The five teams battling it out for the three remaining semi-final spots in the Currie Cup First Division – sponsored by DirectAxis and Nashua – will have their last throw of the dice this weekend as the pool rounds reach a thrilling conclusion.
The Down Touch Griffons have secured the top spot on the log and a home semi-final, but the Leopards, Hino Valke, Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles and the Border Bulldogs will go head-to-head this weekend for remaining places in the top four.
Border, however, have only a slim mathematical chance of making it through, meaning even a bonus point victory could see them fall short.
The Leopards and Hino Valke, who are currently in second and third place respectively on the standings, will kick off the round in Brakpan on Friday. Both teams can still finish in second spot and claim home ground advantage in the semi-final – victory would be enough for the Leopards to do so, but the East Randers will have to win while denying the visitors a bonus point.
The teams have met in the Currie Cup First Division semi-final in the last three years, with the Leopards winning the last two. Interestingly, the Valke’s victory in the 2014 semi-final marked their last win against the Potchefstroom side in the competition.
The SWD Eagles have to win their match against Eastern Province in George on Friday with a bonus point to boost their chances of finishing in the top four, as the Boland Cavaliers have a two point cushion above of them on the table.
With the Port Elizabeth side languishing at the foot of the log after going down in all six of their matches up to now, SWD will back themselves for a win, but they will be wary of the visitors who have nothing to lose. The last time the sides met in the competition was in the 2013 season, with each of them winning one match.
The fourth-placed Boland Cavaliers, meanwhile, will be in the fortunate position of knowing exactly what they need to do to secure a semi-final berth by the time they take to the field in Swakopmund in Namibia on Saturday.
This will mark the first match-up between the teams in the competition, as Boland participated in the Currie Cup Premier Division in the Welwitschias’ debut season last year. The hosts will take comfort from the fact that they have scored more tries than the Wellington outfit this season, but they have to step up their defence immensely to have a shot at finishing their season with a home win.
The Border Bulldogs will know if they have any hope of playing their way into the top four when they run onto the field against the Down Touch Griffons in Welkom on Saturday. With the hosts looking to finish the pool stages undefeated and to build momentum ahead of the semi-final, Border will have to dish up their best performance of the season to register a victory. The visitors, however, will draw inspiration from their 41-24 victory against the defending champions last season.
Currie Cup First Division Round 7 fixtures:
Friday, 6 October:
Hino Valke v Leopards
Venue: Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Assistant Referees: Johre Botha & Renier Vos
SWD Eagles v Eastern Province
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Vusi Msibi
Assistant Referees: Francois Davids & Le-Ann MacClune
Saturday, 7 October:
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Swakopmund, Namibia
Referee: Jaco Pretorius
Assistant Referees: Local appointments
Down Touch Griffons v Border Bulldogs
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Eon van Zyl & Maria Mabote