A trip to the Lowveld inevitably promises a potential sighting of the Big Five. On Sunday though, if you are a fan of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge (and why not), you can see the Big Four in action when the semifinals of this far-reaching tournament are being played at KaNyamazane Stadium near Nelspruit.
The penultimate Rugby Festival of the year will take the tournament that yielded 522 tries in 51 matches so far, to yet another new destination, having criss-crossed the South African landscape in the last two months.
It might be unfamiliar venue settings, but for three of the four contestants, there are nothing new to playing in the semifinals. In fact, in DHL Western Province and Pumas, we have champions of the past and in both instances, they needed to defeat Tafel Lager Griquas to do so. The newcomer to the foursome is Boland, who are enjoying their best run in this tournament ever.
The Wellington side made it all the way due to the stingiest defence of all, having conceded only fourteen tries in their seven matches played. Having said that, two of their main weapons are on the wing, where Shilton van Wyk (five tries) and Valentino Wellman (seven tries) have been very dangerous to say the least.
What Boland have not faced this year though, is the physical forward power of the teams in the North Section. In previous years, the North and Central Section teams dispatched with relative ease the challenges offered by the South Section qualifiers in the quarterfinals of previous competitions. Few come harder at you than the Pumas.
The home side will have amongst them, in the pack, De-Jay Terblanche, who will be joining Connie Botha to become the most capped front-rower in the history of first class rugby.
Terblanche will play in his 191th match at prop to equal the former SWD front-rower’s mark and will be keen to make the record his own. For that, the defending champions need to outplay Boland in conditions that would suit the hosts best.
The opening match, between DHL Western Province and Tafel Lager Griquas, will be a try-fest if their stats in previous rounds are to be believed. The former champions have scored 36 tries, but also have the added bonus of sharp-shooter, Abner van Reenen in their midsts.
The youthful flyhalf kicked no less than 26 conversions and 11 penalties so far, but it is the flow the 21-year old has provided to the backline that has been catching the eye.
Opposite him will be wily 30-year old George Whitehead, who is also a kicker of note as well, having scored 1020 first class points in his career. The clash between the young gun and old head will most likely determine the result.
The squads and fixtures are:
DHL Western Province vs Tafel Lager Griquas
Referee: Paul Mente
TMO: Pro Legoete
DHL Western Province: Tristan Leyds, Craig Barry, David Brits, EW Viljoen, Andre Manuel, Abner van Reenen, Paul de Wet, Marno Redelinghuys (c), Ben-Jason Dixon, Brendon Esterhuizen, Jordan Sesink-Clee, Brandon Valentyn, Neethling Fouche, Chad Solomon, Kwenzo Blose. Replacements: Schalk Erasmus, Michael Kumbirai, Liam Hendricks, Dian Koen, Godlen Masimla, Lyle Hendricks, Sihle Njezula.
Tafel Lager Griquas: Anthonie Volmink, Ederies Arendse, Eduan Keyter, Andre Swarts, Enver Brandt, George Whitehead, Zak Burger, Will Wilson, Sias Koen, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Seketete, Ian Groenewald, Ewald van der Westhuizen, AJ le Roux, Khwezo Mona. Replacements: Khwezi Mkhafu, Ruan Kramer, Johan Momsen, Conway Pretorius, Chriswill September, Tinus de Beer, Chris Smit.
Pumas v Boland
Referee: Quinton Immelman
TMO: Pro Legoete
Pumas: Devon Williams, Morne Joubert, Neil Maritz, Ryan Nell (c), Ruwellyn IsbellChris Smith, Reynier van Rooyen, Willie Engelbrecht, Phumzile Maqondwana, Jeandre Rudolph, Cameron Lindsay, Stefan Willemse,Marne Coetzee, Corniel Els, Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: Marko Janse van Rensburg, De-Jay Terblanche, Carel du Preez, Marco Palvie, Ashlon Davids, Henko Marais, JP Lewis.
Boland: Joshua Vermeulen, Shilton van Wyk, Andries Viljoen, Jordan Holgate, Valentino Wellman, Garrick Mattheus, Shirwin Cupido, Patrick O’Brien, Johannes Janse van Rensburg, Kenan Cronje, Marlyn Williams (c), Adriaan Ludick, Wikus Groenewald, Neil Rautenbach, Arnout Malherbe.Replacements: Francois Esterhuizen, Wayrin Losper, Clinton Theron, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Ricardo Duarttee, Zandre Jordaan, Wayne Smith.