After a weekend of results that did not go their way the Border Bulldogs find themselves on the brink of missing out on qualification for the SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarterfinals.
Since slipping up against the Eastern Province Kings last week Thursday, the Bulldogs have watched the Boland Kavaliers thump the South Western District Eagles 51-10 to drag themselves into contention and seen a top two third-place finishers chance pretty much go up in smoke.
With the top two in each of the three pools qualifying automatically for the quarterfinals, the two best third-place finishers then also make it in.
However, with the Pumas in third place in the North pool on 24 points and already through, the Cheetahs in third in the Central pool on 22 points are also safe, bar a massive loss in their last match against the Sharks.
The Bulldogs, on 22 points, have their poor points difference to thank for that, as with a negative 49, to the Cheetahs negative six, they have pretty much no chance.
Their last chance thus comes down to the final group match between the Kavaliers and Kings to decide their fate.
The Bulldogs need the Kavaliers to beat the Kings, without a bonus point, which would see them hold on to second spot. However, a bonus point win for the Kavaliers would move them ahead of the Bulldogs on points difference and a win for the Kings would put them into second outright.
“It is a possibility. You never know what will happen in rugby, so we are hoping that Boland can beat EP this weekend without getting a bonus point,” said Bulldogs coach David Dobela.
Despite the low chances of them reaching the knockouts, the Border team will return to regular training tomorrow in preparation for if they manage to sneak in.
“We have given the boys two days off and they will be back on Wednesday to start training as normal up until Saturday, when we will find out if we make it through or not,” said Dobela.
“If we are out we will then decide if we will give the boys some time off before we start our Currie Cup First Division training, or if we are in we will just continue with our preparations.”
The Bulldogs will thus need to put the Kings loss behind them and focus on whatever comes next, whether it is in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge or the Currie Cup First Division.
“The boys are so disappointed about the loss to EP, but we are not dropping our heads,” said Dobela.
“We have played well in most of our games so far this season, so it is promising and I think we can build on this going into the First Division.
“We are also hoping to get some of our Super Rugby guys back as well, which would be a boost to the team.”
The Kavaliers versus Kings match takes place at the Boland Stadium in Wellington on Saturday afternoon.