The final weeks of the Vodacom Cup will become a war of attrition as a 14-team competition is whittled down to just two for the final on May 20. Michael Vlismas reports.
Some of the teams were administered their last rites last weekend, and more are expected to fall by the wayside this week.
The Wildebeest (35 points), Vodacom Blue Bulls (31) and Falcons (29) hold the top three positions on the log, while the Leopards (27), Boland Cavaliers (25) and to a lesser extent the Lions (23) have still given themselves an outside chance.
Easter has meant a staggered fixture list, with round 10 games beginning on Wednesday, when the Griffons (16) host Vodacom Western Province (20) in Welkom.
The trophy hopes of both teams faded in defeat last week, so nothing more than pride is at stake at the North West Stadium.
On Thursday there are four games, the pick of them a battle between log-leaders the Wildebeest and the chasing Leopards in Rustenburg.
The Leopards have won an astonishing six of their last seven games and will have to continue with this consistency if they hope to contest the final.
They come up against a Wildebeest team that has shown few flaws and plenty of flair this season, with the Natalians now focused on securing a home final.
The Blue Bulls have a tricky trip to Port Elizabeth on Thursday when they play the Mighty Elephants (17). One could argue that the Blue Bulls havenâ€™t been at their best this year. But they remain in the hunt thanks to a resilience to win games they looked like losing.
The Cavaliers welcome the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs (16) to Wellington on Thursday.
While the Cavaliers may still harbour some optimism about their chances, the Cheetahs have nothing to lose and will take a moral-boosting win over the Griffons last week into this game.
In Thursdayâ€™s other match, the Border Bulldogs (7) host defending champions Griquas (16) in East London.
On Saturday, the Pumas (20) will call Ellis Park home for the day as they host the Falcons in a curtain raiser for the Cats/Sharks Vodacom Super 14 match.
The Falcons will fancy not having to travel to Witbank and, following a bye last weekend, will be refreshed and ready to re-launch their assault on a final berth.
The Lions will have their eye on five points when they play the Eagles (8) down in George on Saturday.
But they would do well not to underestimate a side that nearly beat the Blue Bulls last week.