The Gold Cup reaches an early boiling point on Saturday, with a number of unfancied sides on the brink of qualifying for the knockout stages following a series of surprising results in the second round of SA Rugby’s flagship three-nation champions’ league for non-university clubs.
In Pool A, Sasol Hydra-Arc Secunda’s 32-29 home win last Saturday against defending champions Newrak Rustenburg Impala has set the cat amongst the pigeons, with the Mpumalanga champions virtually guaranteed of a quarter-final spot should they pick up a hat-trick of wins with victory over Wesizwe Vereeniging away on Saturday.
The Falcons debutants however have play-off ambitions of their own, following their spectacular 48-32 come-from-behind away win over Recall Security Bloemfontein Police in which they scored 38 unanswered points after trailing 32-10.
In Pool B, Limpopo champions Northam Platinum Rhinos, with two wins from two, will also almost certainly book a place in the last eight should they beat Lions representatives Raiders at the Bill Jardine Stadium.
The group’s other match features one of the weekend’s two club ‘Test matches’, with Blue Bulls Carlton Cup champions QBR, fresh off their 54-10 win over Speedy Car Sales Vaal Reefs, flying to Zimbabwe to take on Old Georgians in Harare on Saturday.
Wildcards Swallows of Mdantsane, following a nailbiting 27-26 win over EP’s Progress Uitenhage at a packed WJ de Wet Stadium in Despatch last Sunday, will, like fellow unfancied teams Secunda and Rhinos, almost certainly guarantee themselves a place in the quarters should they overcome formidable Pool C opponents Progress George – who edged Tygerberg in pouring rain in George last weekend – at the BCM Stadium in East London.
Buffalo City is a veritable hive of rugby activity on Saturday, with Pool C’s other match, between Border champs Mike Pendock Motors Old Selbornians and Progress Uitenhage, kicking off at 14h00 at Old Boys’ home ground.
Pool D sees the weekend’s other club international, with Griquas champs IMT Sishen, who pushed 2016 finalists Direct Axis False Bay all the way last weekend in a 35-25 defeat, travelling to Windhoek to take on winless Western Suburbs.
And in Saturday’s early match, Roses United will look to pick up their second win on the trot when they fly to Durban to take on Go Nutz College Rovers, who enjoyed a bye in round two, on one of the outer fields of Kings Park at 12h30.
The Gold Cup format is identical to that of the Rugby World Cup, with the 20 participating teams divided into four pools of five teams each. The top two clubs from each pool progress to the knockout stages.
Broadcast partners SuperSport have confirmed that they will televise the quarter-finals (Sunday 15 October), semi-finals (Sunday 22 October) and final (Sunday 29 October).
ROUND 3 FIXTURES
Saturday 23 September (all kick-off times 15h00 unless otherwise stated):
Wesizwe Vereeniging v Sasol Hydra-Arc Secunda (Phoenix High School, Vereeniging)
Newrak Rustenburg Impala v Human Auto Welkom (Impala RFC, Rustenburg, 16h00)
Old Georgians v QBR (OGSC, Harare)
Raiders v Northam Platinum Rhinos (Bill Jardine Stadium, Johannesburg)
Swallows v Progress George (BCM Stadium, East London)
Mike Pendock Motors Old Selbornians v Progress Uitenhage (MPM Park, East London, 14h00)
Western Suburbs v IMT Sishen (Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek)
Go Nutz College Rovers v Roses United (KP3, Kings Park, Durban, 12h30)