The Vodacom Blue Bulls have selected an experienced side as they prepare for the daunting task of travelling to Kimberley on Saturday when they take on the joint most successful Vodacom Cup team yet, GWK Griquas, in a semi-final at GWK Park at 14h20.
Eight players that played in last year’s Vodacom Cup final, were included in the defending champions’ team that will take on the four-time champions from the Northern Cape. The Vodacom Blue Bulls have won the title three times and advanced to the semi-finals by upsetting the MTN Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.
Gerrit-Jan van Velze, who captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls in last year’s final, returns from a four-week absence after recovering from a cheekbone injury and will lead the team again on Saturday. The other members from last year’s title-winning team that will travel to Kimberley, are scrumhalf Ruan Snyman, centre Stefan Watermeyer, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, flanker Okkie Kruger, lock Cornell Hess and prop Morne Mellet, while Fudge Mbeta (lock) will warm the bench.
GWK Griquas, who scraped through in their quarter-final after extra-time against the Ford Pumas, will fancy their chances of ending the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ hopes of defending their title. The hosts have been impressive at home this season, only losing one match in Kimberley, against the Pampas XV (32-29).
The Argentineans “host” the other semi-final this weekend, when they take on the Sharks XV in Potchefstroom at 16h30 on Friday. Neither of these sides have won the Vodacom Cup before, but the team from KZN have one final appearance, in 2006 when they lost to the Valke.
The Sharks XV will be hoping to repeat their heroics of last Saturday, when they eliminated and ended the undefeated run of DHL Western Province by 21-19 in Cape Town. They will once again have the chance of knocking out the only other unbeaten team this season when they take on the Pampas XV.
The Pampas XV from Argentina have been the form team of the competition thus far. They beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls (27-22), MTN Lions (15-9), GWK Griquas (32-29), Ford Pumas (46-20), Platinum Leopards (38-20), Welwitschias (52-10), Valke (57-15) and the Tasol Solar Griffons (52-29) en route to ending the league phase in pole position on the South Section log.
They then secured a thrilling extra-time 41-34 victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs during their quarter-final match played at Profert Olen Park last Friday. The Argentineans have two players who are amongst the top ten points’ scorers in the 2011 season in Nicolas Sanchez (68) and Santiago Iglesias (62).
Pampas XV winger Juan Imhoff also will have the chance to become the leading try-scorer this season on Friday. He is currently on eight five-pointers, only two behind the current leading try-scorer of the competition – DHL Western Province winger JJ Engelbrecht.
Note to editors: In the event of matches being drawn in the knockout stages of the competition, SARU’s General Competition Rules shall apply and the winner will be decided as follows:
1. The team scoring the most points within a 20 minute period of extra time (10 minutes each way with a one (1) minute break), and if still level;
2. The team scoring the most tries in the match, including extra time; and if still level;
3. The team with the highest log position immediately prior to the match.
In the event of the teams being tied in the final on both points and tries scored in the match, the winner will be the team scoring the greatest number of log points after completion of the pools matches, prior to the knock–out stages, and if still level the team with the best nett points difference (points for minus points against) will be declared the Vodacom Cup champions.
Vodacom Cup semi-final fixtures:
Friday 6 May 2011 (Semi-final 1)
16h30 Pampas XV v The Sharks XV at Profert Olen Park, Potchefstroom
Saturday 7 May 2011 (Semi-final 2)
14h20 GWK Griquas v Vodacom Blue Bulls at GWK Park, Kimberley