There is little to choose between any of the teams in a mouth-watering set of fixtures in Round Five of the 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
With two log positions the biggest gap between any of the teams in each match on Monday, the standings could get another serious shake-up with the play-offs getting ever-closer.
Top spot will be on the line when defending champions FNB UP-Tuks host FNB NWU-Pukke who trail them by just a single point, whilst it will be a very similar scenario in Stellenbosch where FNB Maties will look to move past opponents FNB UFS-Shimlas into third place.
Things will be no different in the bottom half of the standings, with just one log point the difference between FNB UJ and FNB UCT ahead of their battle in Johannesburg, and just down the road at Wits the hosts will be hoping to break their duck in the competition when they take on FNB NMMU.
UP-Tuks remain the only unbeaten side following their bonus-point win over the Ikeys on the Green Mile last week, but they will face a serious test of their title credentials against a NWU-Pukke side full of confidence after their demolition of the Madibaz in Port Elizabeth.
Two-time champions Maties would have taken confidence from consecutive victories in the last two rounds after going down in their first two matches, but they will be confronted by a UFS-Shimlas team that showed UJ no mercy in Bloemfontein last week to storm up to third place.
UJ find themselves down in seventh place after that heavy defeat, but their play-off hopes are by no means over and they will be right back in the mix if they manage to overcome the Ikeys on home turf.
The Tigers have lost both of their home games this season, but are unbeaten on the road, and they will be hoping for another win away from home to move back into the top four.
The NMMU Madibaz are coming off two consecutive defeats at home, where they were previously unbeaten since 2012, so they will want to respond with a convincing performance against bottom-dwellers Wits who are desperate to end their 11-match losing streak in the competition.
Wits fell just short of notching their first-ever Varsity Cup win against Maties in Stellenbosch last week, so they will be aiming to go one better at home against a Madibaz side low on confidence.
In the Varsity Shield defending champions FNB CUT will be back on home soil after their bonus-point win against FNB UWC in Bellville on Thursday, and they will face a FNB TUT Vikings side hoping to bounce back from consecutive defeats.
The FNB UKZN Impi remain in second place following their hard-fought draw with the FNB Fort Hare Blues in Alice on Thursday, and they will have a chance to put some daylight between themselves and the third-placed Blues when they host bottom-placed UWC in Durban.
In the FNB Varsity Young Guns competition Wits will be hoping to bounce back from heavy defeats to champions UP-Tuks and UFS when they face NWU-Pukke at home.
In Stellenbosch the Steinhoff Junior Maties will host and NMMU side still looking for their first win of the campaign after defeat to UJ and a draw with UCT.
The Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship enters the third round on Monday with UJ’s Steinhoff Majuba hosting the Cobras from UCT and UP-Tuks champions Steinhoff Onderstepoort making their first appearance in the competition against NWU-Pukke’s Patria.
FNB Wits v FNB NMMU
(Wits Rugby Stadium, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 16.45 live on Supersport One)
FNB Wits: 15 Ruhan Nel, 14 Mandla Dube, 13 Divan Ferguson, 12 Brent Crossley, 11 Nkuli Gamede, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Mathew Torrance, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Senna Esterhuizen, 6 Thato Mavundla, 5 Rinus Botma, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Kelley Ferdinand, 2 Ashley Kohler, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Replacements: 16 James Marx, 17 Kyle Wood, 18 Conor Brockschmidt, 19 Peter van Biljon, 20 Rendani Ramovha, 21 Ish Nkolo, 22 Joshua Jarvis, 23 Gideon Muller.
FNB NMMU Madibaz: 15 Kayle van Zyl, 14 Ayabula Dlepu, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Devon Lailvaux, 11 Yamkela Ngam, 10 Jarryd Buys, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Marcel Groenewald, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Louis Fourie, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jody Reyneke, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Rob Louw, 19 Andre Barnard, 20 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 21 Andile Jho, 22 Sinakho Mafu, 23 Christie Lawrence.
Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Lesego Legoete
TMO: Johan Greeff
FNB UJ v FNB UCT
(UJ Stadium, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 19.00 live on Supersport One)
FNB UJ: 15 Marais Schmidt, 14 PJ Walters, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Michael Haznar, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Jacques Pretorius (captain), 8 Kobus Porter, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Tiaan MacDonald, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Van Zyl Botha, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Wiseman Kamanga.
Replacements: 16 Jannes Snyman, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Dylan Peterson, 20 Lukas van Zyl, 21 Juan Kotze, 22 Pieter Morton, 23 Hendrik Bredenkamp.
FNB UCT: 15 Ross Jones-Davies, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nicholas Holton, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 James Alexander (captain), 8 Vince Jobo, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Robin Murray.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Msizi Zondi, 18 Kyle Kriel, 19 Guy Alexander, 20 Liam Slatem, 21 Martin Sauls, 22 Suwilanju Chibale, 23 David Maasch.
Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Jaco van Heerden
TMO: Willie Roos
FNB UP-Tuks v FNB NWU-Pukke
(Tuks Rugby Stadium, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.00)
FNB UP-Tuks: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Dries Swanepoel,12 Ryan Nell, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Emile Temperman, 8 Reniel Hugo (captain), 7 Rudolph Smith, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Basil Short, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Arno van Wyk, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Jannes Kirsten, 19 Leneve Damens, 20 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Francois Tredoux, 22 Duncan Matthews, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.
FNB NWU-Pukke: TBC
Referees: Jaco Pretorius, Gerrie de Bruin
FNB Maties v FNB UFS-Shimlas
(Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch – Kick-off: 19.00)
FNB Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgskiss, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Caleb Smith, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jean Nel, 8 Tertius Daniller (captain), 7 Lungelo Chonco, 6 Beyers de Villiers, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Nicol Heyns, 2 Freddie Kirsten, 1 Johannes Kleinhans.
Replacements: 16 Charl de Villiers, 17 Wesley Adonis, 18 Ian Groenewald, 19 Justin Benn, 20 Louis Nel, 21 Chris Smith, 22 Johnny Kotze, 23 Liam Hendricks.
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 15 Ludwig Erasmus, 14 Maphuta Dolo, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Sethu Tom, 10 Gouws Prinsloo, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Justin Pappin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Franco van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Markus Odendaal, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan van der Hoogt, 19 Neill Jordaan, 20 Kay-Kay Hlongwane, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet,
22 Divandré Strydom, 23 Gideon Bruwer.
Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Christie du Preez