Preview: Turning up the First Div heat
The level of competition among the top teams in the First Division is expected to rise this weekend as the tournament nears the halfway mark.
The level of competition among the top teams in the First Division is expected to rise this weekend as the tournament nears the halfway mark and the log-leaders attempt to distance themselves on the log standings.
On Friday the Boland Cavaliers host log-leaders, the Pumas, in Wellington, the SWD Eagles take on the Griffons in George and the Falcons go up against the EP Kings in Brakpan.
In the only match on Saturday, the Border Bulldogs battle it out with the Leopards in East London.
The match-up of the weekend will undoubtedly be at the Boland Stadium as both teams have been in impressive form this season. The Pumas have won all five of their matches up to now, with the top point-scorer in the competition, flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout, proving to be instrumental in their success, while the Boland Cavaliers have won four on the trot.
This should set the scene for a nail-biting encounter.
The team's effective packs aside, they also feature dangerous backs. Pumas' wing JW Bell and Boland fullback Jacquin Jansen, in particular, will both be marked men as they are ranked among the top five try-scorers in the series.
The SWD Eagles, meanwhile, will enter their clash against the Griffons at Outeniqua Park as favourites on form. However, the visitors boast a renewed confidence following their surprise victory against the Leopards last week, while the Eagles come off a heavy 60-20 defeat against the Pumas, which could result in a tightly-fought clash.
Apart from having to be solid on attack and defence, the Eagles will have to be disciplined as Griffons flyhalf Louis Strydom's pin-point goal kicking has been one of their main weapons.
The Griffons, on the other hand, will have to mark SWD wing Alshaun Bock, in particular, on defence to prevent him from extending his lead as the top try scorer.
He has scored ten tries so far.
In Brakpan the EP Kings will have to work hard to recover from back-to-back defeats. The Falcons produced a spirited performance to grind out their first victory of the season last week and will be keen to continue on that.
The clash between the Border Bulldogs and Leopards is also expected to be an arm-wrestle as both teams pride themselves on their strong forwards. But with the Leopards having earned three bonus points for tries in their first five matches, the Bulldogs will have to produce a solid defensive display to shut them out.
First Division fixtures:
Friday, August 2:
Boland Cavaliers v Pumas
(Boland Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 15.00)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistant referees: Lusanda Jam, Linston Manuels
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
SWD Eagles v Griffons
(Outeniqua Park, George - Kick-off: 19.00)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Christie du Preez
Falcons v EP Kings
(Bosman Stadium, Brakpan - Kick-off: 19.10)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Attie Buitendag Attie
TMO: Johan Greeff
Saturday, August 3:
Border Bulldogs v Leopards
(BCM Stadium, East London - Kick-off: 16.00)
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Jaco Kotze