Preview: Top spot takes centre stage
FIRST DIVISION SPOTLIGHT: The battle for the top spot in the Currie Cup First Division takes centre stage on Friday as the Griffons meet the Leopards in Potchefstroom in a thrilling start to the penultimate round of pool action.
Defending champions, the Griffons, are currently in the No.1 spot on the standings with 25 points after five wins in a row, but the unbeaten Leopards are only two points behind, meaning a victory for either team will bolster their hopes of finishing the round-robin stages as the top side for a home semi-final and possibly a home final.
Interestingly the clash marks a repeat of last season’s final, which the Griffons won 44-25. The hosts, however, will draw comfort from the fact that they won the last four home matches between the sides prior to that.
In Wellington, the Boland Cavaliers and SWD Eagles will be equally determined to register a victory with an eye on possibly securing semi-final berths when they meet on Saturday.
A victory for the visitors from the Southern Cape will place them in a comfortable position to finish in the top four on the log and could even place them within range of a top-two finish, while a win for Boland will allow them to keep up with the top sides. A defeat for the hosts, however, could deal a big blow to their semi-final aspirations.
SWD, who come off back-to-back wins, won the last time the two sides clash in the competition last season, but Boland won three of the four match-ups between the sides in 2013 and 2014, meaning it could be a close encounter.
The Falcons will also have their sights set on remaining within the top four when they take on the winless Eastern Province in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, but they will be wary of the hosts who will be playing purely for pride.
The last time the teams met in the competition was in 2013 and Eastern Province won both of those matches, but the Falcons have been superior on attack and defence this season, which will boost their confidence going into the clash.
The Border Bulldogs and Welwitschias, meanwhile, will be desperate to keep alive their slim semi-final hopes when they cross paths in East London on Saturday. But with both sides finding themselves at the bottom-end of the log, even bonus point victories in both their remaining matches may not be enough to reach the playoffs.
The Eastern Cape side boasts a better defensive record than their Namibian counterparts, however, the Welwitschias have scored almost double the number of tries, which sets the scene for an exciting match.
First Division Round six fixtures:
Friday, September 29:
Leopards v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Klerksdorp Hoërskool
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Alex Jonker & Godwill Morobe
Saturday, September 30:
Boland Cavaliers v SWD Eagles
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 13.30 (11.30 GMT)
Referee: Lloyd Lindton
Assistant Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys & Viv-Richard Adams
Eastern Province v Falcons
Venue: WJ de Wet Stadium, Despatch
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Archie Sehlako
Assistant Referees: Local appointments
Border Bulldogs v Welwitschias
Venue: BCM Stadium, East London
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Vusi Msibi
Assistant Referees: Patrick Bulwana & Sinethemba Nduzulwana