War of the Rovers

KZN’s College Rovers and Welkom Rovers meet on Thursday for a place in the National Club Championship final.

The much-anticipated semi-final takes place at the Danie Craven Stadium at 5.30pm. The other Cup semi, between Pukke and Shimlas, will be played as a curtain-raiser at 4pm.

What makes the clash between College Rovers and Welkom Rovers the more intriguing is that neither was amongst the favourites when the event kicked off last Sunday. College Rovers, who eliminated Pretoria Police 22-20 on Tuesday, are without many of their regulars who are absent due to injury and they have exceeded their expectations at the event.

Welkom Rovers, who struggled against Jaguars in their opener, were expecting a tough clash with Maties in the second round but instead came up against unfancied Progress, who upset the hosts on Sunday but were unable to match Welkom’s disciplined game plan on Tuesday.

So far both “Rovers” have shown a tendency to play a very structured game, using their forwards to consolidate and then looking to create chances up the middle and then out wide. An intriguing contest is on the cards against two sides with nothing to lose.

The other semi-final is expected to be a completely different affair. Pukke has so far flattered to deceive. They got out of jail against a surprisingly impressive Nelson Mandela Metro University side in the opening round and then made hard work of an 11-0 win over the University of Johannesburg. Shimlas convincingly beat Hartswater 50-14 in their opening match and they held out for a 36-27 win against Cambridge after fading badly in the second half. On the evidence of performances to date Shimlas, with stand-out players such as the tournament’s top try scorers Marthinus Zweigelaar, amongst their ranks, will start as favourites.

PLATE SEMI-FINALS

In the Plate semi-finals, hosts Maties will play Brakpan and NMM University meet Hartswater. Maties will be wary of Brakpan, who staged a strong fightback in their opening match to lose narrowly to College Rovers and totally outplayed Nelspruit on Tuesday. Maties have been slightly out of sorts at the event so far and will need to lift their game if they are to reach the final.

NMM University bounced back from their first round setback, where they lost to Pukke in the last movement of the match, to beat Bridgeton 58 – 11 on Tuesday and will probably have too much firepower for Hartswater. NMMU have some great individuals in their ranks who are capable of turning a game. They include fullback Michael Killian, centre Joe Pringle, and number 6 Wesley Kew. Hartswater were beaten heavily in their opener and had a tough, physical clash with Roses Utd on Tuesday which could also count against them.

The day’s remaining fixtures are of academic interest with only pride at stake.

Jaguars face Nelspruit and Bridgeton meet Roses United with all four going in search of their first win at the event. In clashes between Cup second round losers, Progress face Pretoria Police and University of JHB play Cambridge.

Fixtures for Thursday

Plate semi-finals

11h30 Maties vs Brakpan
14h30 NMM University vs Hartswater

Cup semi-finals

16h00 Pukke vs Shimlas
17h30 Welkom Rovers vs College Rovers

Other matches

11h30 Jaguars vs Nelspruit, Bridgeton vs Roses Utd
14h30 Progress vs Pretoria Police, Univ of Jhb vs Cambridge