A change in the format of this year’s edition of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge meant the quarter-finals were scrapped, but as the tournament nears the playoffs after seven pulsating rounds of action, a number of clashes this weekend will indeed be like knock-out matches.
Defeat will spell the end of the road for one of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs or Boland Cavaliers in the South Section, and Tafel Lager Griquas or the Xerox Golden Lions XV in the North Section.
In true knock-out style – akin to quarter-finals – only two of these four teams will progress to the semi-finals next weekend, with the iSG Pumas and DHL Western Province having secured further participation towards the climax of this highly entertaining tournament.
There will be a straight shoot-out between Tafel Lager Griquas and the Xerox Golden Lions XV in Kimberley, where the team from Gauteng face an improbable task if they want to make it to the SuperSport Rugby Challenge semi-finals.
They only have one option – they need to beat the home side by 48 points or more and prevent them from getting a bonus point in order to play next weekend.
For Tafel Lager Griquas there are a number of options to make sure they qualify, but they will be looking at the maximum points as they can still top the log.
For that to happen though, the iSG Pumas, who are four points ahead at the top of the standings, need to lose in Welkom where the Down Touch Griffons await.
For the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Leopards (in Pretoria), only bragging rights will be at stake.
The Windhoek Draught Welwitschias’ clash with Valke at Hage Geingob Stadium will provide the Namibians one last chance to claim a win and end the tournament on a positive note.
The home side scored an upset in their last match played in last year's tournament, when they shocked the Valke in Kempton Park, so they will fancy their chances.
North Section fixtures:
Friday 7 June:
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Leopards
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
Saturday 8 June:
Tafel Lager Griquas v Xerox Golden Lions XV
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Paul Mente
Down Touch Griffons v iSG Pumas
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Ben Crouse
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias v Valke
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Quinton Immelman
There are two significant clashes in the South Section of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge this weekend. On Saturday, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV should lay down a marker against Border in Bloemfontein, with a victory moving them past Boland into second place on the log.
The Bolanders, currently three points ahead of the team from Bloem, will know exactly what they need come Sunday, when they take on DHL Western Province at Florida Park in Ravensmead, Cape Town at the sixth Rugby Festival of the tournament.
With the Capetonians already through to the semi-finals, Boland will need a win or at least a bonus point, depending on what happens in Bloemfontein the day before.
The other match in Ravensmead will see Cell C Sharks XV and SWD Eagles in action, and with the Durban side showing some vulnerability last weekend, SWD might just fancy their chances.
The match between Zimbabwe Academy and Multisure Elephants could be significant for two reasons. The first is a given, with Villager Rugby Club becoming yet another new venue in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, and the second would be if the Zimbabweans manage to pull off a first win in the competition.
South Section fixtures:
Saturday, 8 June:
Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV v Border
Venue: Clive Solomon Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Vusi Msibi
Zimbabwe Academy v Multisure EP Elephants
Venue: Villager Rugby Club, Claremont
Referee: Divan Uys
Sunday 9 June – Rugby Festival at Florida Park, Cape Town:
Cell C Sharks v SWD Eagles
Referee: Egon Seconds
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
DHL Western Province v Boland
Referee: Griffin Colby
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Issued by SA Rugby Communications