Vodacom Cup preview

The four Vodacom Cup quarter-finals take place in Durban, Cape Town, Nelspruit and Pretoria and will be contested by the same teams as last year.

Even their positions from last year are almost the same. The Blue Bulls “replace” Griquas as hosts, while the Sharks, Pumas and Western Province will all host a quarter-final for the second successive year. Seven of the quarter-finalists this year, also made the playoffs two years ago.

The first match of the weekend takes place at Kings Park 2 in Durban, when the Sharks, who finished top in the South Section, host the Lions, who snuck into the quarters in their last game of the league phase, on Friday afternoon. The Sharks, on the other hand, lost only once during the league phase of the competition – against EP in the penultimate round.

On Friday evening, the Pampas face the tough task of travelling to Nelspruit to take on the North Section winners, the Pumas, at the Mbombela Stadium. Like the Sharks, the Pumas have also lost just once this season, when they went down to a desperate Lions side in Nelspruit a few weeks ago. The Pumas would like to emulate 2012, when they reached the semi-finals, while the Argentineans will be aiming for a repeat of 2011, when they won the Cup.

The third quarter-final is a replay of last year’s final, when Western Province beat Griquas at the death in Kimberley. This time, however, the Capetonians will host the match at Newlands. WP finished second in the South Section, while Griquas have lost three of their group matches. It’s the first time since 2010 that the team from the Northern Cape is not hosting a quarter-final.

The Blue Bulls will host the final playoff at Loftus against EP in a match that serves as a curtain raiser to the Bulls’ match against the Hurricanes. The men from Pretoria are on a roll, having amassed 199 points (29 tries) and only conceded 10 in their last two league matches. However, EP will not be easy-beats in Pretoria – proving that in Durban a fortnight ago when they beat the Sharks.

Quarter-finals fixtures:

Friday, 3 May:

Sharks v Lions
Kick-off: 16h45, Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Reuben Rossouw

Pumas v Pampas
Kick-off: 19h10 (live broadcast), Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Gerrie de Bruin, Stefan Breytenbach
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee

Saturday, 4 May:

Western Province v Griquas
Kick-off: 15h30, Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Cwengile Jadezweni

Blue Bulls v EP
Kick-off: 16h30 (delayed broadcast from 21h30), Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Lusanda Jam, Cobus Wessels
Television match official: Johan Greeff