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.