Preview: Quarterfinal shake-up

Wed, 24 Apr 2013 14:26
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The Pumas and the Sharks XV are in. So are the champions from the last three seasons, the Blue Bulls, Western Province and the Pampas XV.

The Pumas and the Sharks XV are in. So are the champions from the last three seasons, the Blue Bulls, Western Province and the Pampas XV.

However, six other teams have their work cut out for them if they are going to reach the Vodacom Cup quarterfinals this year.

The league phase of the Vodacom Cup comes to an end this weekend and for the Falcons, Limpopo Blue Bulls, SWD Eagles, Boland Cavaliers and Border Bulldogs it will be their last match of this competition in 2013.

However, a group of six teams that have won no less than nine Vodacom Cup titles between them - the Leopards XV, Griquas, Golden Lions, Griffons, EP Kings and Free State XV - will be going all out to secure those last three quarterfinal spots.

The quarterfinals will be contested at the home grounds of the top two teams in each section.

The match-ups will be across the sections, meaning North One will host South Four, South One will play North Four, North Two will take on South Three and South Two will host North Three.

North Section:

All four matches in this section will have a bearing on the final standings, with only two of the five teams in the running for places in the quarterfinals, the Pumas and Blue Bulls, assured of advancing to the quarterfinals.

One log point from their match against the Leopards XV will be enough to secure the Pumas home ground advantage in the quarterfinals, but if they win in Potchefstroom, the team from Mpumalanga will top the log.

The Leopards XV, on the other hand, can still be overtaken by both Griquas and the Golden Lions, which would see them miss out on a play-off spot altogether.

Considering the teams from Kimberley (away to the Falcons) and Johannesburg (at home against the Limpopo Blue Bulls) have easier final round fixtures, the Leopards XV will want to go out all guns blazing on Friday.

The Blue Bulls will be favourites when they host the Griffons in Pretoria on Saturday and will secure home ground advantage in the play-offs with a win in this match.

The Northern Free Staters can still slip in through the back door if they manage to beat the Blue Bulls with a try-scoring bonus point and both Griquas and the Golden Lions lose without bonus points in their matches.

South Section:

The top four in the South Section is virtually done and dusted, with the Free State XV a slim outside chance of beating the EP Kings to the quarterfinals.

But home ground advantage is still up for grabs, with a number of possible permutations as the Sharks XV, Western Province, Pampas XV and the EP Kings fight it out to move into the top two.

A win for the KwaZulu-Natalians, at home on Friday against the Argentineans, will be enough to see them clinch first position on the log, but the Pampas XV, champions in 2011, can still overtake Western Province into second position on the log.

By the time the Free Staters' match against Western Province kicks off in Bloemfontein, both teams will know exactly what is needed for them to make it into the top four or get home ground advantage in the quarterfinals.

But this encounter will count for nothing for the Free State XV if the EP Kings, away to the Boland Cavaliers, manage to secure a solitary bonus point in Wellington. It would move the Kings to 21 points, and the team from Bloemfontein can't go higher than 20.

Nothing more than bragging rights are up for grabs when the SWD Eagles and the Border Bulldogs' campaigns come to an end in George on Saturday.

Round Seven fixtures:
(Current log position and total points in the two sections for each team in brackets)

Friday, 26 April

Sharks XV (first, 24) v Pampas XV (third, 21)
Kick-off: 18.00
Venue: Kings Park, Durban

Leopards XV (third, 20) v Pumas (first, 25)
Kick-off: 19.00
Venue: Olën Park, Potchefstroom

SWD Eagles (sixth, 9) v Border Bulldogs (eighth, 5)
Kick-off: 19.10
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George

Saturday, 27 April

Blue Bulls (second, 23) v Griffons (sixth, 13)
Kick-off: 14.45
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Falcons (seventh, 9) v Griquas (fourth, 17)
Kick-off: 15.00
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park

Golden Lions (fifth, 16) v Limpopo Blue Bulls (eighth, 0)
Kick-off: 15.00
Venue: Alberton Rugby Club, Alberton

Boland Cavaliers (seventh, 8) v EP Kings (fourth, 20)
Kick-off: 16.00
Venue: Malmesbury

Free State XV (fifth, 15) v Western Province (second, 22)
Kick-off: 16.45
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Top points scorers:
- Fred Zeilinga (Sharks XV - three tries, 23 conversions, 19 penalties)
93 - André Pretorius (Leopards XV - two tries, 28 cons, nine pens)
66 - Tony Jantjies (Blue Bulls - one try, 14 cons, 11 pens)
54 - Willie du Plessis (Blue Bulls - two tries, 22 cons)
53 - Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias (Pampas XV - two tries, 14 cons, fine pens)

Top try scorers:
- Marnus Schoeman (Griquas)
7 - Sampie Mastriet (Blue Bulls)
6 - Manuel Montero (Pampas XV), Rosko Specman (Pumas), Travis Ismaiel (Blue Bulls), Wiaan Liebenberg (Blue Bulls)