The Leopards return to action this weekend against Down Touch Griffons in the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifier race with a mission to close the gap on current Log leaders, ORC Griquas, with a solid performance in Welkom.
The Leopards, who enjoyed a BYE last weekend, find themselves 6 points behind the Griquas, who smashed the Griffons 47 / 20 last Saturday in Kimberley. the Down Touch Griffons find themselves 2nd from bottom, however, they would have been encouraged by their competitive 1st half performance against Griquas.
With bonus points now paramount for them, the Leopards have very little choice but to chase a bonus try victory if they want to narrow the gap on the frontrunners. They might find this challenging, especially if the Griffons can apply the same determination they showed during a tightly contested 1st half agaist the Griquas in Kimberley.
Elsewhere on Saturday mid-table Boland Cavaliers are home to Hino Valke (5th placed) in Wellington. The home team will no doubt draw a lot of positives from their fine comeback last weekend to force a thrilling 28 / 28 draw against bottom-placed SWD Eagles. the Valke, meanwhile, scraped a surprise 1 point win over the in-form Border Bulldogs and they will fancy their chances against a Boland side who could win only 2 out of 4 so far.
The 2 teams have 8 points each but the Hino Valke have played 1 game less. This match will be televised live on SuperSport 1 and kick-off is at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT).
In the only the Friday night fixture the SWD Eagles are home to 3rd-placed Border Bulldogs in George (kick-off 19:00 SA Time). The Bulldogs are still smarting from their surprise loss against the Valke in East London last weekend, a result which severely dented their slender hopes of challenging for 1st place.
The Eagles have leaked 120 points so far in the campaign, the same amount as Boland, and they will have to improve their defence if they want to stop the much-improved Border side.
Current Log leaders, the ORC Griquas, have a BYE this weekend.
The ORC Griquas ran in 8 tries to beat Leopards 48 / 21 on Saturday in their ABSA Currie Cup qualifier at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom. The result moved the Kimberley side to the Top team on the Log standings with 11 point from 3 matches.
The Leopards, who have occupied the Top spot the previous 2 weeks thanks to 2 bonus point wins, slipped down to 2nd while the Border Bulldogs jumped to 3rd following their 2nd win of the campaign.
Border made it 2 from 2 with a 22 / 15 victory over the Boland Cavaliers at the Boland Stadium in Wellington, following their 20 / 13 win over ORC Griquas in East London 3 weeks ago. In the remaining clash the Hino Valke scored 3 tries to register their 1st win in 2 attempts. They beat the SWD Eagles 22 / 15 at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park. The SWD Eagles, meanwhile, are winless after 3 outings.
The 2 early pacesetters in the race for the vital Currie Cup Qualifier top spot, the Leopards and ORC Griquas, will meet on Saturday at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom in 1 of the main matches this weekend.
The Leopards are at top of the standings after collecting 10 points from 2 bonus-point wins. Last weekend they were in fine form in their clash against the Hino Valke and dominated proceedings to secure a 53 / 7 victory at home.
The men from Kimberley, on the other hand, scored a bonus-point win over the Boland Cavaliers to shoot up to 2nd place on the standings.
The Leopards have shown a healthy appetite so far this season to run with the ball and the rewards have followed. However, the Potchefstroom team will again be looking to their pack to provide a good platform so that they can bring their speedy backline into play. In-form wing Adri Jacobs is their danger man out wide with 2 hat-tricks already under his belt in the campaign.
After suffering a defeat in Round 1, Griquas bounced back to form to beat Boland 48 / 17 in Kimberley last week. Much will depend on the form of their No 8 Carel Greeff, who scored 4 tries against the Bolanders last week.
In the other 14:30 SA Time encounter on Saturday at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park, hosts the Hino Valke entertain the SWD Eagles.
Both teams will be eager to find their rhythm after losing last weekend and since they have both yet to win a match, which could result in a hard-fought encounter.
In the other match-up, the Boland Cavaliers play host to the Border Bulldogs in Wellington. The East London team secured a surprise 1st-round win over Griquas 2 weeks ago and after their BYE of last weekend, they will be keen to maintain their good start to the qualifying campaign.
The Down Touch Griffons have a BYE this weekend.
The Leopards and Boland Cavaliers took an early lead in the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifiers this weekend as they both secured bonus-point victories in the opening round.
The Qualifiers features 7 teams battling it out for the last remaining spot in the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division. The remaining 6 teams will participate in the ABSA Currie Cup First Division.
The Leopards defeated the SWD Eagles 45 / 17 at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday thanks to an impressive 6 tries, while the Boland Cavaliers were guaranteed of their bonus-point for 4 tries in the 1st half against the Down Touch Griffons on Saturday, which set them up for a 32 / 22 victory in Malmesbury.
In the other match the Border Bulldogs surprised the ORC Griquas with a 20 / 13 victory at the BCM stadium in East London following a closely contested 1st half.
The Hino Valke, meanwhile, had a BYE.
The battle for the last available position in the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division will begin on Friday as 6 of the 7 teams participating in the in the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifiers go-head to-head over the weekend.
The top team on the Log table at the end of the Qualifiers, which feature 7 Rounds of matches, will gain automatic entry into the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, while the remaining 6 teams will battle it out in the ABSA Currie Cup First Division.
It will be between GWK Griquas, who participated in the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division last season, the Down Touch Griffons, champions of the First Division in 2014, as well as the Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Leopards, SWD Eagles and the Hino Valke in the competition.
In Friday’s opening matches, the SWD Eagles will host the Leopards at Outeniqua Park in George and Border takes on GWK Griquas at the BCM Stadium in East London. In the only match on Saturday, Boland meet the Down Touch Griffons at the Malmesbury Sports Grounds.
The clash between the SWD Eagles and Leopards is expected to be tight as the teams were closely matched in terms of their attack in the recent Vodacom Cup competition. SWD, however, are expected to bank on their more effective defence as 1 of the areas which could give them an edge.
GWK Griquas, meanwhile, will enter their clash against Border as favourites after showing good form in the 1st half of the season. They will also draw on their experience gained in last year’s ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division as they look to make their presence felt. Border, however, will enter the match with confidence after registering a morale-boosting victory against Boland in their final Vodacom Cup match.
In Malmesbury the battle between Boland and the Down Touch Griffons could also come down to the wire as both teams look to make up for their slow start to the season. The visitors, in particular, will be inspired by their successful ABSA Currie Cup First Division season last year, but they may have to work hard for an invaluable away-win.
The Hino Valke, meanwhile, have a bye.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) announced on Wednesday that it had assumed control of the financial and administrative affairs of the Border Rugby Football Union, following a resolution by the Union’s executive.
The union handed over control to SARU to allow Border’s operations to be normalised. No time limit has been put on SARU’s control. The decision was taken in November at SARU’s request.
The impact of the decision is that only SARU personnel will have signing powers on Border’s accounts. Monde Tabata, an East London-based member of the SARU Executive Council (Exco), has been confirmed as the Union’s administrator.
The Leopards scored 15 tries in beating the Border Bulldogs 103-15 (halftime 54-3) in a lost cause at Profert Olen Park on Saturday.
The Leopards knew they had to win with a bonus point to have any hope of catching the Griquas in the race to the Currie Cup Premier Division, and they did what they had to do with clinical efficiency in a free-flowing rout.
They kicked off with hope in their heart and a determination to push all the way. But it was all in vain as, at about the time they put boot to ball, the Griquas scored their fourth try against SWD Eagles and all but sealed their promotion after just half an hour’s play in George.
Former Baby Boks, Lions and Boland coach Eugene “Loffie” Eloff will coach the Border Bulldogs in this year’s Vodacom Cup.
The South African Rugby Union will send a delegation to East London next week, after it emerged the Border Rugby Football Union is bankrupt.
Glasgow Warriors are gunning for their second home RaboDirect PRO12 victory in seven days when they face Zebre at Scotstoun Stadium on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm British Summer Time). The Warriors have made several changes to their match day squad of 23 for this game. In arguably the most notable change, former Golden Lions eighthman and captain Josh Strauss will be starting at eightman.