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Varsity Cup permutations: Bonus-points key

SPOTLIGHT: A brutally competitive Varsity Cup campaign will come to a head next Monday when the playoff qualifiers joust for a top-two finish to the league phase.

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Four teams – NWU Eagles, UCT Ikeys, Maties and Shimlas – have already qualified for the Varsity Cup semifinals.

Nevertheless, all four will have everything to gain from the final round of the league phase.

The next round will determine where these teams finish and ultimately where the semi-finals will be staged. The race to secure a home playoff could not be closer.

The Eagles sit at the top of the Varsity Cup table with 25 points, while the Ikeys, Maties and Shimlas have 23 points apiece – and are only separated by points-difference.

A bonus-point win could catapult the fourth-placed Shimlas to the top of the standings, while the current log-leaders could drop down to fourth place if they fail to pick up any log points.

@Rugby365com considers how each of the qualifiers could secure home advantage for the playoffs.

Varsity Cup permutations: Bonus-points key

SHIMLAS

The final round of the league phase will commence with fifth-placed Wits hosting Shimlas at 16:45 in Johannesburg on Monday.

André Tredoux’s charges will move up to 27 points if they win, and to 28 if they secure a bonus-point victory. The latter outcome will take them three points ahead of the Eagles, and five clear of the Ikeys and Maties.

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From there, the Shimlas will need a couple of results to go their way.

If Shimlas secure a bonus-point win in Johannesburg, and the Ikeys and Maties win their respective matches without claiming a four-try bonus point, then the Bloemfontein-based side will end the league phase in first position.

MATIES

Stellenbosch will be favourites to secure a bonus-point win when they face CUT in Bloemfontein in the later game on Monday. The match will kick off after the fixture at Wits, and so Maties will have a better idea of what they need to improve their chances of hosting a playoff.

As things stand, Maties have a superior points-difference (95), and would in all likelihood finish ahead of Shimlas (38) in the event of both teams ending on 27 or 28 log points.

If Shimlas beat Wits without a bonus-point, then Maties will need four log points from the fixture against CUT to finish ahead of Shimlas in the standings.

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That said, coach Kabamba Floors will hope that his side secures a full haul of points in Bloem, and that the Ikeys do his team a favour up in Potch.

If UCT beat the Eagles without a bonus point – or in the event of a draw with no try-scoring bonus points – then Maties will finish ahead of the Eagles and UCT to top the table.

Knowing this, Maties will have ample motivation to secure a bonus-point win against CUT. They will, at the very least, be gunning for a top-two finish.

If they beat CUT without a bonus point, they will finish the league on 27 points. Even if they finish ahead of the Shimlas in this scenario, they could miss out on hosting a playoff altogether, if UCT beat the Eagles, and if the Eagles manage to secure a couple of bonus points – for losing by seven or less and for scoring four tries.

IKEYS

UCT have the toughest assignment, in that they are playing the defending champions on their home turf.

If they win big in Potch, they will finish first in the standings and earn the right to host a semi-final and potential final. If they lose, they are likely to finish the league stage in fourth place.

Coach Tom Dawson-Squibb will hope that Shimlas and Maties stumble in their respective matches.

Both teams are expected to win, but if both fail to claim try-scoring bonus points, and then UCT go on to beat the Eagles, then Dawson-Squibb’s side may top the standings, even if they don’t secure a bonus-point win in Potch. UCT currently boast the best points-difference (131) in the tournament.

It’s a big ask, but the Ikeys should be looking to simply the equation. A bonus-point win against the Eagles will be enough to earn them top position.

EAGLES

If the Eagles secure any sort of win in Potch, they will finish first. It’s tempting to suggest that their task is straight-forward.

And yet, if they don’t push for the four-try bonus point and end up losing to the Ikeys, they may find themselves travelling for the playoffs.

In a scenario where the Shimlas, Maties and Ikeys win, and where the Eagles claim zero log points, the defending champs will finish the league in fourth place.

However, if the Eagles secure two losing bonus points, they will end the league with 27 log points. That may be enough to secure a top-two finish – provided that Shimlas and Maties fail to claim bonus points in their respective victories, and Maties (95) don’t surpass the Eagles’ points-difference (109).

Knowing this, coach Burger van der Westhuizen may instruct his team to push for a bonus point against the Ikeys.

If this approach doesn’t earn them a full haul of log points, it could well ensure that they secure two consolation points and home advantage in the semi-finals.

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