GARETH DUNCAN analyses this weekend’s Currie Cup action.
BLUE BULLS vs WP, PRETORIA, FRI 19:10
Both teams will be desperate to return to winning ways.
For the Bulls, victory will mean they will likely jump up from the foot of the table. And if results go their way, they could find themselves in a semi-final place, despite their horror campaign so far.
For WP, victory will keep them in touch with the Lions and Sharks at the top of the table. This will keep their hopes of a home semi-final alive. Defeat could threaten their play-off spot in the last round of league fixtures. Yes, the margin between success and failure is that thin!
While Province smashed the Bulls 42-6 earlier this month, this is a different Pretoria outfit they’ll face on Friday evening.
There are only eight survivours from the starting XV that got smashed at Newlands. The Bulls have also run better over the last two rounds, and head coach Pine Pienaar will hope his charges can carry that momentum into this fixture.
The performance of their forwards will be vital, which will set the platform for their backline – especially for in-form scrumhalf Jano Vermaak and returning speedster Bjorn Basson, who will be their main game breakers.
WP have lost two of their last three fixtures. Their relatively young team have made mistakes because of their inexperience. Head coach Allister Coetzee hopes his players will learn from them as they head to Loftus Versveld, but this side still looks too green to beat the Bulls in their own backyard.
Blue Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett/Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
WP – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 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 JJ Gagiano, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Pat Howard.
Gareth’s prediction: Blue Bulls by 6
GRIQUAS vs GOLDEN LIONS, KIMBERLEY, SAT 14:00
The Golden Lions are favourites to top the log heading into the play-offs.
Despite being robbed of selection continuity because of Springbok call-ups and injuries, they have enjoyed the longest winning streak in the Currie Cup this season (four consecutive victories). They are likely to make it five triumphs in a row when they travel to GWK Park to tackle the bumbling Griquas.
The Kimberley minnows created some hype as they achieved a hat-trick of wins midway during the campaign. But they found themselves near the foot of the table following away losses to WP and Free State.
While they have impressed at home this year, they have looked out of form in recent weeks and have failed to dominate the forward battles, which saw them excel before. Griquas will now come up against the toughest pack on the domestic scene. The Lions heavies have bullied most of their opposition so far, and you’d expect them to do the same this weekend.
While the Johannesburg union will field a new centre pair in Alwyn Hollenbach and Deon van Rensburg (who started his career at the Lions at 13), they have the comfort of the experienced Butch James on their inside at flyhalf.
The Lions should have the quality to ease to another win.
Griquas – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 JP Nel, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Justin Downey, 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 Jaco Nepgen, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Walter Venter.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 9 Ross Cronje, 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 Bandise Maku, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Guy Cronje, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.
Gareth’s prediction: Lions by 12
FREE STATE CHEETAHS vs SHARKS, BLOEMFONTEIN, SAT 19:10
The Sharks struggled in the rain against the Bulls in Durban. But they will be more confident running on the dry fields at Free State Stadium against the Cheetahs.
The Sharks have the strongest team on paper this weekend. And if their combinations gel quickly, they will dominate this clash in Bloem.
Their centre pairing of Paul Jordaan and Tim Whitehead is an exciting one, and the return of Springbok wing JP Pietersen is a big boost.
The Cheetahs have lost many key players to injury, with the recent blow seeing Heinrich Brussow sidelined with a shoulder injury for the next six months. With their stocks running thin, Free State don’t have a pack that can dominate. The Sharks forwards should be too strong for them, especially with a more formidable loose trio.
While the hosts have a dangerous backline, the Sharks’ overall quality should see them achieve victory.
Free State Cheetahs - 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Phillip Burger.
Sharks - 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7. Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandré Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Sbura Sithole.
Gareth’s prediction: Sharks by 10