PREVIEW: First Division Final

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 09:48
Large leopards johan deysel 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Leopards will be hunting back-to-back titles and their 19th consecutive victory in the First Division when they host the Down Touch Griffons, champions in 2014, in the Final at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.

A victory for the Leopards would reaffirm their dominance this season after advancing through the First Division unbeaten like they did in 2015 when they swept away all opposition.

They men from North West will face tough competition from the Down Touch Griffons, who suffered two defeats in the pool stages – against the Leopards and Border respectively – but bounced back strongly in the semifinal to defeat the Bulldogs by 25-16.

The last time the teams met in the First Division Final was in 2008 at the same venue, and the Welkom side emerged 31-26 victors.

This result and their emphatic 76-26 victory against the Leopards in the qualifiers earlier this year will bolster the Griffons’ confidence going into the final.

They will also take comfort from the fact that the Leopards scored three of their six tries in their pool match this season when the team was reduced to 14 men. The Leopards won the match 43-33.

The Leopards, however, have a favourable win record against the Down Touch Griffons in Potchefstroom, with the team having won their last three home matches against their Welkom counterparts with over 43 points scored in each of these matches.

Given the close margins between the sides on attack and defence this season, with the Leopards having scored 36 tries and conceded 26 in their six matches this season and the Down Touch Griffons having scored 30 and conceded 24, the clash could come down to the wire.

The First Division Final will be preceded by the SA Rugby Under-20 Championship Final between the Griffons and Boland, making it a significant day for the Welkom-based union.

The Griffons U20 side finished the pool stages of the competition as the top team with 11 victories in 14 matches and then defeated the Limpopo Blue Bulls in the semifinal to book their final berth, while Boland won ten of their matches and overpowered SWD in the semifinal.

With each side having won one of their two pool matches with the winning margins being two and four points respectively, the Final is expected to be gripping.

First Division Final Fixture
Friday, October 7:

Leopards v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Profert Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Kick-off: 16.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman

SA Rugby U20 Championship Final Fixture
Friday, October 7:

Griffons v Boland
Venue: Profert Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Kick-off: 13.30 (12.30 GMT)
Referee: Sindile Ngcese