Johannesburg – The top contenders for semi-final places in the Vodacom Cup square up to one another in this week’s fifth round in the cross-section competition, with the clash between the two section leaders Blue Bulls (North) and Free State (South) especially intriguing.
The Blue Bulls on Wednesday included Super 14 prop Jaco Engels and their returnees from the national Under-20 camp in their side.
The Free State have been the form team and are unbeaten after four rounds, while the Blue Bulls lost their first match – to SWD Eagles – in George.
The Bulls have not been totally convincing in their later outings, either, and the Free Sate must be favourites for the match in Petrusburg where the luxury of a thick layer of grass is one thing the Blue Bulls will not have.
Defending champions Griquas, who are second on the North Section’s log behind the Bulls, will watch this encounter with more than casual interest.
Currently lying third
However, they have their own war to fight. Boland Cavaliers, who are at home for their Saturday clash in Vredendal, simply cannot afford to lose their match against Griquas.
The Cavaliers are currently lying third behind Free State and Western Province, who are both unbeaten in the South section, and a loss will be a huge knock for the Boland side.
Likewise the Wildebeest (South) and Lions (North), who play at the Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday, must both win to stay in contention.
One cannot see Western Province, who play the Pumas in the Paarl on Saturday, relinquish their unbeaten record to a side that started off well but then faded with their bunch of largely amateur players.
The other matches in the competition are unlikely to have any bearing on the chase for semi-final places.
On Friday the Leopards should account for the winless Border Bulldogs in East London, while the Falcons and Eagles have both disappointed in the competition and will be keen to move up the ladder when they play in Uniondale on Saturday.
The Mighty Elephants have a poor record, but at home in Port Elizabeth they should have the beating of the Griffons on Saturday.
This weekend’s matches are: Friday: Border Bullsdogs v Leopards. 19:10.
Saturday: Wildebeest v Xerox Lions, 14:30; Cavaliers v Griquas, 15:30; Free State v Blue Bulls, 15:30; Eagles v Falcons 15:30; Mighty Elephants v Griffons, 15:30; WP v Pumas, 16:00.Tweet