The Bulls and Sharks are in a favourable position to host the Currie Cup semi-finals this season after they registered much-needed victories last weekend to maintain their places at the top and second positions on the log respectively.
While the Bulls and the Sharks are almost certainties to play in the semis, the race to the other two playoff spots will go down to the wire with all the other five teams in the Premier Division teams still in the hunt to make the top four.
The race for the two places is hotting up between the much improved Pumas, who are laced third on the log, the Griquas, Western Province, the Lions and the Cheetahs who have blown hot and cold the entire season.
The competition has reached “must-win” territory and intensity over the last remaining rounds of matches is expected to rise by a few notches with teams looking to better their positions and secure home semi-finals.
Pumas VS Bulls
The Bulls face a tricky away fixture when they travel east on the N4 to face the Pumas in Nelspruit where the Lowvelders have proved to be tough opponents this year.
The Pumas will be high on confidence after showing grit and determination to fight back and salvage a draw with Western Province during their highly exciting match in Cape Town on Sunday.
For the visiting Bulls, talented fullback Sibongile Novuka, who has come off the bench in two previous outings this season, will earn his first start.
Novuka is among a number of changes to a new-look backline which will include a midfield pairing of Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans, while Johan Goosen and Zak Burger will once again be the halfback combination.
Arno Botha will again lead the side as captain while spearheading a forwards pack that will see No8, Elrigh Louw, returning to the starting XV after being utilised from the bench against the Sharks at the weekend.
Hooker Schalk Erasmus, together with props Gerhard Steenekamp and Mornay Smith, will also start the match in the front row at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Pick: Bulls Wins by 0.22 at BetXChange
Cheetahs VS Griquas
The other match scheduled for Wednesday afternoon sees the Central Derby in Bloemfontein between the struggling Cheetahs and the unpredictable Griquas.
The Cheetahs are desperate to keep their faint playoff hopes alive with a win against this resurgent Griquas and the fact that they are both disparate for a win is what is going to make this match even more interesting.
The men from the Northern Cape will be looking for a second win over their neighbours this season and that much needed win will ensure that they stay in the top four as the competition goes into the final straight.
Pick: Free State Wins by 0.50 at BetXChange
Western Province VS Lions
This is a clash of two teams who have failed to impress this season and the Lions are facing a big task of getting all the points when they travel to Cape Town Newlands Stadium for a date with equally disparate Western Province.
Injuries from the matches against the Cheetahs and the Bulls matches, as well as Covid-19 protocols, have forced changes to coach Ivan van Rooyen’s selection for this mid-week clash.
Jannie du Plessis, Carlu Sadie and Mark Snyman will sit this match out, while Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Chergin Fillies and MJ Pelser will don the red and white jersey. Ruan Dreyer is on family responsibility leave due to the birth of his twins.
Burger Odendaal will captain the side with Emmanuel Tshituka returning and Morne Brandon getting an opportunity off the bench.
Western Province coach John Dobson has made seven changes to the team for their Currie Cup match against the Lions at Newlands on Wednesday.
Because of the short turnaround of matches as they played on Saturday, there are four changes to the forward pack and three in the backline for this clash against the visitors from Johannesburg.
Up front, props Dian Bleuler and Neethling Fouche will start on either side of Scarra Ntubeni while Ernst van Rhyn is back in the starting line-up to captain the team at lock.
In the loose trio, Deon Fourie starts at openside flank, with Nama Xaba among the replacements, having played for 80 minutes in the previous three matches.
There is rotation at scrumhalf with Godlen Masimla in the starting XV and Paul de Wet on the replacements bench while the other two changes to the backline see centre Ruhan Nel and wing Sergeal Petersen both make their return.
Pick: Western Province Wins by 0.55 at BetXChange