PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Five
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Round Five of Currie Cup 2017 will be the culmination of a busy schedule for teams this week.
All three-weekend games will take place on Saturday, with the Free State Cheetahs and Griquas kicking things off in Bloemfontein.
The day's second match sees Western Province host arch-rivals the Blue Bulls before the Golden Lions take on the Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The Pumas have a bye this weekend.
We take a look at all the Round Five action!
Saturday, August 12:
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Griquas produced the upset of the midweek matches in the Currie Cup on Wednesday as they toppled Western Province for their first victory of the season while defending champions the Free State Cheetahs registered their third win in a row.
The men from the Northern Cape notched up a 44-34 victory over Western Province in Kimberley, while the Free State Cheetahs defeated the Pumas 45-34 in Nelspruit.
Griquas' effective goal-kicking proved to be the difference on the scoreboard in their clash against Western Province, as each side scored five tries. The hosts' five conversions and three penalty goals to the visitors’ three conversions and one penalty handed them the victory.
A strong first-half showing by the Free State Cheetahs, meanwhile, paved the way to 45-34 victory against the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium. The defending champions built up an encouraging 38-10 lead at the break thanks to an impressive attacking display in which they scored six tries - two of which were scored by replacement back Malcolm Jaer – while they limited the Pumas to a try on the stroke of halftime and an early penalty goal.
The match between the Cheetahs and Griquas is always one with a lot of intensity and passion and there will be a lot of motivation on both sides after their midweek victories.
The Cheetahs have made four changes to their team for the clash.
The most notable change sees youngster Ryno Eksteen get a chance in the No.10 jersey in the place of the injured Niel Marais.
Wing Sergeal Petersen is also back in the matchday squad amongst the replacements.
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 63-26, Bloemfontein
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 44-24, Bloemfontein
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 31-9, Kimberley
2014: Free State Cheetahs won 36-25, Kimberley
2014: Free State Cheetahs won 34-27, Bloemfontein
Prediction: Griquas will be confident after their win against Western Province. However, the Free State Cheetahs are at home and they do have a number of game-breakers in their side. The Cheetahs will win by 15 points.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Specman, 13 Jacobus Jonker, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Niell Jordaan (captain), 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Armand Koster, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Chris Dry, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Sergeal Petersen, 22 Malcolm Jaer.
Griquas: 15 Eric Zana, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Kevin Kaba, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 FP Pelser, 4 Wandile Putuma, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacements: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Stephan Kotze, 18 Sintu Manjezi, 19 DeWet Kruger, 20 Renier Botha, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Christopher Bosch.
Referee: Quinton Immelman.
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Anevuyo Fakade
TMO: Marius Jonker
Western Province v Blue Bulls
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
Both Western Province and the Blue Bulls are coming off losses in midweek and both will be keen to get their Currie Cup campaigns back on track.
Province suffered their second loss of the season after they went down 34-44 to Griquas in Kimberley on Wednesday.
The Blue Bulls suffered their first loss of the season when the travelling Sharks put in a powerful performance to win 28-20 at Loftus Versfeld.
The Blue Bulls have won three of the last five matches between the two sides, which included a 36-30 win over Province in last year's semifinals.
"With John Mitchell’s arrival, there has been a big metamorphosis at the Blue Bulls," said Western Province head coach Johan Dobson.
"Compared to the Super Rugby team, they are very different - they general movement are much better, their tempo and breakdown work are better. It is very similar to what happened at the Golden Lions seven year ago.
"Now, the Blue Bulls force you to tackle more - a very different Blue Bulls way of play. They are going pose a threat similar to the Golden Lions.
"Thus, going up against them [Blue Bulls] we should improve on our defence, physicality and general kicking game."
Blue Bulls head coach Nollis Marais has also pinpointed defence as one of the areas his team will need to work on.
"Defence, exits, we lost the ball at kick-off, we lost the ball forward and they [Sharks] scored tries from that.
"I think we lost the game in the first 30 minutes - we didn't properly exit, we slipped tackles, we gave them momentum and we had to play catch-up the whole game.
"We didn't stick to the processes and what we planned and we need to get the guys back on track."
2016: Blue Bulls won 36-30, Pretoria (semifinal)
2016: Blue Bulls won 45-26, Pretoria
2015: Western Province won 23-18, Pretoria (semifinal)
2015: Western Province won 29-14, Cape Town
2015: Blue Bulls won 47-29, Pretoria
Prediction: Even though they lost against the Sharks, the Blue Bulls are still playing better rugby than Western Province at the moment. The Bulls will win by eight points or less.
Western Province: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Michael Kumbirai, 18 Eddie Zandberg, 19 Stephan de Wit, 20 Justin Phillips, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Dan Kriel.
Blue Bulls: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Kefentse Mahlo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Abongile Nonkontwana, 19 Shaun Adendorff, 20 Andre Warner, 21 JT Jackson, 22 Duncan Matthews.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: TBC
Golden Lions v Sharks
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 19.30; 17.30 GMT)
The Sharks have built some good momentum since their opening round loss to the Free State Cheetahs.
The Durban side have won their last three games in a row now with the victory over the Blue Bulls on Wednesday being the pick of the bunch.
The Golden Lions, on the other hand, have lost two of their three games so far and they will desperately be seeking a win this weekend.
The Lions will be fresh for the encounter after they enjoyed a bye during the midweek games. They will also be a lot stronger having welcomed back a few Super Rugby players into their ranks.
The Lions have won four of the last five matches between the two sides.
Lions new head coach Swys de Bruin knows that another tough challenge awaits his side.
"They [Sharks] quite comfortably beat the Bulls at Loftus, so they a side that is sort of settled," said De Bruin.
"They are playing with a lot of their Super Rugby players, so it's definitely a tough challenge for us on Saturday."
The match comes a few weeks after the Lions beat the Sharks in a Super Rugby quarterfinal, but head coach Robert du Preez does not want to get involved in revenge talk.
"No, it's not a big grudge match for us, we just want to build on the momentum that we've created, it's a new game and history means nothing," said Du Preez.
"It's tough playing there [Johannesburg] but we're up for it and looking forward to the challenge."
Du Preez added: "We must improve our exit plays, those weren’t good enough and that put us under pressure. And we missed too many tackles, so that's also a big focus of ours ahead of the match."
2016: Golden Lions won 28-16, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 26-18, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 31-16, Durban
2014: Golden Lions won 50-20, Johannesburg (semifinal)
2014: Sharks won 26-23, Durban
Prediction: This should be another entertaining game between the two sides. The Sharks are enjoying a good run of wins over the last few weeks. However, the Golden Lions have brought in a few experienced players and we think they will edge it by seven points or less.
Golden Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ryan Kankowski (captain), 7 Fabian Booysen, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Robert Kruger, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Marco Janse van Vuuren, 21 Siya Masuku, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements - from: Armand van der Merwe, Inny-Christian Radebe, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Jean Droste, Michael Claassens, Mzamo Majola, Wian Vosloo.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Eduan Nel
TMO: Willie Vos