The Mastercard Golden Lions Women, who will take on Border Ladies in East London on Saturday, as well as both Boland Dames and EP Queens, who clash in Nelson Mandela Bay, also on Saturday, have already seen their chances of making the final disappear.
And defeat in the opening match of the weekend, between the Blue Bulls Women and DHL Western Province in Pretoria, could end the team from Cape Town’s quest for glory.
Border will complete their fixtures this weekend and will hope Friday’s result in Pretoria will be kind to them.
The match in Pretoria on Friday afternoon will see the team in blue not only defend “Fortress Loftus”, but also an undefeated run so far this season, something DHL Western Province coach, Laurian Johannes-Haupt, is acutely aware of.
“Yes, we have not been in this position often – in danger of not contesting the final – so there will be pressure, no doubt,” said Johannes-Haupt.
“Travelling to Pretoria is not the easiest of trips, especially if you have to win to stay in the running, but I believe that pressure will make our team a dangerous one.
“The Blue Bulls are playing well and are in form, but we can beat them if we play to our potential and as a team. Their halfbacks form a very good combination who understand each other well and they provide a lot of guidance to the team, so obviously we will need to close down their space.
“Our biggest problem thus far in the competition was not playing as a team and that has cost us. Yes, we have brilliant individuals, but successful teams are build on cohesion and getting things right together.”
Blue Bulls Women’s coach, Flash Malinga, said their successful season has been made easier by good home support: “We were lucky to play all our home matches at Loftus as curtain raisers to the Vodacom Bulls and that has helped us without doubt.
“We get good support from the crowd and playing in front of the Loftus faithful does spur the team on,” Malinga said, adding that there is no such a thing as a weak Western Province team and they cannot afford mistakes.
“We are not going to look for results. We have seen that if we execute our processes well, the results are there, so will focus on that. We are definitely not looking at a potential final yet,” added Malinga.
“Luckily, we have a settled team and made minimal changes, with only two previously injured players returning. If anything, our defence will probably have to win it for us. They have a very good attack, so if we can stop that, we will be in with a chance.”
On Saturday, the winless Mastercard Golden Lions Women face a rampant Border Ladies side, who have now won three in a row, including a crucial away victory against DHL Western Province.
A win against their Gauteng opponents will confirm a top two finish to the defending champions, but Golden Lions coach Timmy Goodwin made it clear that they are not travelling to the Eastern Cape without hope of their first win.
“They are in form, but we have seen areas where they can be attacked and if we execute well, we have a chance,” said Goodwin.
“Our downfall has been conceding penalties, especially early in the match. Border love to play quickly off penalties and they get a lot of success with that. So, we need to concede fewer penalties and if we do, we need to be ready to counter their quick play of that phase.”
The match between EP and Boland will be bittersweet both sides, as they have tasted success in the competition, while close defeats have eroded their title aspirations.
“We are aiming for a top four spot this year and will have to beat EP to do so,” Boland Dames coach, Thomas Chowles, said.
“We will be looking at our strong scrum again to get us dominance and hopefully that will provide players like Demi Nel and Ayanda Malinga the space to do what they are best at, scoring tries.”
His counterpart, Lex de Vos, said a number of narrow defeats hurt and the team is determined to make their last performance at home one that they will remember: “We spoke about those narrow losses and why we did not pull it through and asked the players what the jersey means to them.
“We need to make this one count, no doubt, we owe it to ourselves and I can tell you that the squad has really been working hard and pulling together over the last weeks, so I am confident that we can deliver that result that we all will be proud of,” said De Vos.
Matches will be streamed live on www.springboks.rugby.
Women’s Premier Division Round 5 fixtures:
Blue Bulls Women v DHL Western Province
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Friday 27 May 2022
Referee: Ashleigh Murray-Pretorius
EP Queens v Boland Dames
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Nelson Mandela Bay
Date: Saturday, 28 May 2022
Referee: Angie Bezuidenhout
Border Ladies v Mastercard Golden Lions Women
Venue: Police Park, East London
Date: Saturday, 28 May 2022
Referee: Siyanda Pikoli