Cape Town - Western Province and the Sharks XV will both host their SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarter-finals after the fixtures were slightly amended for this weekend, when the Pumas and Griquas will also enjoy home ground advantage as the competition moves into the knock-out stages.
The three top teams in the North, Central and South Sections were awarded hosting rights for their quarter-finals, while the Sharks claimed fourth position as the best second-placed team which also secured them home ground advantage this weekend.
With straight elimination on the cards for the losing sides, the crowds in Nelspruit, Kimberley, Durban and Cape Town can look forward to brilliant rugby.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge yet again delivered all pre-season hype on bringing action to the doorstep of rugby communities, but even more so as attack dominated defence in the first 10 weeks of action.
Play-offs tend to bring out a more conservative element though as it’s make or break for teams, and some tense encounters are expected.
The Pumas will host the Blue Bulls with some confidence in Nelspruit on Saturday. The home team’s undefeated record speaks volumes of their good form this season, which included two wins in the pool phase over the men from Pretoria.
Unfortunately for the visitors from Loftus Versfeld, they will not be afforded the luxury of reinforcements from Super Rugby like last Sunday, as that competition resumes this weekend.
The Sharks XV’s match against the Golden Lions XV at Kings Park will show an interesting look at the depth of the two unions. This encounter will be the curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby clash between the top dogs from Durban and Johannesburg later on Saturday afternoon.
With resources stretched in both camps, the home team should hold a slight edge, especially since the visitors used a number of high-profile players for their fixture last weekend and could lack some rhythm.
Griquas will have their tails up when they host the Boland Cavaliers at Tafel Lager Park on Saturday. The Kimberlites are showing hot form and scored some impressive wins in the last couple of weeks, enabling them to top their pool.
Boland will find the trip to Kimberley a tough one, but they have not shown any regard for any opponents thus far this year and the home side’s fans will need to rock up in numbers to get their team over the line.
And on Sunday, the defending champions, Western Province, will host a dangerous opponent in the Free State XV at the Green Point Track in Cape Town - a match that will be televised by SuperSport.
The visitors may have slipped up in the last two weeks, but they have the class and ability in their squad to beat the best, as they have shown in earlier victories over Griquas and Sharks XV. The Capetonians are hard to stop when they hit their straps, but they have shown some inconsistency in execution in recent weeks.
SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarter-finals fixtures:
Saturday, 30 June
Pumas v Blue Bulls
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Griquas v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Sharks XV v Golden Lions XV
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Paul Mente
Sunday, 1 July
Western Province v Free State XV
Venue: Green Point Track, Cape Town
Referee: Ben Crouse
TV: SuperSport 1, SuperSport 10