Preview: Big battles in First Division
The Pumas and Leopards will look to stretch their unbeaten runs in Round Three of the First Division on Friday.
The Pumas and Leopards will look to stretch their unbeaten runs in the First Division on Friday, but for the Griffons, Border and Falcons the need to get their campaigns going will be the motivating factor as they need to keep alive their semifinal hopes.
In an action-packed Friday the Falcons host the SWD Eagles in Kempton Park, the Boland Cavaliers take on the Border Bulldogs in Wellington and the EP Kings host the Leopards in Port Elizabeth.
The Pumas, meanwhile, will battle it out with the Griffons at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
With the Leopards boasting bonus-point victories in their first two matches and the team high on confidence, they will enter their clash against the EP Kings as favourites.
However, the home team also comes off a victory and they will be determined to capitalise on their home ground advantage, which could set the scene for a tightly-contested encounter. The forward battle, in particular, is expected to be decisive as both teams have strong packs.
The flyhalf duel between the Leopards’ Adriaan Engelbrecht and his opposite number Wesley Dunlop is expected to be equally influential.
In Nelspruit, meanwhile, the Pumas will be determined to secure their third successive victory in the series against the Griffons, who have yet to win a match this season.
And while they are likely to achieve this after steadily finding their form and gaining winning momentum in the last two weeks, they will be conscious of the fact that they need to start delivering a solid 80-minute effort after slow starts in the last two fixtures.
With Tbilisi Cup-winning flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout dictating play and his boot on song the Pumas are in good hands. The Griffons, meanwhile, have had to turn to their third-choice flyhalf Tertius Maarman to control proceedings as Hansie Graaff and Louis Strydom are unavailable.
The clashes between the Falcons and SWD Eagles, and the Boland Cavaliers and Border Bulldogs respectively are also expected to be exciting.
These teams will look to close the gap between themselves and the pace-setters to avoid falling too far behind with an eye on the semifinals.
Fortunately for Boland and Border, they both showed signs of finding their form last week, which is expected to boost their confidence on the field.
The Falcons will also take heart from the positives in their performances in the last two weeks, but will have to pay special attention to their defence to shut out SWD’s hard-running backs.
First Division Round Three fixtures:
Friday, July 12
Falcons v SWD Eagles
(Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park - Kick-off: 15.00)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Sieg van Staden
Boland Cavaliers v Border Bulldogs
(Boland Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 16.00)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Linston Manuels
EP Kings vs Leopards
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth - Kick-off: 19.00)
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez, Local
Pumas v Griffons
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit - Kick-off: 19.00)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Stefan Breytenbach