There will be permutations aplenty when the final round of the Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday, with any number of clubs still able to reach next week’s quarter-finals of what has been the most closely contested edition of SA Rugby’s three-nation champions’ league for non-university clubs.
Here are all the permutations.
In Pool A, Mpumalanga champions and Gold Cup newcomers Sasol Hydra-Arc Secunda are assured of a place in the quarter-finals. The match between Falcons champions Wesizwe Vereeniging and defending Gold Cup champions Newrak Rustenburg Impala will decide the other place.
If Vereeniging win, they will finish second and Impala will be eliminated. If Impala win, they will qualify and Vereeniging will be eliminated. Impala will finish top of the group should they win with a bonus point. If Impala win but fail to pick up a bonus point, Secunda will finish top.
In Pool B, Blue Bulls Carlton Cup champions QBR and Limpopo’s Northam Platinum Rhinos are both unbeaten and assured of places in the last eight. Their crunch match on Saturday in Setaria will determine who finishes top of the group, with QBR only needing a draw to achieve this.
In Pool C, any number of permutations are possible, as illustrated by the fact that even winless and bottom-placed MPM Old Selbornians can still reach the quarter-finals!
For Border champs Old Selbornians to make it, they will first have to beat WP wildcards Tygerberg in East London by 31 or more points, and deny Tygerberg any bonus points.
Even if they achieve this, the result of the group’s other match, between Progress Uitenhage and unbeaten log leaders Progress George in Despatch, may yet influence things. Progress George are already assured of a quarter-final place, but they must win to make sure they finish top.
Should George lose and Tygerberg beat Old Selbornians, it is Tygerberg who could finish top, depending on bonus points picked up both both sides. Progress Uitenhage could still go through should they beat Progress George with a bonus point and Tygerberg lose without picking up any points.
And in Pool D, KZN champs Go Nutz College Rovers and 2016 Gold Cup runners-up Direct Axis False Bay are both through, with their top-of-the-table clash on Saturday one of the most eagerly anticipated club matches in Durban in many years. Quite simply, the winner of this match will finish top of the group.
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.
FINAL-ROUND FIXTURES (Saturday 7 October):
Recall Security Bloemfontein Police v Human Auto Welkom (Bobbies Park, Bloemfontein, 14h00)
Wesizwe Vereeniging v Newrak Rustenburg Impala (Phoenix High School, Vereeniging, 16h00)
Raiders v Speedy Car Sales Vaal Reefs (Bill Jardine Stadium, Johannesburg, 15h00)
Northam Platinum Rhinos v QBR (Setaria Recreation Club, Setaria, Limpopo, 15h00)
MPM Old Selbornians v Tygerberg (Mike Pendock Motors Park, East London, 15h00)
Gap Management Progress Uitenhage v Progress George (WJ de Wet Stadium, Despatch, 15h30)
Go Nutz College Rovers v DirectAxis False Bay (KP3, Kings Park, Durban, 15h00)
Roses United v IMT Sishen (Pelikaan Park, Wellington, 12h30)
QUARTER-FINAL FIXTURES (Saturday 14 / Sunday 15 October):
QF1: Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D
QF2: Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
QF3: Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
QF4: Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
SEMI-FINAL FIXTURES (Saturday 21 / Sunday 22 October):
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
SF2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
FINAL: Saturday 28 / Sunday 29 October.