The Currie Cup has reached the knockout stages with defending champions Bulls hosting Western Province, who qualified for the semis on the last day of the round robin stages last weekend, at Lotfus on Friday and surprise packages Griquas travelling to the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday.
With the Springboks only in action next weekend, all rugby eyes will be firmly fixed on Pretoria and Durban for these highly anticipated matches which promises to be high-octane with little or no room for error.
The Bulls and Sharks, who are the finalists from 2020, host Western Province and highly unpredictable Griquas respectively after they were separated from the rest following the completion of the league phase last weekend.
The first match for a place in the final sees defending champions Bulls welcome Western Province on Friday night (7pm) in a North-South derby and on Saturday the Griquas visit the Sharks in what will be their first semi-final since 2019.
For the Griquas, this will be only their third appearance in the top-four since the game turned professional in the mid-1990s.
Bulls VS Western Province
If both teams come to the party, this may turn out to be a closely contested affair but smart money will be on the Bulls who boast a brilliant record at Loftus since Jake White took over as Director of Rugby last year.
The men from Pretoria have only lost once at their home fortress of Loftus and it was against Western Province at the beginning of the season after Jake White fielded a weakened team for that match.
The Bulls underlined their power in the return game when they recorded a convincing 34-13 victory over Western Province at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town just over a month ago, outscoring their hosts on the day by four tries to one.
The last time these two giants of the local game met in a Currie Cup semi-final was in 2018 and on that occasion the Bulls travelled to Cape Town only to be denied by Western Province winger SP Marais who scored 30 points as he steered the Capetonians to a 35-32 victory in a titanic 100-minute thriller.
Two years before that, Western Province faced their arch enemies in a top-four clash in Pretoria with the Bulls eking out a 36-30 win to progress to the Currie Cup final and they are at it again with the hosts slight favourites.
Pick: Bulls Wins by 0.25 at BetXChange
Sharks VS Griquas
The battle for a place in the cup final spills over to Saturday afternoon with the Sharks welcoming this season’s surprise packages in the form of the Griquas at 5pm in Durban where a major upset will be in the offing.
The Sharks are overwhelming favourites to earn the right to meet the winner of the match between the Bulls and Western Province but the men from Kimberly have shown throughout the season that they mean business.
The Griquas will be hugely motivated by the fact that they are playing in their first semi-final since 2019 and this is also their third appearance in the top-four since the game turned professional in the mid-1990s.
The Sharks lost last weekend but Griquas coach Scott Mathie and his men face a tough task at Kings Park Stadium because coach Sean Everitt’s team have shown glimpses of brilliant form throughout a season that was disrupted by the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal to cost the Durbanites momentum.
On the other hand, the Griquas will arrive in Durban with the knowledge that nothing is impossible as they beat the Sharks away from home earlier this season by 37-27 in round eight, after the KwaZulu-Natalians won by 30-16 in Kimberley in the opening round of the competition.
Pick: Sharks Wins by 0.28 at BetXChange