Communities in diverse locations such as Velddrif on the West Coast and Alberton in Gauteng will this weekend be exposed to the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, with six matches taking place as the new provincial tournament takes shape after two weekends of action.
The regional format of the tournament will see a number of traditional derbies being played again, with the clash between Boland and DHL Western Province in Velddrif a highly anticipated one for the rugby-loving folk from the West Coast.
The men from Cape Town are riding high in the South Section following wins over EP Kings and Border in the opening two rounds and will travel to Velddrif with good momentum and confidence.
Boland, who lost their opening match to Border in the first Rugby Festival held in Port Elizabeth, had a bye last weekend and will be keen to get into the winning groove as soon as possible.
Action starts on Friday, when the undefeated Leopards will play their first home match at Olën Park in Potchefstroom following away wins in Welkom and Kimberley. They face a dangerous Toyota Free State XV, who will be smarting following their opening loss against Down Touch Griffons in Bloemfontein last weekend.
Border Bulldogs supporters will have to wait till late on Friday to see their heroes such as Oliver Zono in action, as kick-off at the Buffalo City Municipality Stadium for the match against SWD Eagles is scheduled for 19h15.
The 25-year old Zono was born and schooled in Fort Beaufort and made steady progress in his career. He represented the University of Fort Hare in the Varsity Shield competition and played for Border’s Under-19 and Under-21 teams before making his senior debut in 2014. The SuperSport Rugby Challenge seems to be a breakthrough year for the playmaker. After two rounds of action, he is joint top points’ scorer with Kobus Marais of the Steval Pumas, both of whom have scored 30 points already, with the Border man scoring two tries and slotting seven of his eight attempted conversions, allowing him to break the 100-points mark in provincial rugby.
The Bulldogs have shown great attacking intent early in the tournament, with eight tries in their two encounters, so SWD will have to keep their guard up if they want to travel home with any joy in their hearts.
Action on Saturday starts with a Gauteng derby when the Vodacom Blue Bulls take on Hino Valke at Loftus Versfeld in the televised match of the weekend. The home side lost their opening match at home two weeks ago and will be desperate to restore the faith in front of the Loftus crowd.
Boom Prinsloo and Johnny Kotze are newcomers to the men in blue. The Hino Valke will be confident when they arrive in Pretoria after scoring 50 points against the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias in their opening match.
In the other match in the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions XV hosts the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias in Alberton. The Namibians have lost both their matches so far, but has shown a willingness to play and the Johannesburg team will make a big mistake if they underestimate the visitors. The home side have Springbok Ruan Combrinck on the wing, as the test match winger is making his comeback from injury.
There will be some trepidation for the Cell C Sharks XV team as they need to travel to Welkom, where the Down Touch Griffons await in the Central Section. The home side came back from Bloemfontein last weekend with a solid win but did stumble in week one, losing to the Leopards in Welkom. The Durbanites also opened with a defeat in week one and should be much better this time around.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge fixtures are:
Friday, 5 May 2017
Leopards vs Toyota Free State XV
Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Border Bulldogs vs SWD Eagles
BCM Stadium, East London
Referee: Stuart Berry
Saturday 6 May 2017
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Hino Valke
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Pro Legoete
Xerox Golden Lions XV vs Windhoek Draught Welwitschias
Alberton Rugby Club, Alberton
Referee: Ben Crouse
Down Touch Griffons vs Cell C Sharks XV
HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Boland Cavaliers vs DHL Western Province
Velddrif Rugby Club, Velddrif
Referee: Egon Seconds