Kathu and Montagu are best known for mining and muskadel, but this weekend these towns will witness mauls, tries and tackles when the SuperSport Rugby Challenge rolls through. The action will also return to Oudtshoorn on Sunday, when the third Rugby Festival – a double-header of provincial matches and a Gold Cup qualifier – takes place at the Bridgton Sportsground.
And two of the frontrunners, the iCOLLEGE Pumas and Toyota Free State XV, will be returning to their big stadium home bases in Nelspruit and Bloemfontein respectively, confirming the tournament’s versatility when it comes to bigger or smaller venues.
Action kicks off on Friday already, with a mouth-watering clash in Bloemfontein, where the undefeated Toyota Free State XV host the Cell C Sharks XV in a Central Section clash. Both sides scored impressive wins in Rustenburg last weekend and this match will kick-off what should be another try-fest.
Both teams have scored an average of six tries per match so far. In fact, no less than 232 tries have been scored in the 24 SuperSport Rugby Challenge matches played so far, averaging almost 10 tries per match.
Tafel Lager Griquas are leading the try-scoring stakes, with 24 tries in three matches, and they will be looking to add to that in Kathu, where they host the Down Touch Griffons at the Sivos Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the other Central Section match (the Leopards have a bye) this weekend.
The visitors from the Northern Free State will not have to contend with the leading try-scorer in the competition, Enver Brandt, but they will have to keep an eye on the experienced and dangerous Tythan Adams, who will start on the wing in one of 10 changes made to the side by coach Peter Engledow.
Adams – a former FNB Varsity Cup winner with FNB Maties (he also played for the Madibaz later) – had seen it all in the last three seasons. After some strong performances for College Rovers in the 2016 Gold Cup club rugby competition, he travelled to Scotland as part of an exchange programme.
During his time in the Scottish Borders, Adams even featured in the famous Melrose Sevens and his performances there resulted in a call-up to the SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad and a trip to France with the squad.
The Cell C Sharks came knocking and Adams played for them in the Currie Cup in 2017, after which he was snapped up by Tafel Lager Griquas. He now gets a chance to show Engledow (and the people of Kathu) that he should become a permanent fixture in the team.
The North Section will see log leaders, iCOLLEGE Pumas, hosting the Hino Valke in the Mbombela Stadium, while two other front-runners, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Xerox Golden Lions XV, will meet at the Rugby Festival in the Klein Karoo.
The men from Mpumalanga will back themselves to stay undefeated in this outing, while the visitors will need to find more urgency in the try-scoring stakes if they want to topple the log leaders. The iCOLLEGE Pumas only conceded eight tries so far, the second best defence effort in the competition.
The other undefeated team in the competition, DHL Western Province, hold that record for now, having only conceded seven tries in their three matches.
They will highlight the Rugby Festival on Sunday, when they face the SWD Eagles in Oudtshoorn. The Capetonians have not lost a single match since the tournament started in 2017 and will be looking for a 15th consecutive victory.
The Boland Cavaliers will play in Montagu for the first time since the competition started and will host the EP Elephants, who are winless after three outings.
The hosts have played some great rugby in the last couple of weeks and EP will have to improve on their defence. The Bolanders have scored 17 tries already, the same number EP conceded in three matches.
Round 5 fixtures:
Friday 18 May:
Toyota Free State XV v Cell C Sharks XV
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Saturday 19 May:
Boland Cavaliers v EP Elephants
Venue: Montagu Rugby Club, Montagu
Referee: Vusi Msibi
iCOLLEGE Pumas v Hino Valke
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Paul Mente
Tafel Lager Griquas v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Sivos Stadium, Kathu
Referee: Ben Crouse
Sunday 20 May – Rugby Festival, Bridgton Sports Ground, Oudtshoorn:
Oudtshoorn v Willing Hearts (SWD Gold Cup Qualifier)
Referee: Sindile Ngcese
TV: SS1, SS10
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Xerox Golden Lions XV
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
TV: SS1, SS10
SWD Eagles v DHL Western Province
Referee: Quinton Immelman
TV: SS1, SS10
Byes: Windhoek Draught Welwitschias (North), Leopards (Central), Border Bulldogs (South)
Leading points’ scorers:
1. Shaun Reynolds (Xerox Golden Lions XV) – 53
2. Earll Douwrie (Vodacom Blue Bulls) – 48
3. Ernst Stapelberg (Toyota Free State XV) – 42
4. Andre Swarts (Tafel Lager Griquas) – 37
5. Chris Smith (iCOLLEGE Pumas) – 36
Leading try scorers:
1. Enver Brandt (Tafel Lager Griquas) – 7
2. Duncan Saal (DHL Western Province), Tertius Kruger (Toyota Free State XV), Shaun Reynolds (Xerox Golden Lions XV) – 5
3. Anrich Alberts (Down Touch Griffons), Tyler Fisher (SWD Eagles), JP Lewis (iCOLLEGE Pumas) – 4