It is now a four-team chase for the R1 million prize in the Vodacom Cup competition – and in both semifinals it will be a clash between a vastly experienced side at this stage of the competition against a relative newcomer to the play-offs.
The IOL reports that the Blue Bulls, defending champions and winners on two previous occasions, will be aiming for a seventh appearance in the final. They play the Leopards at Loftus on Saturday – and it will be no walkover against a side that has improved noticeably since they drew 22-all with the Blue Bulls earlier this month.
It is the second time in three seasons that the two teams meet in the semifinal, with the Blue Bulls winning the clash two years ago 32-25.
The Bulls have an experienced side, with a number of players who have Super 14 experience. Like the Bulls Super 14 side, they rely on territorial advantage and will only run the good ball from a good position.
They have a number of game breakers, despite the injury to fullback Tiger Mangweni. But it is up front that they will really be difficult to subdue.
Dries van Schalkwyk and Fudge Mabeta provide the usual uncompromising lock paring one has come to expect from a Bulls side, and Gerrit-Jan van Velze and his loos trio mates Okkie Kruger and Jacques Burgerare players who will harass and set up opportunities.
With the Blue Bulls expected tactics, Leopards coach Chaka Willemse has opted for the experienced Colin Lloyd, on the wing. The Leopards have a workman-like pack, and hooker Gavin Williamson will make his first appearance this season after recovering from injury.
Hard-working Riaan Swanepoel, RW Kember and captain Wilhelm Koch will not be outdone in the chase for the loose ball and locks Draad Linde and Rudi Matthee, and props Phillip Lemmer and Nardus Lombard make up a solid front row with Williamson.
It will be a tough one, and the kicking of flyhalves Francois Brummer for the Blue Bulls and Riaan Smit for the Leopards could ultimately decide the match.
** Griquas have won the Vodacom Cup three times and aim for their sixth final. They beat the Free State in Kimberley last weekend, and have a hardened pack and a good backline to tackle the unbeaten Sharks XV in Durban on Saturday.
The Sharks only came good in the second half of their quarter-final against the Lions last weekend, and then looked impressive. Nothing less than that form from the outset will be good enough against a good, solid side with lots of experience via Jonathan Mokuena, Riaan Viljoen and Egon Seconds and an abrasive tight five.
However, with players of the calibre of new captain Skipper Badenhorst, prop Pat Cilliers, replacement hooker Craig Burden, Len Olivier at flyhalf, former Springbok Trevor Halstead at centre and Chris Jordaan back on the wing where he belongs, the Sharks XV have a good chance to stay on course for a second final – and the opportunity to become only the second side from the South to win the title in the 12 years of the competition.
Sharks v Griquas, 12pm;
Blue Bulls v Leopards, 2pm.