Ashley Buys of the SWD Eagles gets hold of DHL Western Province’s Rayn Smid in their Vodacom Cup South Section clash last weekend at DHL Newlands in Cape Town. Credit: Carl Fourie, Gallo Images.
The four South Section teams in the Vodacom Cup quarter-finals will be out for revenge after none of them progressed past the last eight in 2014.
Teams from the north have dominated proceedings in the Vodacom Cup, which kicked off in 1998.
Only three times out of 17 campaigns have non-Northern teams won the competition – that was in 2000 (Toyota Free State XV), 2011 (Pampas XV) and 2012 (DHL Western Province). GWK Griquas, runners-up in the South Section this year, played in the North Section previously.
The Vodacom Cup remained in the north for the other 14 years. The Xerox Golden Lions (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2013) and GWK Griquas (1998, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014) have won it five times each, the Vodacom Blue Bulls three times (2001, 2008, 2010) and the Hino Valke once (2006).
The defending champions will be the first team in action in the quarter-finals this year when the Steval Pumas travel to GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening to play GWK Griquas (kick-off at 19h00).
Peter Engledow’s team from the Northern Cape lost only one of their pool matches this year, which gives them an impressive winning record of 15 out of their last 17 Vodacom Cup matches.
The Steval Pumas, coached by former Blitzbok speedster MJ Mentz, have been a strong contender in recent years – they were runners up in 2013, lost in the semi-final last year and won five of their seven pool matches this year.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Toyota Free State XV in the second quarter-final at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening (kick-off at 19h10 – live on Supersport 1). It’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final, won by the men from Pretoria by a single point.
The Nollis Marais-coached Vodacom Blue Bulls scored 40 tries in their seven pool matches this season, which is the most by any team. Their opponents from Bloemfontein, coached by Rory Duncan, were the top try-scoring side in the South Section with 28.
Saturday’s two quarter-finals take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The SWD Eagles will have a massive mountain to climb when they travel to Emirates Airline Park to take on the top side from the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions (kick-off at 14h10, live on Supersport 1).
The men from George, coached by former Springbok fullback Bevin Fortuin, have notched up a few impressive wins this season, but facing a mean-looking Xerox Golden Lions side at altitude is another proposition.
Russell Winter, coach of the Johannesburg-based side, would have faced Fortuin many times in his provincial career and will know it would be a massive mistake to underestimate the Eagles, but the Xerox Golden Lions would still be favourites to qualify for their third successive semi-final.
The last quarter-final is at City Park in Athlone, where John Dobson’s South Section champions, DHL Western Province, will host the Leopards XV.
The men from Potchefstroom, coached by Chaka Willemse, needed a bonus-point victory in their final pool match to make it into the top eight, which they duly did in Windhoek last weekend, but a visit to the Cape is a different proposition.
Vodacom Cup – Historic performances
Xerox Golden Lions
Best performance: Champions in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2013
Performance in 2014: Runners-up (lost to GWK Griquas in the Final, 30-6)
DHL Western Province
Best performance: Champions in 2012
Performance in 2014: Lost in quarter-finals (13-8 to Steval Pumas)
Vodacom Blue Bulls
Best performance: Champions in 2001, 2008 and 2010
Performance in 2014: Lost in semi-finals (16-15 to Xerox Golden Lions)
Best performance: Champions in 1998, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014
Performance in 2014: Champions (beat Xerox Golden Lions in the Final, 30-6)
Best performance: Runners-up in 2013
Performance in 2014: Lost in semi-finals (15-14 to GWK Griquas)
Toyota Free State XV
Best performance: Champions in 2000
Performance in 2014: Lost in quarter-finals (22-21 to Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Best performance: Runners-up in 2005
Performance in 2014: 5th in North Section
Best performance: Lost in semi-finals, 1998
Performance in 2014: Lost in quarter-finals (84-15 to GWK Griquas)
Vodacom Cup – Previous Winners:
1998: GWK Griquas
1999: Xerox Golden Lions
2000: Toyota Free State Cheetahs
2001: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2002: Xerox Golden Lions
2003: Xerox Golden Lions
2004: Xerox Golden Lions
2005: Xerox GWK Griquas
2006: Hino Valke
2007: GWK Griquas
2008: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2009: GWK Griquas
2010: Vodacom Blue Bulls
2011: Pampas XV
2012: DHL Western Province
2013: Xerox Golden Lions
2014: GWK Griquas
GWK Griquas v Steval Pumas
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Toyota Free State XV
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
Live on SuperSport1 and CSN
Xerox Golden Lions v SWD Eagles
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Oregopotse Rametsi
Live on SuperSport1 and CSN
DHL Western Province v Leopards XV
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Kotze