The six teams occupying positions two to seven on the South Section log clash in three encounters this weekend that could have a major impact on the eventual standings in the Vodacom Cup.
First up on Friday evening, the SWD Eagles (fourth) host the Cell C Sharks XV (sixth) at scenic Outeniqua Park in George, where both teams will be looking for their second win of the season.
On Saturday, second-placed GWK Griquas – one of only three unbeaten teams left in the competition – travel to Velddrif to take on the Boland Cavaliers (seventh), before the Toyota Free State XV (third) host the fifth-placed EP Kings in Bloemfontein.
The other South Section clash is in Cape Town between the table-topping DHL Western Province, also unbeaten in 2015, and the Border Bulldogs, who are still looking for their first log points after three rounds.
With the top side in the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions, having a bye this weekend, the big match is on Friday afternoon between the Leopards XV and the Steval Pumas in Potchefstroom.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls will have an opportunity to move to the top of the Northern log when they host the Down Touch Griffons in Pretoria on Friday afternoon, while the FNB Welwitschias and Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls take each other on in a bottom-of-the-table clash in Windhoek.
This week we feature two very impressive backs who both made the Varsity Cup XV and are making their mark in the Vodacom Cup, Dan Kriel of the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Innocent Radebe of the Cell C Sharks XV.
Rising Star #11 – Dan Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
At 1.93m tall and weighing in at around 100kg, Vodacom Blue Bulls midfielder Dan Kriel is very similar in build to Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.
That’s not where the similarities end though. Like the Springbok captain, Kriel also played a fair bit of rugby at wing, has a lot of pace, great hands and superb vision.
And just like De Villiers, who played for the SA U19 side with his brother Andre-Louis in 1999, Dan and his twin brother Jesse represented the Junior Springboks together in 2014.
But unlike the De Villiers brothers or Jesse, the 21-year-old former Maritzburg College pupil, who moved to Pretoria from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in 2013, never represented his province in the Coca-Cola Craven Week at any level.
In 2012, Dan missed out on Craven Week selection because of injury in his final year at school. The next season he started to blossom at the Blue Bulls though and he scored six tries as the team from Pretoria clinched the Absa U19 Provincial title.
It wasn’t surprising with both Kriel brothers were selected to play for the Junior Springboks last year. Dan and Jesse started in the final against England, which the SA U20s lost by a solitary point. Dan played four matches at the Junior World Champs, in the midfield and on the wing.
Later in 2014 Kriel, who made his senior debut in Vodacom Cup debut last weekend, played mostly off the bench in the Absa U21 series, but still scored four tries during the season.
In 2015, Kriel settled at inside centre for UP-Tuks and was duly named in the Varsity Cup XV following a superb season where he scored five tries, including one where he outsprinted the defence for 90m in the semi-final against eventual runners-up NWU-Pukke.
Rising Star #12 – Innocent Radebe (Cell C Sharks XV)
Not a lot of players make Test sides from B-division teams, yet that is exactly what Cell C Sharks XV flyhalf Innocent Radebe accomplished this year.
The 20-year-old Radebe has been selected to play for the Varsity Cup XV against the Junior Springboks next week after a number of sublime performances for the UKZN-Impi in the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International.
A former pupil of St Stithians College in Johannesburg, Radebe came through the ranks at the Golden Lions and represented the union at U13, U16 and U18 levels before moving to Durban.
At 1.76m and 83kg he isn’t the biggest flyhalf around, but Radebe makes up for his lack of size with a complete range of skills, which includes great distribution, solid defence and a great kicking boot.
Last year, he scored 122 points (four tries, 24 conversions, 17 penalty goals and one drop goal) for the Cell C Sharks U19s that were knocked out of the Absa U19 Provincial Competition by eventual runners-up, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, which placed him third on the list of top points scorers for the season.
He didn’t stop there though and this season, Radebe scored four more tries and contributed 44 points to the Impi’s campaign. The season started with a bang for UKZN when they won the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International, with Radebe contributing a try and two conversions in the final against Wits in Johannesburg.
While still at school in 2013, Radebe played one match from the bench for Sharks U19s before joining the union at the start of the 2014 season. He is in the current Junior Springbok training squad and will have a great opportunity to showcase his talent when the Varsity Cup XV face the SA U20s in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.
Round 6 fixtures:
Friday, 17 April
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Loftus B-field, Pretoria
Referee: Francois Pretorius
Leopards XV v Steval Pumas
Venue: Profert Olen Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: Jaco Kotze
SWD Eagles v Cell C Sharks XV
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Pro Legoete
Saturday, 18 April
FNB Welwitschias v Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
DHL Western Province v Border Bulldogs
Venue: City Park Stadium, Cape Town
Referee: Oregopotse Rametsi
Boland Cavaliers v GWK Griquas
Venue: Smuts Ground, Velddrif
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Toyota Free State XV v EP Kings
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Byes: Xerox Golden Lions, Hino Valke