Top eight to fight for glory – SuperSport Rugby Challenge QF Preview
DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks XV will both host their SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarter-finals after the fixtures were slightly amended for this weekend, when the iCOLLEGE Pumas and Tafel Lager Griquas will also enjoy home ground advantage as the competition moves into the knock-out stages.
The three top teams in the North, Central and South Sections were awarded hosting rights for their quarter-finals, while the Cell C Sharks claimed fourth position as the best second-placed team which also secured them home ground advantage this weekend.
With straight elimination on the cards for the losing sides, the crowds in Nelspruit, Kimberley, Durban and Cape Town can look forward to brilliant rugby action.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge yet again delivered all pre-season hype on bringing action to the doorstep of rugby communities, but even more so as attack dominated defence in the first 10 weeks of action.
Play-offs tend to bring out a more conservative element though as it’s make or break for teams, and some tense encounters are expected.
The iCOLLEGE Pumas will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls with some confidence in Nelspruit on Saturday. The home team’s undefeated record speaks volumes of their good form this season, which included two wins in the pool phase over the men from Pretoria.
Unfortunately for the visitors from Loftus Versfeld, they will not be afforded the luxury of reinforcements from Vodacom Super Rugby like last Sunday, as that competition resumes this weekend.
The Cell C Sharks XV’s match against the Xerox Golden Lions XV at Jonsson Kings Park will show an interesting look at the depth of the two unions. This encounter will be the curtain-raiser to the Vodacom Super Rugby clash between the top dogs from Durban and Johannesburg later on Saturday afternoon.
With resources stretched in both camps, the home team should hold a slight edge, especially since the visitors used a number of high-profile players for their fixture last weekend and could lack some rhythm.
Tafel Lager Griquas will have their tails up when they host the Boland Cavaliers at Tafel Lager Park on Saturday. The Kimberlites are showing hot form and scored some impressive wins in the last couple of weeks, enabling them to top their pool.
Boland will find the trip to Kimberley a tough one, but they have not shown any regard for any opponents thus far this year and the home side’s fans will need to rock up in numbers to get their team over the line.
And on Sunday, the defending champions, DHL Western Province, will host a dangerous opponent in the Toyota Free State XV at the Green Point Track in Cape Town – a match that will be televised by SuperSport.
The visitors may have slipped up in the last two weeks, but they have the class and ability in their squad to beat the best, as they have shown in earlier victories over Tafel Lager Griquas and Cell C Sharks XV. The Capetonians are hard to stop when they hit their straps, but they have shown some inconsistency in execution in recent weeks.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarter-finals are:
Saturday, 30 June:
iCOLLEGE Pumas v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Tafel Lager Griquas v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Cell C Sharks XV v Xerox Golden Lions XV
Venue: Jonsson Kings Parka, Durban
Referee: Paul Mente
Sunday, 1 July
DHL Western Province v Toyota Free State XV
Venue: Green Point Track, Cape Town
Referee: Ben Crouse
TV: SuperSport1, SuperSport10