The Currie Cup is left with three rounds of matches with the Bulls and the Cheetahs involved in a tightly contested two-horse race at the top of the log standings.
The Bulls and the Cheetahs have secured home spots for the play-offs and focus has firmly turned to which teams between the Sharks, Griquas and Pumas will join them in the for the two remaining playoff spots.
The Bulls kick off the weekend’s fixtures on Friday evening when they host the Pumas at Loftus in Pretoria and there are a further two matches on Saturday to complete this round.
On Saturday, the Griquas tackle the unbeaten Cheetahs in Kimberley while the Lions are playing at home against Western Province in Johannesburg.
Bulls VS Pumas
New Bulls signing Ruan Vermaak will make his debut when they take on the Pumas during their Currie Cup match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
The 24-year-old lock will join Janko Swanepoel for the second-row pairing in an exciting Bulls team that will be on duty in the side’s penultimate round robin match in the competition.
Lizo Gqoboka will once again lead the side as captain while veteran flyahlf Morne Steyn will make a return to action starting in the No10 jersey and occupy the vice-captaincy role.
While the Bulls will be fielding an exciting starting XV with familiar personnel who have performed well for the team throughout the campaign, there will be some anticipation for the unleashing of youthful talent from the bench.
That includes Francois Klopper, Stephan Smit and Tharquinn Manuel all of whom who played a key role in the recent Varsity Cup success of the University of Pretoria (Tuks).
In five previous meetings between the sides from Pretoria and Nelspruit, four of which were staged at Mbombela Stadium, the Bulls emerged victorious four times while the Lowvelders managed just one win, a 44-14 success last January.
Griquas VS Cheetahs
The Griquas return from a bye having last played three weeks ago.
They did play a training match against the SA Academy side in Kimberley last week in an effort to shake off the worst rust and give the players some match fitness.
The Kimberley side could only manage one win in five games against their neighbours from Bloemfontein, a 31-10 victory in the Northern Cape in June 2021.
The other four clashes between them (three away and one home tie) all ended in favour of their Free State rivals, who will take some confidence into the match.
Two weekends ago, the Cheetahs racked up their ninth consecutive win courtesy of a 44-15 triumph over the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein.
Lions VS Western Province
Western Province occupy sixth position on the standings with 13 points from nine games and that gives the side from Cape Town an outside chance of grabbing a play-off spot.
To make it to the play-offs, Western Province must win all their remaining matches while at the same time hoping that other results go their way.
For the Lions, who remain winless after ten games after what has been a disappointing campaign, they complete the standings with only five league points.
The Lions will take a lot of heart from their previous outing when they managed to push the Bulls all the way in their 43-37 loss at Loftus.
WP on the other side will be equally buoyant after they managed to break their losing sequence of seven losses with their success in Nelspruit over the Pumas.
The Joburg side lead the WP 3-2 in this fixture, although the Cape side have been on top in the most two most recent matches.