The defending Currie Cup Premier Division champions, the Airlink Pumas, are leading the race as the competition enters the second half of the league phase this weekend, while the First Division and Mzansi Challenge continues with matches in Port Alfred, Bredasdorp, Strand and George.
The Premier Division’s two front-runners – the Airlink Pumas and Toyota Cheetahs – will be looking to increase the gap between themselves and the chasing pack this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Cell C Sharks, Windhoek Draught Griquas, Vodacom Bulls, DHL Western Province and Fidelity ADT Lions will all be scrapping for log points with the aim of finishing the eighth round in the top four. As things stand, only five points separate the teams ranked third and seventh on the Premier Division table.
The defending champions extended their lead at the top of the standings when they edged DHL Western Province in Nelspruit last week, and may be favourites to topple the Fidelity ADT Lions when they travel to Johannesburg on Friday. The Airlink Pumas won the previous match-up 34-27 in Mpumalanga.
The Fidelity ADT Lions have lost their last three matches, and will be desperate to bounce back. The injection of several star players – who are no longer required for Vodacom United Rugby Championship duty – should boost their cause.
The Toyota Cheetahs went down to the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein last week, and may have a point to prove when they host the NovaVit Griffons in the Free State Derby this Friday.
A win against the bottom-placed side will ensure that Hawies Fourie’s charges stay in touch with the Airlink Pumas at the top of the standings. The game will mark Springbok flanker Oupa Mohoje’s 100th appearance for the team.
The Toyota Cheetahs romped to a 52-12 win over the Northern Free State outfit earlier in the tournament. However, the Purple People Eaters have progressed since then, and claimed a four-try bonus point in their recent defeat to Windhoek Draught Griquas.
The Cell C Sharks will be buzzing after securing a valuable win in Bloemfontein last week. They should take nothing for granted this Saturday, though, when they host Windhoek Draught Griquas in Durban.
The men from Kimberley won the previous encounter between the teams (48-40) and have since claimed notable wins against DHL WP and the Fidelity ADT Lions. Both sides have accumulated 19 log points to date, and the winner of the upcoming clash will strengthen their bid for a playoff place.
The traditional North-South Derby in Cape Town this Saturday has been billed as an appetiser to next week’s Vodacom URC quarter-final between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at the same venue. That said, the coming match will be massively important in the context of the Currie Cup Premier Division.
DHL WP were in a position to win their previous two fixtures against the Toyota Cheetahs and Airlink Pumas. Poor game management and discipline in the dying stages, however, cost them dearly. They won’t want for motivation when they meet their arch-rivals this Saturday.
By contrast, the Vodacom Bulls have enjoyed a great run of form over the past few weeks, winning three matches on the bounce. Another victory this weekend will catapult the Pretoria-based side into the top four on the Premier Division log.
Currie Cup First Division / Mzansi Challenge
In the Mzansi Challenge, the race at the top of the standings is very tight. The SWD Eagles top the log on a full house of 25 points from their five games, with the Valke in second place on 16 points from four matches and Eastern Province are third on 15 (also from four matches). Three teams are on 11 points – the Leopards (from four matches), Boland Kavaliers (three matches) and San Clemente Rhinos (three matches) – and they all still have a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Four Currie Cup First Division / Mzanzi Challenge matches will be played this weekend. In the first match of the round, on Friday afternoon at 15h30, the SWD Eagles will play Border in George. On Saturday at 15h00, Eastern Province will tackle the Simbas from Kenya in Port Alfred, the Boland Kavaliers will host the Leopards in Bredasdorp, and San Clemente Rhinos will face the Goshawks from Zimbabwe in Strand.
Currie Cup Premier Division match information:
Fidelity Lions v Airlink Pumas
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Date: Friday, 28 April
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Toyota Cheetahs v NovaVit Griffons
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Date: Friday, 28 April
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Cell C Sharks v Windhoek Draught Griquas
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Date: Saturday, 29 April
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
DHL Western Province v Vodacom Bulls
Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
Date: Saturday, 29 April
Referee: Morné Ferreira