An average of 64 points per match and no less than 335 tries, at an average of nine every 80 minutes, are two of the reasons why the 2018 SuperSport Rugby Challenge has grabbed the attention of local rugby supporters.
The fact that most of these were achieved at smaller and lesser-known rugby venues also contributed to this spectacle that will again thrill on Friday and Saturday when Round 7 of the tournament continues all around the country.
All three undefeated teams, DHL Western Province, Toyota Free State XV and the iCOLLEGE Pumas, are in action and will be looking to extend their impressive runs for another week.
The efforts of the Bloemfonteiners will be tested first up on Friday, when they face the Leopards in Potchefstroom in the very competitive Central Section.
The home team will hope to lift their performance after an unexpected run of poor results, but they are just too good a team to remain winless. The Leopards showed signs of a resurgence of some sort against the Tafel Lager Griquas last weekend, leading on the scoreboard until late in the match, and they will take a lot of confidence from that performance.
That said, the Daan Human-coached Free State side has showed flair and grit in their five wins so far this season and will travel to the Fanie du Toit Stadium as firm favourites. They have developed an all-round game with tactical and attacking ability so will be a hard team to beat, even away from home.
The same can be said of the Cell C Sharks XV, where Ricardo Loubscher and Paul Anthony have moulded a very solid outfit. Not every province can boast two incumbent Springboks in Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am in their midst, but such is the depth of the midfield stocks in Durban that Loubscher can name Johan Deysel and Jeremy Ward as his midfield pairing.
Not only did Ward captain the Junior Springboks, Deysel scored a try for Namibia against New Zealand at the World Cup in 2015. One thing can be guaranteed in their clash against the Down Touch Griffons, reputations need to be earned at HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom. The home side are more than capable of claiming a scalp here and this clash could be the match of the weekend.
The North Section will also provide a humdinger in Nelspruit, where the iCOLLEGE Pumas host the Xerox Golden Lions XV. Enough has been said of the attacking abilities of the home side – the Mbombela Stadium faithful saw five tries by winger Ruwellyn Isbel the last time their team played at home, against the Hino Valke – but their Gauteng rivals this weekend are made of sterner stuff.
Xerox Golden Lions XV coach Herkie Kruger has some serious talent to his disposal and is using their strengths very well. A number of fringe players from the Emirates Lions squad will also be keen on some game time now that the Vodacom Super Rugby has taken a break.
The other North Section match will be played in Namibia’s Hage Geingob Stadium, with the Vodacom Blue Bulls making to trip to face the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias.
The Namibians are coming off their first away win ever, while the visitors had their bubble burst by their neighbours from Mpumalanga at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.
The South Section has two regular themes – the dominance of the DHL Western Province and the unusual venues where matches are played. This weekend is no different, with the Capetonians playing at False Bay Rugby Club in Constantia against the Border Bulldogs.
And the SWD Eagles take on the EP Elephants in George, but this match will not be played at Outeniqua Park, but the Rosemore Stadium.
John Dobson’s DHL Western Province side will be full of running and confidence following their magnificent second half effort against EP last weekend, while the Eagles will have a rare opportunity to play in the heartland of the George community. Win or lose, both home sides are expected to walk away smiling, not only because of the rugby on display, but also because of the choice of venue.
SuperSport Rugby Challenge Round 7 fixtures
Friday, 1 June 2018:
Leopards v Toyota Free State XV
Venue: Fanie du Toit Stadium, Potchefstroom
Referee: Archie Sehlako
Saturday, 2 June 2018:
SWD Eagles v EP Elephants
Venue: Rosemore Stadium, George
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
TV: SS 1
DHL Western Province v Border Bulldogs
Venue: False Bay RFC, Cape Town
Referee: Quinton Immelman
iCOLLEGE Pumas v Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Down Touch Griffons v Cell C Sharks XV
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Jaco Pretorius