Preview: Play-off race heats up
Preview: Play-off race heats upSHARE
With only two rounds of Vodacom Cup pool action left, no fewer than 13 teams are technically still in contention to reach the quarterfinals.
However, the Falcons, Griffons, EP Kings and Simba XV will not only have to win their remaining games, but also have to rely on other teams faltering in the home stretch if they are going to make the top four in their respective sections.
The North Section is turning out to be a humdinger, with the defending champions, the Golden Lions, currently lingering in fifth position on the log. They should have too much firepower for the Limpopo Blue Bulls this weekend though and could bag some points.
In a top of the table clash in the North Section, the Pumas host the Leopards XV in Middelburg on Saturday afternoon, where both teams will want to keep their hopes alive of hosting a quarterfinal later this month.
Third-placed Griquas (at home against the Falcons) and the fourth-placed Blue Bulls (away against the Griffons) will run out as favourites this weekend, but should be mindful of slipping up with the Golden Lions blowing in their necks.
In the South Section, things seem a bit more cut and dried, as the top four – the Sharks XV, Free State XV, Western Province and SWD Eagles – have opened up some space between them and the rest.
The race to host the quarterfinals is tight though, with any two of these four teams still capable of finishing in the top two.
City Park in Athlone, Cape Town will yet again host a double-header of Vodacom Cup games this weekend, with three of the top four teams in action. The first match is between the Simba XV and the Sharks XV, followed by Western Province taking on the Free State XV.
Each week we will feature emerging young players from the North and the South Sections who are making their way up the rugby ladder. This week we look at Cyle Brink, loose forward of the Golden Lions, and WP lock Jan Uys.
Rising Star – Cyle Brink (Golden Lions)
There are quite a number of similarities between the Golden Lions' Cyle Brink and former Springbok Joe van Niekerk, one of which is that they are both loose forwards.
Just like Van Niekerk, Brink also matriculated from the King Edward VII School in Johannesburg. And the former Bok loosie is only a couple of centimetres taller and 10kg heavier than the 1.90m and 98kg of Brink, who still has some bulking up to do.
Similarly to Van Niekerk it's playing in the red, white and black of the Golden Lions where Brink is aiming to make the SA Under-20 side. Following a couple of strong performances in the Vodacom Cup though, he has been spotted by the national selectors.
For the 20-year-old Brink, who represented the Golden Lions in the U18 Craven Week in 2012 as well as the Provincial U19 and U21 competitions in 2013, the Vodacom Cup was the next logical step in his career.
He made his senior provincial debut in the defending champions' opening round victory over the Leopards XV in Potchefstroom and will play in his fourth Vodacom Cup match this weekend as the Golden Lions aim to keep their playoff hopes alive in Polokwane.
Brink's height means he is a very useful option at the back of the line-out. He actually played lock for the Golden Lions at the Craven Week in Port Elizabeth in 2012, but his speed and skill across the park saw him make the move to loose forward last year, where he excels as a strong ball carrier who is also useful on the ground when the situation requires.
Rising Star – Jan Uys (Western Province)
He is a typical tight forward who likes the regular favourite of steak and chips, but there is nothing ordinary about the way in which Western Province lock Jan Uys is battling adversity in making his way up the rugby ladder.
At 1.99m and 114kg, Uys is a pretty big unit who has started to blossom in recent months after a number of injury setbacks.
This former pupil of Paul Roos Gymnasium only made the Western Province Academy side in his Grade 11 year in 2011, but missed out on provincial representation a year later when he was in Matric because of injury.
That hasn't stopped him from pursuing his rugby dreams though and Uys, who turned 20 on 3 January this year, came back with a bang when he was appointed captain to the WP U19 side in 2013, but again missed out on a number of games in the latter part of the season because of injury.
He was a shoo-in for the UCT side in the Varsity Cup, and after a number of great performances for the Ikeys, he got his Western Province call-up. Uys made his senior debut in the famous blue and white hoops in opening round of the Vodacom Cup, started in every match thus far this season.
The national selectors have also taken notice of Uys and he was recently included in an expanded SA U20 training squad. However, because of his Vodacom Cup commitments for Western Province, he was excluded when the squad was cut to 36 players, but he is still very much in contention to reach the final group for the Junior World Championships.
He has the size and physicality to be a top-level No.4 lock, yet he is mobile enough and a good enough jumper to make it as a No.5. Uys has an excellent understanding of line-out play, a huge work-ethic when it comes to line-out plays and a hunger to keep on getting better.
Round Six fixtures:
Friday, April 11
Border Bulldogs v SWD Eagles
Venue: Buffalo City Stadium, East London
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Griquas v Falcons
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Griffons v Blue Bulls
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
EP Kings v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Juan Sylvestre (Argentina)
Saturday, April 12
Simba XV v Sharks XV
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Francois Pretorius
Pumas v Leopards XV
Venue: Kees Taljaart Stadium, Middelburg
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Limpopo Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions
Venue: New Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
Referee: Gerrie de Bruin
Western Province v Free State XV
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Ben Crouse