Preview: First Div go into overdrive

Thu, 12 Sep 2013 13:31
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The scramble for semifinal places in the First Division is expected to force the competition to a new level of competitiveness.

The scramble for semifinal places in the First Division is expected to force the competition to a new level of competitiveness this weekend as the teams attempt to make the most of the three remaining pool matches.

With a 15-point lead at the top of the standings, the Pumas have already sealed their home semifinal and will be guaranteed the top spot on the log if they secure one more point in their remaining matches.

The Pumas will also go top if the second-placed EP Kings fail to win their remaining matches with bonus points.

Hard work awaits the Kings as they are one of four teams chasing the three remaining semifinal spots, with only six points separate them from the fifth-placed Boland Cavaliers on the log standings.

This means one of the teams will lose out in a few weeks. This is expected to motivate the teams significantly to make their presence felt.

In the big match-ups on Friday the Boland Cavaliers host the EP Kings in Wellington and the SWD Eagles go up against the Pumas in George.

The Leopards, meanwhile, take on the Griffons in Potchefstroom in a match the home team will target for a bonus-point win to keep them in contention for a semifinal berth, while the Border Bulldogs meet the Falcons in East London.

In Wellington, the EP Kings will start their clash against the Boland Cavaliers as favourites following the impressive form which has earned them three back-to-back victories.

The home team, meanwhile, have been struggling and have their backs against the wall as they trail the fourth-placed Leopards by three log points. Should the Cavaliers suffer a defeat, it could dash their semifinal hopes.

The Kings' strong attack and defence aside, they have an efficient goal-kicker in fullback Scott van Breda, meaning the Cavaliers need to be disciplined as well to prevent the visitors from keeping the scoreboard ticking.

The Pumas will back themselves to beat the SWD Eagles in George after remaining unbeaten so far in the series thanks to a superior attack and defence.

But with the Eagles facing the risk of dropping down the standings and having their home semifinal aspirations dented, they will be desperate for a victory.

The home team's defence, in particular, will have to be water-tight to secure a victory as the Pumas are the best attacking team in the competition by far thanks to the likes of playmakers Rosco Specman, RW Kember and JW Bell, who will all be in action this weekend.

The Pumas, however, will be wary of SWD speedster Alshaun Bock, who boasts 16 tries this season, and fullback Justin van Staden who has had a fair season with the boot.

In Potchefstroom the Leopards will have faith in their abilities to beat the Griffons, especially with the Griffons having won only three of their 11 matches.

But the visitors come off a hard-fought victory against the Border Bulldogs and are playing purely for pride, meaning they will enter the clash with nothing to lose.

The Griffons' will have to tighten up their defence, especially, to create an upset. But with their attack having been solid this season after securing five bonus points for tries, they certainly have the potential to create headaches for the Leopards. Given the quality of both team's packs, the forward battle will be tight.

The Falcons, meanwhile, will look to build on their shock victory against the Cavaliers last week when they line up against the Border Bulldogs in East London, although the result will have no significance, as both teams are out of the running for semifinal spots.     

First Division fixtures:

Friday, September 13

Border Bulldogs v Falcons
(BCM Stadium, East London - Kick-off: 15.00)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Denis Mpiti
Boland Cavaliers v EP Kings
(Boland Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 16.00)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Linston Manuels

Leopards v Griffons
(Olën Park, Potchefstroom - Kick-off: 17.15)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Goodwill Morobe

SWD Eagles v Pumas
(Outeniqua Park, George - Kick-off: 19.00)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende, André Goliath