CAPE TOWN – The introduction of six Springboks, which includes Warren Whiteley and the current SA Rugby Player of the Year, Malcolm Marx, in the colours of the Xerox Golden Lions XV will add extra spice to what is already promising to be a massive weekend of provincial rugby as the pool phase of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge concludes.
The Bok duo, both returning to first class rugby following injury, will be in action at Bill Jardine Stadium in Longdale, Johannesburg on Sunday, where the Xerox Golden Lions XV host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the main match of the fifth Rugby Festival of the competition.
This match – the last one of regulation play in the competition – will also have a bearing on the final placings in the North Section and thus the make-up of the eight quarter-finalists next weekend, a perfect way to finish the competition that has delivered 515 tries to spectators across the country.
The home side trail their neighbours from across the Jukskei River by three points and a win will confirm their automatic status into the last eight. The same can be applied to the men from Pretoria, which means the loser of this clash could crash out of the playoffs altogether, depending on other results.
Marx and Whiteley will be joined for the home side by fellow Springboks Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje.
In the other Longdale clash earlier in the day, the iCollege Pumas should confirm their position at the of the standings in the North Section when they face the Hino Valke. The team from Nelspruit side have not tasted defeat yet and it will be a major turn-up for the books if they lose against the East Randers, who only registered one win in seven outings.
The #BornToRugby campaign was spread far and wide and round 10 will introduce more first time venues, such as Brookside in Cape Town, Despatch in Port Elizabeth and KwaMashu’s Princess Magogo Stadium to the mix.
The Villager Rugby Club in Claremont will host DHL Western Province on Friday, with the result against the SWD Eagles also hugely significant in the South Section. The defending champions have already secured a top-four spot on the overall standings, but will have to be on their game to stop SWD, who are desperate for the second spot on the log and a guaranteed semi-final place.
SWD have a three-point lead over the Boland Cavaliers, who will have to travel to Despatch to front the EP Elephants. The red and black hoops scored their first win last weekend and Boland, who played to a draw against DHL WP a few weeks ago to underline their real ability, could find that effort go to waste if they fail to register a positive result in the Eastern Cape.
The Central Section clashes will also provide clarity in the most competitive section of the tournament. Tafel Lager Griquas, who lead the group, travel to Welkom for a tricky clash against the very capable Down Touch Griffons and could easily trip up.
This could allow second-placed Toyota Free State XV to slip past them, but the Bloemfonteiners potentially have the most difficult away fixture of the weekend – facing the Cell C Sharks XV in KwaMashu. The Durbanites will keep their play-off hopes alive with a win, while a defeat for the visitors could impact on the final standings on the overall log.
The exciting part of the early weekend action will be the permutations for the last eight, only for results at the Rugby Festival to potentially change all of that again.
The Round 10 fixtures are:
DHL Western Province v SWD
Venue: Brookside, Cape Town
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
EP Elephants v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Despatch Rugby Club, Despatch
Referee: Ben Crouse
Down Touch Griffons v Tafel Lager Griquas
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Archie Sehlako
Cell C Sharks XV v Toyota Free State
Venue: Princess Mogogo Stadium, KwaMashu
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
(Rugby Festival at Bill Jardine Stadium Longdale, Johannesburg)
Raiders v Stor-Age Pirates (Gold Cup qualifier)
Referee: Jaco Kotze
Hino Valke v iCollege Pumas
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Xerox Golden Lions XV v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Referee: Paul Mente
African News Agency (ANA)