The battle for semi-final home ground advantage in the Absa Currie Cup intensifies this weekend when the Vodacom Blue Bulls host Vodacom Western Province in this traditional north/south derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday at 15h00.
The defending champions are currently in third position on the log with 38 points and are five points behind their Cape opponents who are in second place with 43. Victory for Province in Pretoria will confirm their status as one of the two sides who will host an Absa Currie Cup Premier Division semi-final next month.
However, if the Vodacom Blue Bulls can defeat Vodacom WP and achieve maximum points on Saturday, and at the same time deny Allister Coetzee's troops any log points at Loftus Versfeld, they will end the weekend level on log points with Vodacom WP (43).
Frans Ludeke's men, who will be at full-strength for their final league game of the season against the GWK Griquas next weekend, will fancy their chances of ending the season in second position on the log as Province will have to defeat The Sharks at Newlands to retain their second place status at the end of the league phase of the competition.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls will also claim the favourites tag in preparation of Saturday clash against WP as they have regularly defeated their Cape opponents during recent clashes at Loftus Versfeld. Vodacom WP have only recorded one victory in Pretoria since 2005 when they secured a 15-10 win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls back in 2006.
The Sharks could also book themselves a home semi-final by returning to winning ways this Friday when they host the Platinum Leopards in Durban at 19h10.
The hosts who are currently in first position on the Absa Currie Cup log with 47 points conceded their third defeat in the 2010 competition last Saturday following their 22-20 loss to the Xerox Lions in Johannesburg.
Only Vodacom WP and the Vodacom Blue Bulls could mathematically relegate The Sharks from their current position on the log and deny them the opportunity of hosting a home semi-final.
The Durban side must defeat the Platinum Leopards to secure their status as one of the two sides that will host a final-four playoff match in October. The Sharks have enjoyed a good run of form against their Friday night opponents during recent seasons after winning their last four encounters since 2005.
While the focus might be on the battle for home ground advantage in the Absa Currie Cup this weekend, the attention will also be shifted to Bloemfontein on Saturday where the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs hosts the Xerox Lions at 17h05.
The hosts are currently in fourth position on the log with 37 points, only two points clear of their Johannesburg opponents who are in fifth place on 35.
This game at Vodacom Park has been billed as a "must win" game for either side if they are to remain in the running for the Absa Currie Cup semi-finals.
The Xerox Lions and the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs according to recent form are expected to secure victories in their final league games of the competition next Friday when they play the Barloworld Toyota Pumas and the Platinum Leopards respectively.
This is why Saturday's game at Vodacom Park could determine whether the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs or the Xerox Lions will still have their semi-final aspirations in their own hands.
The GWK Griquas could mathematically still qualify for the semi-finals but will still have to hope that other results go their way in order to finish the season in the top four. The Kimberley side is in Witbank for their clash against the Barloworld Toyota Pumas on Saturday at 15h00 and will have to achieve maximum points from this fixture to keep their faint chances alive.
The Barloworld Toyota Pumas (7th) and the Platinum Leopards (8th) will compete in next month's Absa Currie Cup promotion/relegation games.
Absa Currie Cup semi-final contenders - remaining fixtures:
The Sharks: Platinum Leopards (home), Vodacom Western Province (away)
The defending champions have lost only three Absa Currie Cup Premier Division games in the last two seasons at Loftus Versfeld.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls conceded a 25-23 defeat to the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs in week three of this season's competition, suffered a 29-23 loss to The Sharks in Pretoria last year and also went down 30-27 to the Xerox Lions in 2008.
The hosts though have secured victories over the Xerox Lions (24-21), The Sharks (40-34), GWK Griquas (39-38), Platinum Leopards (43-28) and the Barloworld Toyota Pumas (38-15) at Loftus Versfeld this year.
Vodacom Western Province: Vodacom Blue Bulls (away), The Sharks (home)
Vodacom Blue Bulls: Vodacom Western Province (home), GWK Griquas (away)
Vodacom Free State Cheetahs: Xerox Lions (home), Platinum Leopards (away)
Xerox Lions: Vodacom Free State Cheetahs (away), Barloworld Toyota Pumas (home)
GWK Griquas: Barloworld Toyota Pumas (away), Vodacom Blue Bulls (home)
Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Previews - Week 13:
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Vodacom WP
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 2 October 2010. Kickoff: 15h00
Referee: Craig Joubert (SARRA)
Assistant Referees: M Mdashe (AR1), J Greeff (AR2)
TMO: JC Fortuin
Vodacom Blue Bulls' recent form at home:
Vodacom Western Province's recent form on the road:
The Cape side secured four victories on the road during this season's competition against the Barloworld Toyota Pumas (62-10), GWK Griquas (50-3), Vodacom Free State Cheetahs (25-11) and against the Platinum Leopards (42-23).
The visitors conceded two defeats on the road against The Sharks (27-16) in Durban and the Xerox Lions (46-28) in Johannesburg.
Vodacom WP achieved three away victories - against the Boland Kavaliers, Platinum Leopards and The Sharks in last year's Absa Currie Cup.
Additional match information:
Vodacom WP flyhalf Willem de Waal is currently the second leading points' scorer in this season's competition - 161. De Waal has accumulated 1374 points in his Absa Currie Cup career - 259 points for the Platinum Leopards, 811 for the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs and 304 for WP since joining them in 2008.
Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter is currently the third leading points' scorer in this season's competition - 153.
De Waal has twice scored 212 points in a season, back in 2006 and 2007 for the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs.
Prop Jaco Engels has played a combined total of 95 Absa Currie Cup games for the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Boland Cavaliers and the Platinum Leopards.
Vodacom Western Province winger Gio Aplon, who made his Springbok debut this year, represented the SA Sevens from 2007 to 2009. He is currently the fourth leading try-scorer in the 2010 Absa Currie Cup with six tries.
Vodacom Blue Bulls loose forward CJ Stander captained the SA U20s during this year's IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina and was a member of the Baby Boks' squad of 2009 in Japan. He also captained the SA Schools team in 2008.
Vodacom WP scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage represented the SA Under-20s during the 2008 IRB Junior World Championship in Wales.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann (2004) and centre Stefan Watermeyer (2005, 2006) both represented the SA Schools.
Vodacom Blue Bulls flanker Dewald Potgieter captained the SA Schools team in 2005.
No 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls during their successful 2010 Vodacom Cup campaign.
Utility loose-forward Derick Kuün (Vodacom Blue Bulls) represented the SA Schools in 2002 and the SA Sevens in 2005.
Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer and winger Gerhard van den Heever both competed at the 2009 IRB Junior World Championship in Japan for the SA Under-20s. Stephan Dippenaar represented the Baby Boks at the 2008 tournament.
Referee Craig Joubert will handle this game between the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Vodacom Western Province at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.