Tricky clashes for SA Cup pacesetters

The SA Cup is approaching the halfway mark of the league phase, and leaders Griquas will face their most difficult outing so far when they host third-placed Griffons on Saturday.

The Pumas – who kick off the weekend schedule on Friday when they host the Valke at Mbombela Stadium – trail the early pacesetters on points’ difference.

Saturday’s two other matches see the fourth-placed Cheetahs go against Eastern Province in Bloemfontein, while Leopards take on the Border Bulldogs in Potchefstroom as they battle to move up from the bottom of the log.

Sunday’s fixture between the SWD Eagles and Boland Kavaliers wraps up the fourth-round fixtures.

Griquas, the Pumas and Griffons all have a full house of 15 points from three bonus-point wins to date, and the leading trio are followed by Cheetahs and SWD Eagles (both on 10 points), the Boland Kavaliers (7), Eastern Province (6), and Valke (2), while Border and Leopards must still register their first points.

In Nelspruit, the Pumas will enter their clash against their neighbours to the west, the Valke, as favourites, with the East Randers still searching for their first win. The big question, however, is whether the red jerseys will be able to handle the physicality and backline threat of Jimmy Stonehouse’s well-drilled team.

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The Friday evening clash will be followed by Saturday’s three matches, which are all scheduled to start at the same time.

Although the Griffons defeated Leopards 42-10 last weekend in Welkom, they now travel south-west to Kimberley where a stern examination awaits them against the impressive Griquas. The team from the Diamond City were rampant in all three of their previous matches, and last week they scored more than 100 points as they swept Border aside.

The tournament’s leading point scorer, George Whitehead – whose 72 points is almost double the 37 scored by the Pumas’ Clinton Swart – is in red hot form after his 49 points against the Bulldogs last weekend.

The Welkom outfit, on the other hand, will be hoping that strong midfielder Dominic Smit, the leading try scorer so far this campaign with six, can continue with his scoring streak.

The Cheetahs fielded a young team side last week and came off second best against the experienced Pumas. However, this weekend the Free Staters are favourites to bounce back when they welcome EP to Bloemfontein.

Saturday’s remaining fixture should see one of the Leopards (hosts) and Border break their winless streak when the two sides meet in Potchefstroom.

The weekend action will be concluded with an exciting derby between Currie Cup First Division rivals the Eagles and Kavaliers on Sunday.

Zane Kirchner’s SWD team snatched a hard-fought 24-23 away win last week over EP, and they will be fancying their chances at Outeniqua Park against the resurgent Bolanders.

The Eagles sit one place above the Kavaliers on the log, and the team from the Southern Cape will have to keep visiting flyhalf Garth April in check if they want to succeed.

SA Cup fixtures

Friday, 12 April
Pumas vs Valke, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, 7pm

Saturday, 13 April
Cheetahs vs Eastern Province, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, 3pm
Leopards vs Border, Olën Park, Potchefstroom, 3pm
Griquas vs Griffons, Suzuki Stadium, Kimberley, 3pm

Sunday, 14 April
Eagles vs Boland Kavaliers, Outeniqua Park, George, 2.30pm

Photo: Mark Ward/Gallo Images

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