The final round of fixtures in the Premier Division of South Africa's Currie Cup takes place this weekend, with three sides competing for the final two playoff places.
With Western Province and the Natal Sharks already safely through to the playoffs, it is left to the Cheetahs, the Lions and the Blue Bulls to slog it out in the final round for a shot at lifting the 2013 title.
The Griquas, meanwhile, are consigned to bottom place in the standings and have already turned their attention to the impending relegation playoff.
|12 October||Golden Lions vs. Griquas||Johannesburg||14:00|
|12 October||Free State Cheetahs vs. Blue Bulls||Bloemfontein||16:05|
|12 October||Sharks vs. Western Province||Durban||18:10|
Golden Lions 30-10 Griquas
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann is boosted by the return of Springbok lock Franco van der Merwe as his side seek the win over the Griquas, they need to seal a semifinal place.
With the Griquas choosing to rest their star players ahead of upcoming promotion-relegation playoffs, per Rugby Week, there could well be the opportunity for Ackermann's side to run up a big score.
The Griquas have a good defensive record in the tournament, claiming five bonus points for losing by fewer than seven points this campaign.
Despite the presence of international Willie Le Roux, 10 changes is too much for any side to mount a formidable challenge—yet alone a side already bottom of the table.
Cheetahs 25-18 Bulls
The remaining two sides in the hunt of a semifinal place meet at the Free State stadium later in the evening, knowing that they likely need a win to progress to the semifinals.
Indeed, by the time the game kicks off they will know the result of the earlier fixture and, most likely, the Lions will have secured their place in the last four.
Free State Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen has been declared fit to play in their Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls #SSRugby— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) October 10, 2013
Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen return from international duty to line up in the front row for the Cheetahs—an area where they will look to dominate their opponents. However, the Blue Bulls welcome back two Springboks of their own in centres JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein, per Rugby Week.
Should the Lions win, the Bulls would need to overturn a 22-point difference to reach the semifinals, as well as claim a try bonus point. Even winning the game in Bloemfontein, though, is a significant ask.
Sharks 20-19 Western Province
The final match of Saturday evening sees the Sharks host Western Province in what could well be a dry run for the final, with both teams set to host their respective semifinals.
A host of Springbok stars return for both sides, although Western Province have opted to rest international captain Jean de Villiers; with top spot up for grabs, we should be in for an enthralling contest.
Sharks loose forward Jacques Botes is set to break a record by becoming the most capped player in Currie Cup history http://t.co/MxQNAezCEn— rugby365 (@rugby365com) October 10, 2013
Neither side will want to lose momentum ahead of upcoming challenges, and both teams will be aware of the likelihood of another matchup in a fortnight's time. A psychological boost now would help considerably.
The Sharks' international front row returning, per BDLive, should be enough to see them home in front of their passionate supporters, but they will not find it easy against an excellent Western Province side.
As Supersport point out, securing top spot also secures a lucrative financial windfall for the union that holds the final, so expect fireworks.