The Rugby Europe Super Cup has reached the knock-out stages and four matches will take place over the weekend.
Two of these games are semi-finals with four teams left battling it out for the overall title while the other two are ranking matches.
In terms of the semi-finals, first up at 2pm local time (10am UTC) in the Avchala Stadium, Tbilisi, on Saturday is two-time champions Black Lion hosting Spanish outfit Castilla Y Leon Iberians.
The match comes seven days before the Georgian outfit make their EPCR Challenge Cup European debut against English giants Gloucester in the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in the same city.
There is much excitement building around that one, but for now all of their focus is on the match with the Iberians.
In the group stage, Black Lion won three from three to top Pool A while Iberians finished third in the same section.
When they met at the start of November in the group, Black Lion came out on top 39-19 at home.
Black Lion will start this match as favourites and Iberians are seeing this one as a ‘second final’ after their first final against Lusitanos on November 19 which was a decider to see who would make the semi-finals.
Iberians coach Ricardo Martinena said: “This is another final for us. We played a great game against Lusitanos that granted us a place among the top four teams and we will now repeat the challenge against Black Lion.
“They are preparing the Challenge Cup and are a strong side. We will have to play an open game when we attack and will have to defend well if we are to get a positive result here, but the players are focused and will give it everything.”
The second semi-final takes place at 1.30pm local time (12.30pm UTC) at the National Rugby Center in Budapest, Hungary, and pitches Tel-Aviv Heat from Israel against Romanian Wolves.
The Heat were finalists in 2022 and, this time around made it through to this stage by finishing second in Pool A while the Wolves topped Pool B to make it this far.
They have won two and three matches respectively of late, so are used to strong performances and this will be a very interesting tie.
Kevin Musikanth, the Heat head coach, said: “The pressure is now on the top four teams in the semi-finals. From our perspective we are facing a very tough Romanian Wolves team who have been unbeaten and thumping teams in their pool.
They have conceded minimal points and have a very solid set piece. We have prepared well for this semi-final and have utilised the extra week since the Black Lion match to work technically on our game plan.
The weather will be a factor in this fixture and it will come down to the team that wants it the most. We have our goals for the season and in order for our journey to continue we will need to get through this tough fixture.
All semi-final teams and coaches will have their eyes on the Super Cup trophy and we are the same. I am happy with the way my team responded after the team talk in the middle of a cold and wet field in Cyprus were we were dead and buried at 26-6 down against the double champions Black Lion littered with Georgia internationals [eventually losing 29-27 on November 18].
“To have the ball with three minutes to go and fight our way back only to come short by a couple of points shows what The Tel-Aviv Heat can do when under pressure.
“Semi-finals are about pressure and I am confident that, no matter what, our boys will play to the end and build on that second half performance against the Black Lion.”
The Wolves last played on November 18 too, defeating Brussels Devils 60-5 on the road to make it 15 points from 15 in their group to secure the sole last four spot.
The first ranking match of the weekend completes a three-game Saturday when Belgium’s Brussels Devils host Czechia’s Bohemia Rugby Warriors in the Municipal Stadium in Soignies at 7pm local time (6pm UTC).
The Devils will start this one as favourites having finished second in Pool B as opposed to the Warriors in fourth while when they men in group play in November the former won 43-10 away from home.
Antonín Brabec, coach of the Warriors, said: “Bohemia Rugby Warriors will meet a well-known opponent from the pool phase Brussels Devils this weekend.
“We will have couple of changes caused by illnesses, injuries and work duties. We also want to give a chance to some new players in the starting XV.
“As the Rugby Europe under-18 and under-20 championships have ended we have added one player from the under-18s and one from the under-20 team - as well as two more players from the senior national team - to our squad.
“We want to improve our performance in every match played and it’s a great motivation to play against the Devils again.
“The foundations will be a solid defence, good set piece and, of course, efficient attacking. We try to encourage the team to improvise a bit more based on the opponents’ defence, not to just blindly follow pre-agreed plays and patterns.”
Delta from the Netherlands and Portuguese side Lusitanos will finish the weekend off with their ranking match in the National Rugby Center in Amsterdam on Sunday at 12.45pm local time (11.45am UTC).
The hosts finished third in Pool B while Lusitanos were fourth in Pool A, but given the strength of the group the team from Portugal were in they will be favourites here.
“Our Dutch players are very excited about Sunday’s match,” Delta head coach Lyn Jones said.
“It is another completely different challenge from the Wolves, the Devils and the Warriors. We are building our performance capabilities and delighted with what we are producing, sometimes you win and sometimes not, but developing game understanding is wonderful to be a part of as a coach.”
Captain David Weersma added: “It is great to be back with Delta this week and for us it's hugely exciting to step onto the field against the Lusitanos in Amsterdam.
“It is the perfect opportunity to test ourselves against one of the Super Cup's best.”
Lusitanos captain Tomás Appleton said: “Training has been going well, we pretty much have every player available now because the under-18s and 20s championships have finished and others have come in from the national championship.
“We are a bit disappointed not to be in the semi-finals, but we have refocused and we think this is going to be a good match.
“We are going into this with confidence and really want to win.”
All four semi-finals can be watched on rugbyeurope.tv and FloRugby in North America. The Delta v Lusitanos game will also be on SportTV and the Black Lion v Iberians on Rugby TV, while Sport5 will also broadcast Tel Aviv Heat v Romanian Wolves in Israel.