The Pampas XV, the only undefeated team in this year’s Vodacom Cup, will be hoping for one more victory in 2011 when they host the defending champions, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom on Friday night.
The Argentineans will start as red hot favourites as they are currently on a 10-match winning streak, which started with a 52-29 victory over the Tasol Solar Griffons. Since then, they have managed to secure two more 50-point victories, against the Valke (57-15) in round seven and against the Welwitschias (52-10) in Windhoek in round nine.
What’s more interesting, is that the Pampas XV have already beaten the Vodacom Blue Bulls this season, by 27-22 at Profert Olën Park in round three. They were impressive in their 41-26 semi-final victory over the Sharks XV last weekend, and defeated the Toyota Free State Cheetahs (41-34) in extra time of a thrilling quarter-final clash.
A number of players from the Argentinean team have been outstanding this year, with winger Juan Imhoff currently the joint-leading try-scorer together with DHL Western Province’s JJ Engelbrecht on 10 tries. Winger Agustin Gosio is the second leading try-scorer with seven five-pointers to his name.
Pampas XV flyhalves Nicolas Sanchez (79) and Santiago Iglesias (62) are also amongst the leading Vodacom Cup points’ scorers this season. The “hosts” have also been the most entertaining team thanks to their expansive rugby this year. They have scored 53 tries this season, with Iglesias converting 24 of those tries and Sanchez converting 19.
However the Vodacom Blue Bulls, three-time Vodacom Cup champions, can count on huge finals experience, having played in eight finals at this level. Eight players who competed in the 2010 Vodacom Cup final for the Vodacom Blue Bulls have been included in their match 22 for Friday’s clash. Centre Stefan Watermeyer, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, scrumhalf Ruan Snyman, flank Okkie Kruger, prop Morne Mellett, locks Cornell Hess and Mthunzi Mabeta and captain Gerrit-Jan van Velze, who will make his fourth Vodacom Cup final appearance, were members of the team that defeated the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 31-29 at Loftus Versfeld last year. Boshoff is currently the fourth leading points’ scorer in the competition with 78 points.
The Pretoria team kicked off their 2011 title defence with four consecutive defeats – against the Sharks XV (30-19), Boland Cavaliers (20-17), Pampas XV (27-22) and DHL Western Province (16-8).
However, since then they have won five of their last six games, which included a 47-34 semi-final victory in Kimberley over GWK Griquas, as well as a nail-biting 28-26 quarter-final win over the MTN Lions in Johannesburg. The visitors have won four of their six matches played outside Pretoria. Their only away defeats were against the Sharks XV and the Pampas XV earlier this year.
Meanwhile the Modimola Primary School from the village of Modimola in Mafikeng was the proud winner of a 15-seater Toyota Quantum following a lucky draw which was held at the conclusion of SARU and Vodacom’s Schools Challenge, which formed part of the competition’s campaign of bringing rugby to the community.
SARU will do the official handover of the minibus which will be utilized for future rugby and sport activities in that community before the kickoff of the Vodacom Cup final between the Pampas XV and the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Profert Olën Park on Friday evening.
A total of 1759 learners from several provincial rugby unions participated in this challenge, which provided rugby education and skills to aspiring rugby players. SARU, competition sponsor Vodacom together with the development offices of the various provinces which hosted community matches; and teachers of the participating schools, presented basic rugby training sessions at these Vodacom Cup games.
Aspiring rugby players were put through their paces on game days and participated in rugby basic obstacle courses where they had the opportunity to apply their passing, catching, kicking as well as side-stepping skills.