The SuperSport Rugby Challenge is set to deliver body blows to the title aspirations of some teams, while others will be looking at strengthening their positions at the upper tiers of the respective South and North Section logs in the fifth round this weekend.
The first four rounds of the competition delivered 2035 points in 32 matches, with attack clearly the better option for success. No less than 287 tries have been scored across the board and only 51 penalty goals, which points to a clear attacking mind-set amongst the 16 teams.
It’s moving weekend in the South Section
With DHL Western Province threatening to disappear over the horizon in the South Section, at least four teams will be keen to make decisive moves in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge this weekend.
The Capetonians have accumulated the maximum of 20 log points so far, with Boland (15), Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV (15), Cell C Sharks XV (11) and Multisure EP Elephants (10) the other teams who scored two or more wins halfway through the pool stage.
The Multisure EP Elephants are facing the high-flying DHL WP side at DHL Newlands and could find their surge up the log halted and their campaign derailed.
Boland have been the most-improved side in this campaign and have already outplayed the Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV and narrowly lost to the Cell C Sharks XV last weekend, so bar their match against the DHL WP, will be playing teams in lower log positions in their remaining fixtures.
The first of those is in George this weekend, where the SWD Eagles could prove a real spoiler for the Cavaliers at Rosemore Stadium. This clash will also see the debut of female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron in the competition.
The Cell C Sharks XV (against Border in Durban) and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV (against Zimbabwe Academy in Constantia) will start their matches as favourites to win, but will underestimate their opponents at their own peril.
South Section fixtures – Saturday 25 May:
DHL Western Province v Multisure EP Elephants
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Kotze
Cell C Sharks XV v Border
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Stuart Berry
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Rosemore Stadium, George
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Zimbabwe Academy v Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV
Venue: False Bay Rugby Club, Cape Town
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Top sides clash in the North Section
The two finalists of last year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge and current front-runners in the North Section of the competition, the iSG Pumas and Tafel Lager Griquas, will meet in a highly-anticipated match on Saturday.
Both teams have won all four their matches with bonus points so far, but this clash at Nelspruit Rugby Club will see one of the two take a firmer hold on the top of the standings.
The hosts – and defending champions – are currently in second spot, behind the visitors from the Northern Cape, due to points’ difference, and will look at this clash with anticipation as they will play in front of a supportive crowd.
The two sides have only met once in the three years of the competition, with iSG Pumas edging the Tafel Lager Griquas 32-20 in Oudtshoorn in last year’s final.
So far in 2019, the men from Kimberley have scored 27 tries and conceded only nine, while the Lowvelders have scored 21 and conceded 14. In fact, the ‘Kwaste’ have the best points’ difference in the North Section and are the only side not to concede more than 100 points.
Elsewhere in the North Section, some significant matches will take place. On Saturday, both the Leopards and Windhoek Draught Welwitschias will be chasing a first win in the competition in Windhoek, while at Sunday’s Rugby Festival at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan, two competitive matches will thrill the crowd.
The Xerox Golden Lions XV and Vodacom Blue Bulls will be involved in a fierce battle, with the Johannesburg side (16 log points) looking to improve on their third place on the log.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially if the Down Touch Griffons, also on 10 log points, manage to get past the Valke.
The hosts could in fact be the biggest winners at the East Rand spectacle, should they beat the Welkom team and the Vodacom Blue Bulls come up short. This will allow them to move past both the Welkom and Pretoria sides to fourth on the log.
North Section fixtures:
Saturday, 25 May:
iSG Pumas v Tafel Lager Griquas
Venue: Nelspruit Rugby Club, Nelspruit
Referee: Ben Crouse
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias v Leopards
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
Sunday, 26 May (Rugby Festival, Bosman Stadium, Brakpan):
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Xerox Golden Lions XV
Referee: Quinton Immelman
TMO: Pro Legoete
Valke v Down Touch Griffons
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Pro Legoete