A PRIZED semifinal berth will be at stake when the Madibaz lock horns with Shimlas in a crunch Varsity Cup rugby showdown in Bloemfontein tonight (kick-off 4.45pm).
Hard-earned wins over Wits and Tuks have catapulted the Madibaz into third place on the log and left them on the brink of making the last four if they can subdue the feisty Free Staters.
After six matches the log standings are: Pukke (23), Ikeys (19), Madibaz (17), Tuks (16), Maties (16), Shimlas (13), University of Johannesburg (9), Wits (2).
Leaders Pukke are the only team assured of a place in the semifinals, and with five other teams in the running for the other three spots the play-off race is wide open.
At the other end of the log things will be just as tense because although Johannesburg outfits UJ and Wits cannot make the semifinals, there is still the threat of relegation looming this season.
For tonight’s clash the Madibaz have made three changes, with eighthman Timothy Agaba rejoining the starting line-up and Marcel Groenewald moving back into familiar territory on the right flank.
In another move Louis Fourie shifts onto the bench to cover the locks, while Stefan Willemse will wear the No4 jersey.
“There’s no other way of our getting into the semis apart from winning. We know what we have to do when we get to Bloemfontein,” Madibaz head coach David Maidza said.
Although the sixth-placed Shimlas have trailed Madibaz right through the tournament, Maidza said they still posed a serious challenge.
“I think Shimlas have been a bit unfortunate in a lot of their games this season and they will definitely have an eye on the semis.”
He said every team was a potential threat.
His side would have to ensure that their energy and concentration levels were high and their tactics correct.
“It’s going to be a tough game. We know it’s not going to be easy for us to get through, especially playing away from home.
“Our destiny is in our hands – now we just need to grab it.”
The Madibaz know that the margins for error will be small against a Shimlas side determined to end their campaign with a flourish.
The other final-round matches are Maties v Tuks (in Stellenbosch), Pukke v UJ (in Potchefstroom) and Wits against Ikeys (in Johannesburg).
Maidza has emphasised that consistency is vital for his team’s title aspirations. They will need to be at their best to overcome a Shimlas side who have failed to live up to expectations this season.
Madibaz: Jarryd Buys, Tythan Adams, Michael Bernardt, Andile Jho, Yamkela Ngam, Gavin Hauptfleisch, Daniel Acker, Timothy Agaba, Marcel Groenewald, Christopher Cloete, Cameron Lindsay, Stefan Willemse, Dexter Fahey, Jody Reyneke, Roy Godfrey (c). Replacements: Martin Ferreira, Abongile Mnyaka, Louis Fourie, Wade Elliot, Kayle van Zyl, Devon Lailvaux, Sinakho Mafu, Simon Kerrod.
Shimlas: Ludwig Erasmus, Maphuta Dolo, Tertius Kruger, Joubert Engelbrecht (c), Sethu Tom, Gouws Prinsloo, Kevin Luiters, Gerhard Olivier, Oupa Mohoje, Tienie Burger, Neil Claassen, Armandt Koster, Justin Pappin, Jacques du Toit, Franco van der Merwe. Replacements: Markus Odendaal, Luan de Bruin, Johan van der Hoogt, Neill Jordaan, Kay-Kay Hlongwane, François du Toit, Divandre Strydom, Gideon Bruwer. – George Byron