DHL Stormers can clinch SA Shield in Pretoria

DHL Stormers can clinch SA Shield in Pretoria

With just two points separating the log leaders from Cape Town and the second-placed Northern Gautengers, it is impossible to underplay the significance to the destination of the South African Shield of the 2 March showdown at Loftus Versfeld. With just one game to play after that, the two-point advantage the DHL Stormers currently enjoy should make it just a bridge too far for the Vodacom Bulls when they travel to Durban for their last game of the league phase at the beginning of June.

Conversely, defeat for the DHL Stormers will see the Vodacom Bulls go ahead of them for the first time this season and then everything will come down to the final round, with both teams playing derby games that count for the SA Shield title.

While the men from Pretoria travel to Durban to face the Hollywoodbets Sharks, the Capetonians will be hosing the Emirates Lions on the same afternoon.

There might be some who will be surprised to learn that the DHL Stormers are ahead in the SA Shield when they trail the Vodacom Bulls by five points on the overall log after both have played 10 games.

Last season and the season before that it would have meant the Vodacom Bulls would be in front. Back then though there’d also be eight games remaining that count for the Shield.

Now, only local derbies count meaning there is only one more game to be played for the SA Shield after the next weekend, which will see the North-South derby coincide with the return clash between the Emirates Lions and Hollywoodbets Sharks in Johannesburg.

The Vodacom URC organisers decided this season to up the ante in the derbies by making it more of a standalone competition, with only the games played between participating teams in the Shield counting.

The DHL Stormers, who’ve won all four their derbies so far this season, are out in front in the SA Shield with 17 points. The Vodacom Bulls have lost once, away to the Capetonians before Christmas, but are within touching distance of the DHL Stormers by virtue of their having picked up three bonus points to one.

One of the Vodacom Bulls’ bonus points came in the derby in Cape Town, courtesy of a late score in the DHL Stadium to see them losing by less than seven. That could come back to hurt the DHL Stormers’ chances of retaining the SA Shield if the Loftus game doesn’t go their way.

The Vodacom Bulls are hoping to draw a full house to the game, meaning there could be more than 50,000 people present, when two quality teams clash next Saturday, and the hosts will be desperate to break a seven-game losing sequence against their arch-rivals from Cape Town.

The Pretoria team were a distant second to the DHL Stormers on both log tables and in the games they played against each other last season but this term they have improved considerably and weren’t far off the Capetonians in the DHL Stadium clash.

Neither the Emirates Lions – on seven points – nor the Hollywoodbets Sharks – on three – feature in the contest for the trophy that Steven Kitshoff has held aloft over the past two seasons.

While it is a two-horse race between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls for the SA Shield, three teams are still in it in Ireland, where Leinster have a one-point advantage over Ulster and four over Connacht with two rounds to go.

In the Scotland/Italy group, Benetton and Glasgow Warriors are fighting it out – the Italians from Treviso have 14 points to Glasgow’s 11, but the Scots have one Shield game in hand.

In the Welsh Shield it is also tight, with just three points separating the leaders, Ospreys, from the third placed Scarlets. However, second placed Cardiff and the Scarlets have both played five games to the four of Ospreys.

Vodacom URC Shield logs

SA Shield
DHL Stormers: Played 4 Won 4 Lost 0 Drawn 0 Pts 17
Vodacom Bulls: Played 4 Won 3 Lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 15
Emirates Lions: Played 4 Won 1 Lost 3 Drawn 0 Pts 7
Hollywoodbets Sharks: Played 4 Won 0 Lost 4 Drawn 0 Pts 3

Irish Shield
Leinster: Played 4 Won 3 Lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 14
Ulster: Played 4 Won 3 Lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 13
Connacht: Played 4 Won 2 Lost 2 Drawn 0 Pts 10
Munster: Played 4 Lost 4 Won 0 Drawn 0 Pts 3

Welsh Shield
Ospreys: Played 4 Won 3 Lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 14
Cardiff: Played 5 Won 2 Lost 3 Drawn 0 Pts 12
Scarlets: Played 5 Won 2 Lost 3 Drawn 0 Pts 11
Dragons: Played 4 Won 2 Lost 2 Drawn 0 Pts 9

Scottish/Italian Shield
Benetton: Played 4 Won 3 lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 14
Glasgow Warriors: Played 3 Won 2 Lost 1 Pts 10
Edinburgh: Played 4 Won 2 Lost 2 Drawn 0 Pts 9
Zebre Parma: Played 3 Won 3 Lost 3 Drawn 0 Pts 2

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