The Absa Currie Cup First Division will resume on Friday following seven rounds of matches in June and July, which served as the Qualifier for the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division.
It means the Leopards kick off part two with a healthy eight-point lead at the top of the log, on 25 points, with the Down Touch Griffons leading the chasing pack.
The log table has been adjusted with the removal of match and competition points that have been taken or conceded against the Kimberley side following their promotion to the Premier Division.
The six First Division teams will play five more pool rounds, with the semifinals and final to be contested on October 4 and 17 respectively.
In Friday’s matches the Border Bulldogs host the Valke at the BCM Stadium in East London and the SWD Eagles meet the Leopards at Outeniqua Park in George.
In the only match on Saturday Boland Cavaliers take on Down Touch Griffons at the Boland Stadium in Wellington.
The First Division teams will be keeping one eye on events in the Premier Division. Should either or both of the GWK Griquas or Steval Pumas feature among the bottom two teams in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division this year, their place will be up for grabs next year.
The six ‘franchise’ teams have been entrenched in the Premier Division and will reappear in 2015 – but the GWK Griquas and Pumas have to finish in the top six if they are to avoid appearing in an Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Qualifying tournament next year.
Meanwhile, in East London the Border Bulldogs will be determined to register a victory against the Valke to keep alive their semifinal hopes despite occupying fifth position on the log table. The fact that the Valke suffered defeats in all of their qualifying matches will certainly give Border hope to begin the last few rounds of the competition on a positive note. They will, however, be wary of the Valke’s main playmaker, fullback Jaun Kotze, who topped the point scorer’s list in the Qualifier with 93 points.
In the Leopards camp coach Robert de Preez has retained the core of the team that steered them to five victories in six matches in the Qualifier for their clash against SWD. With wings Luther Obi and Sylvian Mahuza and veteran Springbok flyhalf Andre Pretorius, who were among the top five point-scorers in the Qualifier looming large, the Eagles will have to produce a solid defensive effort and remain disciplined to prevent a similar fate to the 51-23 defeat they suffered against the Potchefstroom side in June.
The Down Touch Griffons, meanwhile, will look to celebrate captain and No8 Nicky Steyn’s 100th Absa Currie Cup match with a victory against the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington. A victory would also allow them to remain within range of log-leaders the Leopards. But they may face a tough test as the Wellington side put up a brave fight in their last clash and suffered a narrow 27-25 defeat, which should boost their confidence, especially with home ground advantage counting in their favour.
Absa Currie Cup First Division fixtures:
Border Bulldogs vs Valke
Venue: BCM Stadium, East London
Date: Friday, 29 August
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Rodney Boneparte and Fernando Uithaler
SWD Eagles vs Leopards
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Date: Friday, 29 August
Referee: Pro Legoete
Assistant Referees: Christie du Preez and Ruhan Meiring
Boland Cavaliers vs Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Date: Saturday, 30 August
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistant Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni and Linston Manuels