Note to editors: Please find attached a rights-free image of Steval Pumas winger, Ruwellyn Isbell. Please credit Gallo Images.
After taking the game coast to coast and providing some smaller rugby venues the opportunity to experience provincial action first hand, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge returns to some of the big stadiums this weekend.
No less than three of the six matches in Round Five of this exciting competition will be played as curtain-raisers to Vodacom Super Rugby matches, with the benefit of more TV exposure for the provinces this weekend.
The first to benefit from that will be DHL Western Province, who host SWD Eagles in the early game at DHL Newlands on Friday. The home side, still undefeated and dominating the South Section, received a massive boost this week with the inclusion of Juan de Jongh and Rynhardt Elstadt, while the men from George, still winless, will have more than Table Mountain to climb if they want to get a result.
The other South Section match, between the EP Kings and Boland Cavaliers, will also be broadcasted on SuperSport. This encounter, on Saturday in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, could be highly entertaining as both sides boast serious fire power and play rugby with the specific purpose to score tries and then more tries.The North Section will be brutal this weekend. The Xerox Golden Lions XV and Vodacom Blue Bulls will square up in Johannesburg and as things go in this trans-Jukskei derby, no inch will be given by either team.
The Pretoria team have Arno Botha back and leading them from the side of the scrum, with Tinus de Beer the new pivot. The men from Johannesburg have been very impressive in the early rounds and will be looking to extend their log lead over the Vodacom Blue Bulls and to stay top of the North Section.
The Steval Pumas travel to Kempton Park in the other match in this pool where the Hino Valke await. The home side will be frustrated after letting the game slip against the Xerox Golden Lions XV last weekend, but will have to be wide awake on defence, as the Steval Pumas winger, Ruwellyn Isbell, is playing out of his skin.
Isbell has scored a brace against the Windhoek Lager Welwitschias last weekend, but is even more impressive in the way he creates space for team mates and keeps defences guessing.
The 24-year-old was schooled at Grey College in Bloemfontein and made the SA Schools side for two years in 2010 and 2011. He also featured for the Springbok Sevens side and won gold with the team at the World Games, but after a knee injury stalled his progress with the Blitzboks, he opted for fifteens and took up a contract with the Steval Pumas.
Now fully fit and on top of his game, the elusive and silky runner is proving a real handful to his opponents and one of the dominating players in the competition.
There is much to play for in the Central Section after the Cell C Sharks XV lowered the masts of the Leopards last weekend. This means that there are no more undefeated teams left in this section and some interesting results is set to continue.
The Cell C Sharks XV hosts Toyota Free State XV in Ballito on the North Coast and while the visitors will be desperate for a win, the home side should have too much experience to win.
In the other match played in the heartland, the Down Touch Griffons take on Tafel Lager Griquas. The Welkom side cannot really afford another home defeat, so will come out firing. Griquas have included two new recruits from Maties, Devon Nash and Kyle Steyn, and it will be interesting to see if they can provide some spark and flair in the Kimberley backline.
The fixtures for the weekend are:
Friday 19 May
DHL Western Province vs SWD Eagles
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Saturday 20 May
Xerox Golden Lions XV vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Hino Valke vs Steval Pumas
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Cell C Sharks XV vs Toyota Free State XV
Venue: Ashton College, Ballito
Referee: Stuart Berry
Down Touch Griffons vs Tafel Lager Griquas
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
EP Kings vs Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Referee: Egon Seconds