Six play-off spots in this year’s Community Cup are still up for grabs going into the final weekend, after a penultimate round of pool action yet again characterised by late heroics.
Defending champions Rustenburg Impala and Pretoria Police are the only teams guaranteed of packing their bags for Sun City, where the sides who'll contest this year’s knockout stages will be based. All 12 Easter play-off matches, will be televised live on SuperSport.
Results across the four pools mean that 10 teams will fight it out for six places in the final round, with the very real possibility of points difference and other tie-breaking mechanisms being required to separate a number of potential log-jams.
In Pool A, hosts Impala raced into a 52-0 half-time lead over Springs before running out 78-7 victors over opponents who have consistently had the Rustenburgers’ number in recent years. And in the pool's other match, Durbanville-Bellville edged PE Police 43-35 in an 11-try thriller.
Impala must beat Durbell in Cape Town, to top the group in order to avoid a quarter-final against the rampant Pretoria Police. Durbell need just one point to knock Old Selbornians out of the race but it will be the East London team who go through should they beat Springs away with a bonus point and Impala beat Durbell by more than seven points and prevent them from scoring four tries.
In Pool B, the Bobbies finished unbeaten after routing second-placed Raiders 54-31 at the Bill Jardine Stadium in a match which produced 13 tries, while College Rovers hammered the Bloemfontein Crusaders 52-6 at home.
The stakes are just as high in this pool, where Raiders, third on 10 points, will host College Rovers, with 11 points, in what is effectively a knockout match, with the winners packing their bags for Sun City as runners-up behind Police.
In Pool C, a 78th-minute try by eighthman Gerschwin Muller and an injury-time penalty by flyhalf Leegan Moos kept Evergreens’ unbeaten record intact when they drew 30-30 with Sishen in Kathu. In a high-scoring affair, Wanderers picked up ther maiden Community Cup victory wth 53-30 result against Villagers Worcester.
Pool C is too close to call, with any two of Hamiltons, Wanderers and Evergreens able to qualify. Log leaders Hammies are not guaranteed of going through should they lose at home to Evergreens. With both sides having won two and drawn one of their group matches to date, the Cape Town clash is one of the higlights of the final weekend.
Second-placed Wanderers will likely grab one of the two qualifying slots on offer should they beat Sishen and pick up a bonus point. Such are the permutations that the Johannesburgers could either finish top or be knocked out of the tournament depending on what happens in the other match.
There was even more drama in Pool D, where a bonus-point try by centre Sedwell Diedericks two minutes from time gave Wesbank a come-from-behind 27-23 away win over Rovers Welkom. Meanwhile, Durban Collegians erased a half-time deficit to beat Ferros 39-16.
Three teams could possibly finish on 15 points, thereby requiring tie-breakers to see who goes through. Wesbank’s last-gasp try in Welkom means third-placed Collegians have a monumental task ahead of them. The KZN champions must travel to Port Elizabeth, beat Despatch with a bonus point, and deny the Eastern Cape side any points. A single bonus point for Despatch will not only guarantee their passage into the quarter-finals but also that of Wesbank.
The reason is that, should Collegians and Wesbank finish joint second on 15 log points, it would be the Bolanders who will advance even if they have an inferior points difference. This is because the tournament rules state that it's the winner of the match between the two teams that will prevail.
In this case, Wesbank’s 34-20 win over Collegians in Malmesbury in round three would prove crucial.
Rustenburg Impala (78) – Tries: Willie Kok, Victor Joubert, Stefan Kruger, Morné Jooste (2), Joe Seerane, Henro Huyser, Gysbert van Wyk (2), Flippie Pienaar, Dumisani Matyeshana, Cecil Dumond. Conversions: Wilco de Wet (5), Kok (3), Dumond.
Springs (7) – Try: Steven Boshoff. Conversion: Johan Zondagh.
PE Police (35) – Tries: Lyle Walters, Jeremy Sebia (2), Frans Gerber, Fabian Juries. Conversions: Juan Smit (4), Kevin Plaatjies.
Durbanville-Bellville (43) – Tries: Tiaan Radyn (2), Raymond Olivier (2), Garth April, Brendon April. Conversions: Olivier (5). Penalty: Olivier.
College Rovers (52) – Tries: Wade Elliott, TC Khoza, Paul Bester, Matt Phillips, Luciando Santos, Graham Geldenhuys, Dusty Noble (2). Conversions: Chris Micklewood (4), Jeandré Small (2).
Bloemfontein Crusaders (6) – Penalties: Darren Baron (2).
Raiders (31) – Tries: Gustav de Vos, Christopher Nqubuli (2), Christopher Juries, Ben Sekgobela. Conversions: Arno Coetzee (3).
Pretoria Police (54) – Tries: Wynand de Sousa, Michael Nienaber, Ian van Deventer, Hendrik van der Nest (2), Hendrik Rademeyer, Gaybrin Smith, Birtie Powell. Conversions: Dillon Laubscher (7).
Sishen (30) – Tries: Ryan de Wee, Jamie Zwiegelaar, Dawid Roux (2). Conversions: Tiaan le Roux (2). Penalties: Le Roux (2).
Evergreens (30) – Tries: Luzanne Williams, Gerschwin Muller, Deroy Rhoode. Conversions: Leegan Moos (3). Penalties: Moos (3).
Wanderers (53) – Tries: Wes Flanagan (2), Richard Aingworth (2), Nicolas van Rooyen, Jonathan Mallett, Carl Gliddon. Conversions: Darryn Rentzke (6). Penalties: Rentzke (2).
Villagers Worcester (30) – Tries: Ricardo Jones, Nazeem van Sitters, Jowayne van Wyk, Ernst Claassen. Conversions: Van Sitters (2). Penalties: Van Sitters (2).
Durban Collegians (39) – Tries: Kyle Hartley, Keelin Bastew, Gareth Reece-Edwards, Ferdie Horn, Brendon Groenewald. Conversions: Duncan Campbell (4). Penalties: Campbell (2).
Ferros (16) – Try: Tommie Collen. Conversion: Jannie van der Merwe. Penalties: Collen (2), Van der Merwe.
Rovers Welkom (23) – Tries: Patrick Kampher, Wayne Ludick, Ernst Wepener. Conversion: Tiaan van Wyk. Penalties: Van Wyk (2).
Wesbank (27) – Tries: Chrislyn van Schalkwyk, Salmon Coetzee, Melvin Laserus, Sedick Diedericks. Conversions: Evan Liedeman (2). Penalty: Liedeman.