Park in Cape Town on Saturday at 15:30.
In 2011, the Capetonians lost their home quarterfinal against the Sharks XV by 21-19. They have only reached the semifinals twice and lost four quarterfinals, but this year DHL Western Province will be looking to go all the way.
The MTN Golden Lions have not had things go their way in 2012 and they finished fourth in the North Section, having won three of their six league matches.
While the Capetonians will take to the field as favourites, they will be mindful of the MTN Golden Lions’ solid playoff record, even though the Gautengers have not gone further than the quarterfinals since winning the last of their four titles way back in 2004.
On Friday evening in Nelspruit, the two quarterfinalists that have the worst playoff record of all the teams that qualified this year, the Ford Pumas and the EP Kings, will square off.
Between them, they have only reached the Vodacom Cup playoffs four times – the Kings have lost both their quarterfinal appearances, while the Ford Pumas have lost one quarter- and one semifinal. The Kings’ playoff record would’ve been better if it wasn’t for last year’s ineligibility debacle.
The Ford Pumas finished second in the North Section by virtue of getting two more bonus points than the Vodacom Blue Bulls as they also won four, lost one and drew one in 2012. The Kings’ record this season reads won five, lost two and they finished third in the South.
VODACOM CUP FIXTURES – QUARTERFINALS
Friday, May 4 2012
GWK Griquas v Pampas XV
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Ford Pumas v EP Kings
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Saturday, May 5 2012
Sharks XV v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
DHL Western Province v MTN Golden Lions
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Ben Crouse