Amidst all the hype and fanfare and labelled the best Super 14 tournament ever, seemingly the glory and honeymoon phase are over, with the aftermath leaving a bitter taste for all rugby loving supporters, well that’s according some news reports.
The Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition is regarded as the flagship tournament in the province, not only the monetary value in prizes, but the media hype, exposure to a semi-professional set-up and most importantly the social cohesion it brings between supporters and their clubs. It takes rugby from the best facilities in your suburban areas and open our eyes with the crumbling playing conditions in our rural areas. Most importantly it pits the best that Border Rugby can offer against the cream of Eastern Province rugby with the ultimate prize, to be crowned the best team in the province.
So, in a matter of two months, that feels like a distant dream, with wide spread media coverage of non-payment of prizes. Is it a matter of poor administration or genuine organizational glimpses that led to the delay? The final was played at BCM Stadium on the 14th March where Progress stunned local favourites Swallows 28-24. The reward, a hefty R60 000.00 pay day with the runners-up taking home R40 000.00, the losing semi-finalist earmarked to receive R25 000.00 each and the rest of the teams R15 000.00.
Its well documented that rugby bosses of both Swallows and Progress made scathing media statements eluding to the fact that they have not received any payments yet. One should also be reminded that not only the two clubs is affected but the entire 14 clubs that participated. Is this a genuine concern or just to get public empathy and sympathy? What is more concerning the breach in tournament rules which can lead to a suspension from future tournaments. For bringing the competition into disrepute is a clear violation of the competition rules as per rule 4.6 which states.
4.6 Media Interactions
(a) The only appointed individuals to speak on behalf of the competition is the Tournament Director or anyone mandated by him to do so.
(c) All clubs are encouraged to interact with the media only to promote their clubs and matches and may not in any way make statements or utterances that may denigrate the status of the Competition or officials. A breach of this rule may be seen as serious misconduct and may attract a sanction after appearing in front of the Judicial Sub-Committee.
There is contradicting statements coming from the two clubs in mention. Progress Rodney Josephs vehemently denies the report in the Daily Dispatch stating he clearly told the reporter that there was a communique from the tournament director that the money will be paid, but instead, the reporter created his own story. On the other hand, Swallows boss Zuko Matyeshana insist there was no communication. When asked about Rule 4.6 about media statements he said, “I was asked a question by a Daily Dispatch reporter whether we have received our prize-money, which I responded no, I couldn’t lie.
We did not approach the media and it is not during the duration of the tournament”.
Speaking to Phumelela Hlati, the Tournament Director, amidst all the accusations of non-payment, he said. All clubs were kept in the loop of the payments. A communique was sent out on the 17 th March to all club bosses on the S14 group stating that all payments will be made on or before the 27 th March 2020. The unfortunate thing is on the 23th March the
lockdown was announced which came into effect on the 26 th March. I am residing in Komani and the office is based in East London and there was travelling restrictions imposed. Because sport is non-essential, I had no permit to travel”
When asked why payments was made only in East London and could it not be done via a laptop or other mediums. Hlati stated that the prize money was ring fenced so that it doesn’t get lost with all the numerous transactions they make. He said “The two signatories, me and the president must be present to access the account. All payments of Super 14 were
either done on Tuesday or Wednesday and I had to go down to the office to process them. That is what has been happening from the beginning of the tournament. Payments were done at the office. I have limited ability to do transactions on the go”.
Late payments are not something new as there was also late payments in 2019. One could argue this year that no sport is being played at this point and time, so the urgency of payments is totally different.
Is there a conspiracy theory levelled against the organizers of the tournament? One must look back at the furore and uproar caused by Swallows supporters when the final was moved from NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane to BCM Stadium with the aftermath vocal altercations on social media, including a lengthy letter by Swallows Supporters Club. That too fuelling an emotional attachment of the community of Mdanstane, robbing them of staging a final at their door step. With Progress denying the statements in the media, questions would still be raised what they would gain in the whole debacle.
Fact is, there is no record stating any team was never paid what is due to them from previous competitions, albeit late or in time. Could this whole issue have been resolved by virtue of a phone call? So far only one club, Harlequins, formally asked for clarity just before lockdown via an email send to the organisers. The media spat have had a positive outcome, with Mkhululi Magada ensuring to organize a permit for Hlathi so that payments could be made on Friday.
For now, we are facing an interesting couple of days, weeks, months. Could we see the both finalists been absconded from the tournament for voicing their dissatisfaction in the media in clear violation of the competition’s rules, if found guilty. What measures will the steering committee take to remedy the situation for future tournaments. Was this even necessary as it not only paints a bleak prospect for the competition but could negatively impact the funding for future tournaments.
Its been long touted that club rugby is moving in a semi-pro structure whereby players are paid a minimum wage or match fees. In some quarters this has been happening for a very long time, where top clubs around South Africa and the rest of the world lure the best players with high incentives as a dangling carrot.
Is this the way forward, or are we oppressing clubs with limited resources and are we moving into a direction where the elite clubs will continue to grow at the expense of the smaller clubs who are tantalizingly facing a demise. Gareth Davies of the Welsh Rugby Union wrote “But please, dear clubs, I implore you let us start again with the right structure. If no club offers payment, then there will be no market for player wage and no club will feel the need. If no club breaks the ranks and we all play for enjoyment, for our town or village of birth, for the club with whom we hold the strongest affinity, with our friends and neighbours, our extended families and our children, then no club will suffer the same threat of oblivion that is currently being felt in some quarters if a similar crisis were to strike again”
He further states “Don’t pay players. Play in the league you are in, strive to beat the opposition you face, dream of lifting the trophies available at your current standard and attract the players who are drawn to your club. Use the money you save on attracting, developing and engaging players for future or on ensuring your club remains the central hub of your community that it has always been. Be sustainable and help safeguard the future for us all”.
Whilst club structures are changing and clubs becoming semi-pro, while this is good and well in an ideal world, one needs to face burning facts. Most club players do not have a stable job that pays enough to provide for their families. The match fees act as a bridge to cover that gap. Players are also expected to be fit to perform at their optimum, yet we no gym fees is paid by clubs. The match fees can help in that regard as well. Most club players are unemployed, clubs expect them to practice every day, with lots of players staying far without transport. The issue of paying for rugby boots and other playing equipment like mouth guards, shoulder pads, etc. comes at a very high cost, match fees can bridge that gap. Even players that is working, most must take leave on a Friday and Saturday to attend matches as at times travelling is far. The Gold Cup is a perfect example, even normal league matches, travelling is an issue for someone who knocks off at 1pm on a Saturday and must still play at 3pm.
These are conversations that must take place in rugby circles. To weigh up the facts, whether its in the best interest of our communities or are we moving into a global direction where sport have become more commercial with the highest bidders investing in their clubs and is generally more successful. Success is not achieved over-night, but proper structures
and planning is also vital.
Does money buy success. Despatch Rugby club ruled Eastern Province Rugby at a point and time with huge financial backers. Crusaders is another example, they were one of the top clubs, playing at the lushy St Georges Park. At a point African Bombers had the same, with sponsors like Puma in the closet. Of late top Uitenhage clubs in Progress have Calbis and Gardens driven by MultiSure Corporation. Border Club East London Police had Just On Cosmetics. For years Old Selbornians had huge backers like your Nashua, Mike Pendock Motors. It’s no secret that Swallows have been holding the monopoly the last couple of years through their financial backers. We can name a lot of clubs like your Rustenburg Impala, False Bay Rugby Club, Durban Rovers and many many more. But when the money dries up, the players vanish and so does the success. It’s a well-known fact that players have no loyalty. It is conversation like these, that will go a long way in establishing in what direction our club rugby is heading.
There will be contrasting feelings in both camps after digesting in what is one of the greatest Super 14 Finals ever after Progress 28-24 win. Progress a feeling of elation, satisfaction and riding on the wave of an amazing victory. While Swallows will be dejected and must accept the fact that they have let themselves and their supporters down. One key element stood between winning and losing, THE BENCH.
Progress and coach Eric Toring have mastered the art of making key changes to player personal. Not making changes for the sake of giving everyone a run, but calculated substitutions which is a vital cog in their dominance over teams. They do the hard yards and graft in the first half, then unleash their explosive bench players in the second half. No team can match and keep up with the intensity for the entire 80min. The same scenario occurred in the semi-final against African Bombers. Progress have class and pedigree but most importantly have the BMT (Big Match Temperament). Most teams will never come back after trailing at half-time, but Progress have done it twice in consecutive weeks in do-or-die matches.
Progress Sachin Toring is key in that game plan. He proved it last week in the semis and again yesterday he came on and changed the entire game. He scored a vital try when Progress was trailing 24-18. Another key factor was the boot of replacement flyhalf Jeandre Christians who slotted three penalties and a conversion for a 11-point haul and all that coming from the bench. In total Progress bench accumulated 16 points from the match score of 28. That’s not all, man of the match Riaan Arends was a late switch from wing to 12 after an injury to one of the Progress players during warm-up. That was an inspired switch as he scored two brilliant tries in the first half.
On the other hand, Swallows can kick themselves for the substitutions they made. And the tactical error in leaving out experience Siyasanga Patti in such a crucial game when you needed cool and calm heads when faced with pressure moment. Bee Zweni was crisp in his distribution and game management, why he was substituted is anyone’s guess. Bangi Kobese coming in and later playing at 10 was out of depth. Swallows just didn’t have the bench at all. Their inability to kill off matches when leading came back to haunt them. It wasno difference as in previous matches when they tend to let teams back in the second half,but only this time it was suicidal, and they paid a hefty prize.
The impact of your bench can never be underestimated!
After eight weeks of exciting and scintillating clashes between the best rugby players in the province, the 2020 Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition has come down to one final game on Saturday. It has taken 46 games, 3680 minutes, with only two teams remain standing. 80 minutes stand between Swallows and Progress and their lap of glory, the epitome of greatness to be called champions and the best team in the province. This after both came of mouth-watering semi-final clashes over the weekend.
It couldn’t be any closer as Progress booked their semi-final spot with a 23-22 win over African Bombers in an electric atmosphere at the Central Fields in Uitenhage. Stakes doubled in the highly charged match with the presence of Springbok and World Champions captain, Siya Kolisi, in attendance sparking further fuel on an already blistering ambience.
Bombers, spurred on by the Springbok captain, came out with guns blazing to score two tries to lead 12-0. Progress seems to lack the killer instinct when presented with scoring opportunities and fluffed three clear chances. However, the boot of their flyhalf kept the score ticking. In the second half the host came out a different outfit, trailing 19-9, tactical changes worked wonders as they scored two tries to lead 23-19. Bombers fought valiantly to hit back, with Progress defence resolute, and they had to be content with a penalty for a 23-22 score-line.
Swallows started as clear favourites, but Ncerha Leopards had other ideas and came to play. Leopards led 8-7 at a point to take the fight to the host. Swallows with their experience weathered the storm to race to a 27-8 lead. Ncerha is known for their never-say-die attitude and it was no difference as they fought back to trail by 7 points at 27-20. Swallows added a penalty for a 30-20 win.
What does this mean for both teams? Swallows have won the rights to host the final after both teams went unbeaten in the group stages. A coin toss determined the right to host the final. It’s a second final for Swallows in three years, after winning the competition in 2018. It is the third final for Progress after suffering two heart-breaking defeats in previous years. Is it third time lucky for them? Both teams come in as champions of their respective Unions, Swallows the Border champs While Progress is the EP champs.
Ahead of the final, while the headline message is different, the underlying philosophy is the same, to take the pressure of the team with both teams exceptional in both attack and defence. Public opinion is split as who the favourites is going into the final, with Swallows having a slight advantage due to home ground. Being an underdog can be a motivating factor. The thought of exceeding expectations against all odds and proving a point, especially away from home. Progress comes in with confidence. Coach Eric Toring said, “We are confident of doing the job in East London with one mission only, and that is to bring the trophy home. We are going to look at the semi-final, realign our strategies and come even stronger”. Captain Michael De Vos echoed his coaches’ sentiments and said that they want to bring it back for the community of Uitenhage. They are focused on their strengths and have capable players in Sachin Toring, Denver Jones, Riaan Arends, Deon Plaatjies, Sonwabo Majola, Davian Swanepoel and the entire squad to do the job.
Meanwhile, the favourites are seen to be under more pressure because of expectations to win from the home fans. Swallows Ntando Kebe stated that his team have a plan for the final and knows that it won’t be easy but as a team need to stay focused and do the right thing in the right arears with execution key. They are expecting Progress to run with ball in
hand, but they have a plan to counter that. He stated” It means a lot for the team to fight for the number one spot in the province and it is due to the hard work and sacrifices we as a team put in as we always set goals for ourselves”. Swallows can call on Onke Dubase, Samora Fihlani, Yanga Xakalashe, Billy Dutton, Siyasanga Patti, Tseke Siyobi, Soso Mantyoyi and array of stars to do the damage on their opponents. The stage is set at Buffalo City Stadium, 3.30 pm. Who wants it more? Winning takes the precedents over all. There’s no grey area, there is no almost. One never remembers the team that came second. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
As predicted, it’s an all Border and an all EP semi-finals in the Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition as Progress, Swallows, African Bombers and Ncerha Leopards are all through to the knockouts. This makes it the perfect balance with both Unions guaranteed a team in the money-spinning finale.
With five teams still in the running for that final two spots, it came to the last round of matches in the group stages. African Bombers survived an early scare by Old Selbornians to run away 36-22 winners to book their spot. It was a titanic battle in Group A between Black Eagles against Ncerha Leopards, with Leopards eventually winning a tight and tense affair 16-9 to make sure of a knock-out spot. Harlequins 47-12 win over Breakers was not enough to push them through. Ncerha ended second on the log behind Progress on 22 points while Harlequins accumulated 20 points. Kruisfontein 38-34 win over Police put them in third place in Group B on 20 points with Bombers taking the final spot on 25 points, one-point shy of table-topping Swallows on 26 points. It was a first win of the competition for Gardens as they defeated Trying Stars 36-10. Young Leopards continued their good run with a 27-22 win against Park.
The semi-final line-up is complete. The first semi-final will be between Swallows against Ncerha Leopards at NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane. The second semi will see Progress hosting African Bombers at Central Fields in Uitenhage. After the round-robin matches, Progress dominate all stats. They have the most points for of 301, scored the most tries (43), conceded the least (7) and have the most combined log points of 28. The EP champions is unbeaten since 2019 and have concluded the EC Super 14 round-robin on a perfect slate, still unbeaten. It should be a scary prospect for African Bombers, who themselves come into this match with a high profile. They have won five of their six matches, with the only loss coming against Swallows.
One can argue that Bombers was in a tougher group, but Progress like any champion side, still had to do the job on the pitch and they did it clinically and efficiently in dismantling every opponent. Bombers scored the most points for in Group B (166) and conceded the least tries (10). It should be an interesting tussle taking both teams are dominant upfront and have a lethal backline. The most enterprising match-up between is between two of the most exciting players in Davian “Swannie” Swanepoel of Progress and Vusikhaya “Stompie” Hanabe of Bombers. Only a brave man can bet who the winner in this tie will be. Swallows should start as clear favourites in their semi-final against Ncerha Leopards. The
Border champs is unbeaten and have amassed 26 points, the second highest on the combined log behind Progress. They are currently ranked the fourth best team in the country after their Gold Cup exploits. The have scored 19 tries and conceded 16. Swallows have been their own Achilles heel, especially in the second half as they tend to allow teams to come back. Is it a matter of fitness or a matter of losing composure at crucial stages when pressed? Ncerha Leopards have been a revelation. The have won five matches including beating Park away and their closest rivals Harlequins at home. Their only loss is against Progress. They are known for grinding out victories and have the mental acumen as shown in their do or die match over the weekend against Black Eagles.
The Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition is living up to its high expectations of being the premier club rugby tournament in the Province. It is better and exciting and have fans on the edges. This coming weekend is the final round-robin matches and still only two teams, Progress and Swallows, that have secured semi-final spots. A total of five teams have a mathematical chance of securing the remaining two spots which make this weekends fixtures so intriguing. African Bomber, EL Police, Ncerha Leopards, Harlequins and Kruisfontein are all fighting for destiny.
Swallows came out on top in the biggest match of the round six when they defeated African Bombers 25-21. This blockbuster match was billed “the final before the final” and had the entire Province in suspense as to who the better team was. It lived up to expectations, judging how close the score was, with both teams dishing out exhilarating rugby for the big
crowd in attendance at NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane. Swallows have made sure of top position in Group B on 26 points while Bombers is second on 20 points. Police won 28-0 against Trying Stars to keep their semi-finals aspiration alive and is sitting third on 16 points.
Kruisfontein is still in the running for knock-outs after beating Old Selbornians 38-35, which took their log points tally to 15.
Progress made sure of topping Group A with a convincing 50-19 drubbing of Young Leopards. They have amassed 28 points and have the biggest number of points in the combined log. Harlequins is back in business and have a fighting chance for the semis after annihilating Black Eagles 78-12. They occupy third position on the log with 15 points. Park taught Breakers a rugby lesson with a thumping 73-3 victory. It’s all to play for this weekend as spots for the semi-finals is hotting up. What is interesting is that both Swallows and Progress who have qualified on top of their respective groups, enjoy a well-deserved break after playing six straight weeks. It is an advantage for both sides as they will be fresh and at home for the semi-finals in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, African Bombers needs two points to make sure of qualifying for the semis in their match against Old Selbornians. A point could be enough, but then points differential would come into play should Police get a bonus point win against Kruisfontein. However, it is expected that Bombers should win this match. Kruisfontein host Police with both teams still having an outside chance to qualify should the unlikely happen and Bombers slip-up.
The equation is simple for Ncerha Leopards, beat Black Eagles and you are through to the semi-finals. Harlequins must beat Breakers away from home in Komani and hope Black Eagles do them a huge favour against Ncerha Leopards. The other two matches are not of any significant relevance as all four teams are playing for pride as Young Leopards host Park
while Trying Stars have a date with Gardens. For now, it looks more and more likely that it will be an all EP and an all Border semi-finals. If Bombers come through their match against Old Boys unscathed, they will end second in Group B and meet the table topping Progress in the semi-finals. Ncerha Leopards is the favourites to end second in Group A which then will pit them against Swallows in the semi-finals.
Progress and Swallows became the first two teams to book their places in the semi-finals of the lucrative Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition. Both teams have won five out of five matches. The competition itself have been a revelation and the level of competitiveness in both groups have been immense.
Breakers were simply blown out of the park in front of their supporters at Thobi Kula Stadium by an unforgiving Progress outfit, hammering the home side 68-3 in a flawless display of attacking rugby. The class of the EP champions was evident as they recorded their bonus point within the first half, after racing to a 28-3 lead. Breakers seems content to avoid a whitewash and never really seems to fight for a win, but disappointingly, instead resorted in trying to defend the inevitable. That seems to play in the hands of the visitors, who ran them riot with the home team chasing shadows for most of the afternoon with Progress scoring a mammoth 10 tries.
Progress lead Group A on 23 points. Since the inception of the competition the Uitenhage based team have never won the prestigious tournament with a couple of heart-breaking final appearances. Talking to coach Eric Toring after the match and his feelings how his team can get that monkey off their back he said, “ We came here today to do what we do best and our main aim was to collect a bonus point, it was never in our mind to put up a score of 100 or 50. We respect Breakers as a team just like we respect all our opponents. We have a group of 35 players, and we want to keep all of them in top form and motivated hence we rotated our playing squad and they showed dedication. We are not focused on the semis for now but have our attention firmly on our next opponents which is Young Leopards. It’s obviously a big burden on our shoulders to have never won this competition before. We as a club have come together during pre-season, with the coaches and executive and we have made this Super 14 a priority, it’s a must win for us.” When pressed to choose between Bombers and Swallows in the semi-final, the coach politely answered, “Anyone of them”.
Swallows had to dig deep to beat Kruisfontein 38-36 in a pulsating match in Humansdorp, in the proses cementing their place in the knockouts. The Border champs must be wary of their second half performances as they tend to let teams come back into the game. The same happened again this weekend after leading 28-3 at halftime. At a point Kruisfontein
lead 36-35 before a penalty saved them from their blushes. Swallows are on top on 22 points. Ncerha Leopards continue their good run and have virtually secured their spot in the semi-final after beating their closest contender, Harlequins 28-18 to put them on 18 points.
Mathematically they need 2 points to secure safe passage with Black Eagles to play. Park registered an easy 24-3 win against Eagles while Trying Stars recorded their first win after beating Old Selbornians 18-12. It’s just the opposite in results for another Uitenhage outfit as Gardens recorded a fifth straight loss, this time beaten by Police 32-17. The much-anticipated tie between Swallows and African Bombers is at the NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane tomorrow. Both teams have been red-hot with the winner set to top the Group B and possibly avoid Progress in the semi-finals, but most importantly secure home ground advantage. It’s a match everyone has been waiting for and fireworks is expected. Progress
take on Young Leopards with Breakers travelling to Park. Harlequins host Black Eagles with Old Boys also at home to Kruisfontein. Trying Stars travel To East London to face Police. Ncerha Leopards and Gardens are bye.
It looks more and more likely that it will be an even split with two teams from Border and two from Eastern Province making it to the semi-finals, striking a perfect balance and competitiveness. As things stand now in Group A Progress is sitting on top, unbeaten on 18 points, followed by surprise package Ncerha Leopards on 14 points. Group B have African Bombers unbeaten on 19 points followed closely by Swallows, also unbeaten on 17 points.
Three teams remain on 100% winning ratio after four rounds. Although Progress, African Bombers and Swallows is unbeaten, surprisingly, mathematically not one semi-final spot have been secured yet, with up to 4 teams in each group still standing a chance to qualify, pending results go their way.
Central Stadium in Uitenhage have once again proved to be the fortress of nightmares for visiting teams, as proven when Progress annihilated, smashed and humiliated a hapless Black Eagles side 110-0, to rewrite the record books with the biggest winning margin in the history of the competition. One must spare a thought for the beleaguered Eagles side, who now carry the unwanted record that was previously held by Old Collegians when they suffered a horrendous 88-3 hiding at the hands of the same Progress at the same venue in 2014.
On the other hand, Ncerha Leopards have made a statement of intend and in the process put themselves up there with the best with their come from behind 28-27 win over Park. What make this win so special is that it was achieved away from home and a full haul of five points. Ncerha Leopards have overshadowed their more illustrious counterparts in Border clubs EL Police and Old Selbornians. It shows that it was by no fluke that the team went five league games unbeaten last season when everybody started to take note of their pedigree.
Young Leopards recorded their second victory with a bonus point 26-17 win over Breakers. The struggle continues for Gardens after losing their fourth match 46-31 against Old Boys in East London. African Bomber made light work of Kruisfontein with a comfortable 30-11 win at Zwide Stadium. Swallows continued their dominant self with a 38-15 bonus point victory over Trying Stars. Swallows coach Ntando Kebe said after the match at NU1 Stadium of their chances to win the Super 14, “It is our dream and that’s our goal at the end of the day we want to win the tournament. Every week we take it day by day and we are not panicking on any of our performances because each weekend we improve’. When asked how the loss of players of calibre like Billy Dutton and Aphiwe Stemele is affecting the team, he responded by saying that they are blessed with a wealth of depth in the squad and its opportunities for other players to step up as shown by their young flyhalf. He also stated that they have a fleet of loose forwards they can call on anytime.
Taking permutations into account, Progress, Bombers and Swallows are the clear favourites to lift the Super 14 crown. In Group A it looks more and more likely a three-horse race for the two spots. Progress should take pole position, but where it is exciting is the battle for second spot between Ncerha Leopards and Harlequins. Ncerha is sitting on 14 points after four matches with Harlequins on 10 with three games to play. This weekends game at Ntenteni Fields between the two sides is a straight knockout. Both teams have only lost once to Progress. Both teams are also scheduled to play Black Eagles, with both expecting an easy win although both playing Eagles away. Harlequins must also play Breakers away. In Group B, it’s a two-horse race between African Bombers and Swallows. Both teams can afford to lose a match and still qualify for the semis. The match on the 22 February between the two sides will determine who tops the log. Swallows have one hurdle though, and that’s to deal with Kruisfontein away this weekend.
Other matches, Breakers welcome a rampant Progress at Thobi Kula Stadium. Park travel to Black Eagles with Trying Stars hosting Old Selbornians. Garden is at home to Police with African Bombers and Young Leopards bye.
Three teams, African Bombers, Swallows and Progress continued to be ruthless and pulverise oppositions in the Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition. Ironically all three are unbeaten and all three have won two matches on the road and only played once at home. They have shown their dominance again this past weekend, again with all three winning away from home. A fourth team, Kruisfontein, is also unbeaten, but enjoyed a well-deserved break over the weekend after a very good start to the competition.
So, who are the favourites? Both groups are water-tight with 1 or 2 points the difference between the top 3 teams in each group. A lot of rugby followers have put their money on a Bombers/ Swallows finale. However, both teams are in Group B, the group of death. Both teams must still play each other in a crucial match on the 22 February at the NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane. Kruisfontein might have other ideas though. Both Swallows and Bombers is scheduled to play Kruisfontein, starting this coming weekend with African Bomber hosting the red-hot Kruisfontein outfit at Zwide Stadium. Swallows must travel to Humansdorp on the 15 TH February which will also be a highly contested tie to determine the semi-finalist. EL Police, on six points, have given themselves a lifeline with their win over Old Selbornians and remain in the title race and any slip-up by the top three will give them a gap. But its advantage Bombers in the group on 14 points, followed closely by Swallows on 12 points and Kruisfontein on 8 points.
In Group A, Progress is the run-away leaders and have swept all before them. They have won three out of three with 12 points in the bag. What is more impressive, the EP champs have won two matches away from their Central Field stronghold. They have beaten their closest rival Ncerha Leopards convincingly over the weekend to consolidate their pole
position. Harlequins have made a huge statement in the last two weekends. After suffering an opening loss to log leaders Progress, Harlequins have muscled and clawed their way with back to back bonus points wins over Young Leopards and Park and are sitting pretty in second place on 10 points. Ncerha Leopards is third on 9 points.
Looking at the past weekend’s results, Progress won 24-7 away to Ncerha Leopards to cement their top spot. Harlequins is back on track with another five pointer in their outstanding 35-17 demolishing job of Park. Young Leopard got their first win under the belt with an impressive 33-8 win over Black Eagles away from home. Gardens remain winless in their 21-18 loss to Swallows. Gardens can take heart for their second half performance after clawing their way back into the match with 13 men after two players received their marching orders. Discipline is key for a team that is in a rebuilding phase. EL Police won the East London derby 22-16 over neighbours Old Boys. As expected, Trying Stars put in a fight till the bitter end in their 25-22 loss to a Bombers side that have taken no prisoners.
This weekend, it’s do or die when African Bombers host Kruisfontein in the battle of the unbeaten sides. Swallows welcome Trying Stars at the NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane. Old Selbornians host Gardens which should be an interesting tussle between two sides that have yet to put the Super 14 on fire. Progress should have a stroll in the park and is
expected to take all five points against a Black Eagles side that have battled to compete against the best. Park welcome Ncerha Leopard at Londt Park. Breakers travel to Ducats for a date with Young Leopards, with both teams recording one victory thus far. Harlequins and EL Police have byes.