For the five teams that still stand a realistic chance of reaching the semifinals of the Currie Cup series the next two weeks, and this weekend in particular, could be crucial.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that Western Province are under the most pressure by far. With 17 points they are already 9 points behind the Lions (fourth, 26), 15 behind the Cheetahs (third, 32), 16 behind the Sharks (second, 33) and 17 behind the Bulls (first, 34).
The clash between WP and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday is, therefore, one of make or break for WP.
If WP lose and also fail to score a bonus point, then even with maximum points in their remaining four games they can finish on 37 at the most.
If that happens, the Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs will need only one win in five games to ensure their places in the top four.
Then the Lions won’t have to work particularly hard either, as they need only two wins in five matches to keep WP out of the semifinals.
However, if WP beat the Cheetahs, the Lions will be under greater pressure, because they would then need 12 points from four matches to keep WP in the fifth spot.
Both of these sides’ last league match (on October 4 at Newlands) could, therefore, be decisive.
Could end up on top
But the Lions could ensure that they qualify before that.
It would be somewhat surprising, after all, if they didn’t beat the Falcons in Brakpan on Friday night, Griquas next Saturday in Johannesburg and the Cavaliers on 20 September in Wellington.
But the Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs are the sides that will be most closely watched, as their matches this weekend and over the next 14 days could determine who will play at home in the semis.
The Bulls will be aware of the fact that after their Durban game on Saturday, the Sharks are still due to cross swords with the Cheetahs (September 13 in Durban) and the Lions (September 27 in Johannesburg).
Realistically speaking the Cheetahs are the only high hurdle remaining for the Bulls after the Sharks clash, but Griquas remain a hard nut to crack in Kimberley (September 26).
If the Bulls can dispatch Griquas and also win in Durban on Saturday or in Bloemfontein on September 27, they could end up on top, as the home games against the Cavaliers (next Friday) and the Falcons (October 3) should yield maximum points.
The Cheetahs will pin their hopes for a home game in the semis largely on victories over WP and the Bulls.
Then a defeat against the Sharks in Durban would not be all that serious, as maximum points beckon against the Falcons in Brakpan and the Cavaliers in Bloemfontein.Tweet