GARETH DUNCAN previews this weekend’s Currie Cup action.
SHARKS vs BLUE BULLS, DURBAN, FRI 19:10
Blue Bulls head coach Pine Pienaar will be a relieved man after his team’s victory over the Cheetahs last weekend as it ended a three-match losing streak. However, he and his players could find themselves at the bottom of the log AGAIN if they lose to this strong Sharks outfit.
With the return of outside centre Paul Jordaan, a few backline shifts sees the hosts boast a few formidable combinations. The midfield of Whitehead and Jordaan will be a threatening one. While Meyer Bosman didn’t shine during Super Rugby and hasn’t played flyhalf regularly this year, he has been impressive on the domestic scene and his goal kicking has been accurate.
Although the Sharks are missing Fran Steyn, Pat Lambie (both Springbok duty) and JP Pietersen (injured), this is the strongest backline of the weekend.
The Sharks forwards struggled at the breakdown against the Lions, and will need to pick up their efforts to give their backs quality service.
If the Bulls can continue to cause woes for the John Plumtree’s heavies, they’ll be competitive. But fail, and the Sharks will return to winning ways, and the men from Pretoria will come under fire AGAIN (as I think they will).
Blue Bulls WLWLLLW
Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandré Marais, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 S’bura Sithole.
Blue Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Louis Fouché/Lionel Cronjé, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Subs: 16 Bongo Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjé/Willie du Plessis, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Gareth’s prediction: Sharks by 8
FREE STATE CHEETAHS vs GRIQUAS, BLOEMFONTEIN, SAT 14:00
In terms of achieving a top-four place, this result is vital for both teams.
Griquas enjoyed a fairy-tale run in recent weeks, claiming a hat-trick of victories after losing their opening three games. However, they tasted a dose of reality against Province in Cape Town last weekend, going down 45-21 in a one-way contest.
They’ll now come up against Super Rugby big brothers the Free State Cheetahs, who are struggling at the bottom of the table as they currently ride a four-match losing streak.
However, the gap between the two sides is just three log points, meaning the victor will likely jump up to fourth place (a play-off spot).
The Cheetahs will be favourites to do so. They’re at home, they have selected a specialist flyhalf in the No 10 jersey after the coaches decided to dump their Tewis de Bruyn project and their loose trio will be tough to handle. Free State will also have the confidence of beating Griquas 29-16 earlier in the competition.
As for Griquas, I don’t think they’ll cause an upset in Bloem. Their defeat against WP signaled the beginning of the end for their 2012 campaign.
In recent seasons, the Kimberley union has always managed to create some hype by sneaking into the top four midway through the competition, but they have never had the consistency to stay there by the end of the league phase. This season will be another repeat of their cliched sad story.
A desperate Cheetahs team will triumph on Saturday.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Raymond Rhule, 12 Robert Ebersohn (c), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip 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 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Andries Strauss, 22 Philip Snyman.
Griquas – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 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 Janro van Niekerk.
Subs: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 JP Nel.
Gareth’s prediction: Cheetahs by 10
WP vs GOLDEN LIONS, CAPE TOWN, SAT 14:00
This will be the closest game of the weekend. It’s the clash between two of the most consistent teams this month.
Province have surprisingly emerged as the best attacking (scored 214 points and 22 tries) and defensive (conceded 163 points and 15 tries) side of the tournament. The Golden Lions, who have grabbed the most four-try bonus points (four), have also done well on attack and defence, and their overall records also look impressive.
So what will be the deciding factor between the two teams?
The forwards battle.
WP forwards head coach Matt Proudfoot told me the Lions’ biggest threat up front has been their poaching abilities. This undid the Sharks at Ellis Park last weekend, and the Province will place a lot of focus at the breakdown.
Proudfoot also stated that he’s happy with his team’s set-piece execution, but they’ll come up against the strongest scrum of this year’s Currie Cup. The pack who dominates this area will give their team the platform to gain the ascendancy.
The rain in the Mother City will also be a factor this weekend, and will put pressure on the 10s.
Province will be hoping flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis can last the 80 minutes as there’s no specialist cover for him. And he’ll have to survive the whole match against his physical opposite number Butch James, who will be in his face throughout the match.
If Catrakilis can avoid the WP flyhalf injury curse, his accurate goal kicking will have a huge influence on the outcome.
WP – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Patrick Howard.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Deon van Rensburg, 22 James Kamana.
Gareth’s prediction: WP by 5