Currie Cup preview (Round 7)

GARETH DUNCAN analyses this weekend’s Currie Cup action.

WP vs GRIQUAS, CAPE TOWN, SAT 15:00

In one corner, we have WP, who are raring to return to victory after surrendering top spot on the log after their loss in Durban last Saturday. In the other corner, we have a Griquas outfit brimming with confidence as they ride a three-match winning streak. However, the Northern Cape union enjoyed two of those victories on their hard turf in Kimberley – they’ll face a tougher challenge away from home on the softer grounds of Newlands.

WP were out played against the Sharks at a water-logged Kings Park, and finished the match with 12 men after two red cards and one yellow. Head coach Allister Coetzee will expect better discipline from his charges this weekend.

WP will have the confidence of home-ground advantage as the Newlands faithful has only seen two home defeats all year. Province haven’t lost to Griquas in Cape Town since the latter’s promotion to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2006.

With only four rounds remaining, Griquas have a tough finish to the league phase as this will be their first of three away games. This is also likely to be their first dose of reality as the bigger unions will finish stronger.

FORM
WP LWLWWL
Griquas LLLWWW

WP – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Helmut Lehmann, 19 JJ Gagiano, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Damian de Allende.

Griquas – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Richard Lawson, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (c), 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu.

Gareth’s prediction: WP by 12

BLUE BULLS vs FREE STATE CHEETAHS, PRETORIA, SAT 17:05

This will be the clash of two desperate unions. Both teams have performed poorly in recent rounds, having lost three in a row. However, there’s still a lot on the line as victory will put either side back into semi-final contention (the Bulls trail fourth spot by six logs points, while the Cheetahs trail a play-off place by four log points).

The Bulls have been boosted by the return of two of their Springboks in scrumhalf Jano Vermaak and flank Jacques Potgieter. The shift of JJ Engelbrecht to the midfield and return of Arno Botha at No 8 should also have a positive influence. This will give under-fire head coach Pine Pienaar some confidence heading into this match, as he has struggled without 22 first-choice players during the campaign.

Free State achieved one of their two victories against the Bulls (32-18), but that was a different side that ran out in Bloemfontein. The unavailability of key players due to injuries and national duty has had a negative effect, especially the loss of flyhalf options Riaan Smit and Johan Goosen. The Cheetahs’ selection of Tewis de Bruyn, a specialist scrumhalf, in the No 10 jersey has done little to inspire their natural expansive approach.

The Cheetahs’ strengths will lie at the breakdown battle, as they boost a strong loose trio in Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Heinrich Brussow. But the Bulls should be able to master most facets of play to pick up a much-needed win.

FORM
Bulls WLWLLL
Cheetahs LWWLLL

Blue Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Ulrich Beyers.

Free State Cheetahs - 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Raymond Rhule, 12 Robert Ebersohn (c), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Tewis de Bruyn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Sias Ebersohn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Andries Strauss.

Gareth’s prediction: Blue Bulls by 8

GOLDEN LIONS vs SHARKS, JOHANNESBURG, SAT 19:10

There’s not much that separates these two teams at the top of the log as both have won four of their six games and scored a similar amount of points and tries. The Golden Lions currently edge first place thanks to their slightly better points difference.

A win in Johannesburg will give the victors a strong advantage to book a home play-off, and a potential home final.

The Lions have excelled over the last two rounds, beating the Blue Bulls (32-23) and Free State (38-23) on the road. Head coach Johan Ackermann has stressed continuity will be key behind any sort of success. He’s lost a couple of players to injury, but has retained most of the starting XV that has impressed over the last fortnight.

This cohesion, and the good form shown by flyhalf Elton Jantjies, will be telling against the Sharks.

The visitors have hooker Craig Burden back from Springbok duty, and will depend on a superior forwards showing to beat the Lions. They also have a better defensive record than the hosts, but will they be able to overcome the inconsistency they’ve shown over the last four weeks?

FORM
Lions WLWLWW
Sharks WWLWLW

Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach/Jaco Taute, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes/Ettienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Ettienne Oosthuizen/Ruan Botha, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco Taute/Dylan des Fountain.

Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Brynard Stander, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Paul Jordaan, 22 Sbura Sithole.

Gareth’s prediction: Golden Lions by 7