Posted on Thursday, 01 Jun 2023
Seven teams remain in playoff contention as the Currie Cup Premier Division reaches the penultimate round, while the league phase of the First Division and Mzansi Challenge culminates with three matches, in Potchefstroom, Mdantsane, and Windhoek as a handful of teams are still in the hunt for reaching the playoffs.
The Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs will be looking to secure home advantage for the semi-finals via big wins in Durban and Nelspruit this weekend. At this stage, the Airlink Pumas are still in the race for a home playoff. If the defending champions lose their remaining league games, however, they may miss out on the semi-finals altogether.
Four other teams – DHL Western Province, the Fidelity ADT Lions, the Vodacom Bulls, and Windhoek Draught Griquas – are gunning for a place in the knockouts. A couple of those teams may fall out of the playoff race this weekend.
Windhoek Draught Griquas need to beat DHL WP in Kimberley on Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive. They have reason to feel confident, given their previous success against the Capetonians, and the fact that DHL WP are coming off a 20-point loss in Round 12.
That said, DHL WP may be harder to beat now that the Vodacom United Rugby Championship has concluded, and the union’s focus has shifted to the Currie Cup. The Capetonians sit in fourth place – and are ahead of the Fidelity ADT Lions and the Vodacom Bulls thanks to their superior points difference – but will drop down the standings if they lose this Friday.
The NovaVit Griffons claimed a historic victory over the Vodacom Bulls in round four of the tournament. This week, the Northern Free Staters will face a stronger team when they travel to Loftus Versfeld, and the result may be very different.
A Vodacom Bulls side loaded with Springboks will be favorites to beat a team languishing at eighth on the log. The big question is whether Jake White’s charges will secure a four-try bonus point, and finish the weekend in the top four.
After dominating the early stages of the tournament, the Airlink Pumas as well as the Toyota Cheetahs have slumped to several disappointing results. The defending champions could fall in the rankings if they lose to the Free Staters in Nelspruit this Saturday.
The Toyota Cheetahs will secure home advantage for the semi-finals if they beat the Airlink Pumas this weekend. If they succeed in Nelspruit, they will watch the final game of the round with interest and hope that the Fidelity ADT Lions do them a favor by ending the Cell C Sharks’ six-game winning streak.
The KwaZulu-Natalians are unlikely to be complacent, though. A win against the Fidelity ADT Lions will ensure that they finish the league stage in the top-two – and host a semi-final.
If the Cell C Sharks claim a bonus-point win in Durban, and if the Airlink Pumas secure a big win over the Toyota Cheetahs, then Joey Mongalo’s side may take an unassailable lead at the top of the log with a round to spare.
Currie Cup First Division / Mzansi Challenge
Three matches are scheduled for the Currie Cup First Division and Mzanzi Challenge tournament this Saturday, with the clash between the SWD Eagles and Simbas in Kenya being canceled.
The Leopards will host the Valke in Potchefstroom at 15h00, while another important First Division clash will see the Border Bulldogs pitted against the Boland Kavaliers in Mdantsane at 15h30.
The two traveling sides, from the East Rand and Boland, are in pole position and have all but qualified for the First Division Final, which is scheduled for 23 June.
The final match of the weekend is between the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias, who tackle Eastern Province in the Namibian capital at 16h00. Following the league phase, the top four teams on the Mzansi Challenge log will qualify for the semi-finals, which are scheduled for the first weekend in June.
Premier Division match information:
Windhoek Draught Griquas v DHL Western Province
Venue: Windhoek Draught Park, Kimberley
Date: Friday, 2 June
Referee: Griffin Colby
Vodacom Bulls v NovaVit Griffons
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Friday, 26 May
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Airlink Pumas v Toyota Cheetahs
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Date: Saturday, 3 June
Referee: Morne Ferreira
Cell C Sharks v Fidelity ADT Lions
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Date: Saturday, 3 June
Referee: AJ Jacobs