Currie Cup Round 14 - teams and predictions
LAST HURRAH: Griquas and the Pumas will look to add another chapter to the storied history of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
For the first time in four decades, two ‘minnows’ can advance to the play-offs of the Currie Cup.
The last time two smaller unions advanced to the semifinals was in 1981 – when Northern Free State lost 12-36 to Northern Transvaal in Pretoria and Eastern Transvaal went down 15-28 to the Orange Free State in Springs.
Griquas and the Pumas – formerly known as Griqualand West and South Eastern Transvaal – will be in a straight shoot-out when they open the Round 14 action on Saturday.
That is followed by two equally intriguing encounters – the Bulls hosting the Cheetahs in Pretoria and the Sharks at home to Western Province in Durban.
However, it is in Kimberley where the drama starts.
The Pumas, or South Eastern Transvaal, have only once before reached the Currie Cup play-offs – when they lost 6-49 to Northern Transvaal in Pretoria in 1980.
Griquas, who have actually won the tournament three times, the last in 1970, reached the semifinals in 1979 (lost 15-20 to Western Province in Kimberley) and 1998 (lost to Western Province again, 11-24 in Kimberley).
Both Griquas and the Pumas can qualify for the semifinals, regardless of the result in Kimberley. That will happen only if the Sharks beat WP in the weekend’s final game.
If WP wins in Durban, they will overtake whoever loses in Kimberley. However, if the Sharks win Province will miss out on the play-offs for only the second time since 2008 – the last time being in 2019.
The Cheetahs, despite already being out of the running, can still have a say in the make-up of the play-offs. If they cause a big upset and beat the Bulls in Pretoria, the Sharks can still top the log if they can get a full-house of five points against WP.
The semifinalists will only be confirmed after the final match of the weekend, in Durban.
The Lions have concluded their fixtures for the season and have a bye this weekend.
We bring you all the teams and predictions for Saturday, August 28!
Griquas v Pumas
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 14.30; 12.30 GMT)
It is one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent years – Griquas going from failing to win a single match in the disrupted 2020-21 season to be on the brink of reaching the play-offs of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
Having beaten Western Province (home and away), the Sharks (in Durban), the Cheetahs (in Kimberley) and the Lions (Ellis Park) they certainly deserve their place on the standings – third, with 33 points from 11 matches (five wins, five losses and a draw).
However, standing in a guaranteed path to the play-offs is a hardy Pumas team that beat Griquas 26-22 in a bruising Round Three encounter in Nelspruit in early July.
Griquas coach Scott Mathie showed faith in the team that took them to the brink of the play-offs.
Mathie named an unchanged team from that which completed the double over Western Province in the Currie Cup with a 46-25 win in Round 13 in Kimberley last Sunday.
The same team will front up to the Pumas in Round 14 at Griqua Park on Saturday.
Mathie told OFM Sport that his team is focused on this week only and the results from earlier in the season are meaningless if they can’t get it over the line on Saturday.
“We’ve got to treat this coming match as a new game and a new challenge and really focus on what we need to do to get the result,” Mathie told the radio station.
“It will be a very tough game as the two teams know each really well, so it’s bound to be tight.”
Griquas require at least two points to guarantee them a place in the play-offs.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse kept the faith in the team that has taken his team to the brink of the Currie Cup play-offs.
Stonehouse made only minor tweaks to the team that beat the Cheetahs 28-19 in Nelspruit last week – making just three changes.
Ali Mgijima replaces Matt More at inside centre in the only backline change.
Niel Otto, an openside flank, replaces Phumzile Maqondwana in the back row – giving the Pumas more options at the breakdown.
Morgan Naude returns at loosehead prop in place of Dewald Maritz in the only other change in the starting XV.
Ruan Kramer, comes in as front row cover on the bench, with Maqondwana dropping down to the bench. Alwayno Visage comes in as utility back on the bench.
2014: Pumas won 33-15, Nelspruit
2014: Griquas won 31-27, Kimberley
2015: Griquas won 32-15, Kimberley
2016: Griquas won 41-35, Nelspruit
2017: Pumas won 27-21, Kimberley
2017: Griquas won 38-35, Nelspruit
2018: Pumas won 42-19, Nelspruit
2019: Griquas won 37-29, Kimberley
2020: Pumas won 22-17, Nelspruit
2021: Pumas won 26-22, Nelspruit
@rugby365com: Griquas by five points
Griquas: 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Chris Hollis, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Nqobisizwe Mxoli.
Replacements: 16 Janco Uys, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Janu Botha, 19 Cameron Lindsay, 20 Johan Momsen, 21 Raegan Oranje, 22 Tinus de beer, 23 Ederies Arendse, 24 Andrew Kuhn, 25 Mzwanele Zito, 26 Andre Swarts.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastián de Klerk, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Niel Otto, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter van Vuuren (captain), 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude.
Replacements: 16 Eduan Swart, 17 Ruan Kramer, 18 Ignatius Prinsloo, 19 Kwanda Dimaza, 20 Phumzile Maqondwana, 21 Chriswill September, 22 Alwayno Visage, 23 Tapiwa Mafura.
Referee: Cwengilie Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, local appointment
TMO: Ben Crouse
Bulls v Cheetahs
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 16.45; 14.45)
The Cheetahs can play the role of party spoilers, even though they are out of the play-off race.
The Bulls may have secured their place in the top two and a spot in the semifinals, but finishing first is the real goal.
Having home ground advantage in the semifinal and possible Final is vital in the drive to retain their title.
However, if the Cheetahs manage to cause an upset, it will open the door for the Sharks to become the top-ranked team.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said the Cheetahs remain a “dangerous” team, especially since they are not in the running and can play with freedom.
“You don’t know what to expect of them,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “They can score three, four tries very quickly.
“When they have nothing to play for, they can let the shackles off and have a go.
“They have the player that can do damage.”
White said the traditions of the Currie Cup dictates that Bulls (Northern Transvaal) versus Cheetahs (Free State) are always big occasions.
“They were all massive games,” the Bulls boss said, adding: “This will be another chapter in the Currie Cup – the Cheetahs playing the Bulls at Loftus.”
He neither team will lack motivation.
“We are chasing a home semifinal and Final and they will want to beat the defending Currie Cup champions.
“For the people of this country the Currie Cup is massive and I want it to stay like that.”
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said his team will not lack motivation.
“We want to finish well,” he told @rugby365com.
“We are very disappointed with our performance in the Currie Cup [competition],” he said, adding: “We are better than what our performances were.
“We want to show we are able to compete with the best teams and the Bulls are the best in the country at the moment.”
2014: Bulls won 31-22, Bloemfontein
2015: Bulls won 57-19, Bloemfontein
2015: Bulls won 24-17, Pretoria
2016: Cheetahs won 43-20, Bloemfontein
2016: Cheetahs won 36-16, Bloemfontein
2017: Cheetahs won 41-40, Pretoria
2017: Bulls won 64-36, Bloemfontein
2018: Bulls won 34-12, Bloemfontein
2019: Cheetahs won 43-27, Pretoria
2020: Bulls won 40-13, Pretoria
@rugby365com: Bulls by 16 points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 WJ Steenkamp, 6 Arno Botha (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Jaco Labuschagne, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Ruan Combrinck, 24 Schalk Erasmus, 25 Reinhard Ludwig, 26 Rynardt Roets.
Cheetahs: 15 Cohen Jasper, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Siya Masuku, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Mihlali Mosi, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Reinier Viljoen, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 David Brits, 23 Chris Smit.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Johre Botha, local appointment
TMO: Quinton Immelman
Sharks v Western Province
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00)
These two teams have met in the Final on seven occasions. On Saturday their showdown is just about getting into the play-offs, but it remains a massive game.
The Sharks can, with a win, still secure the top spot on the standings – although they require some assistance from the Cheetahs.
However, Western Province is playing for their survival in the competition.
They need to win – and perhaps will require a bonus point – to ensure they can overtake the loser of the encounter in Kimberley.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt made a number of changes, saying that it is a combination of giving players game time (with the view to the United Rugby Championships starting next month) and rotation.
Despite having secured a top-two finish, coach Sean Everitt said their goals remain unchanged – winning the tournament.
“Because we’re a performance-driven team, we want to put in good performances week in and week out and we’d like to start settling on combinations that will take us forward ahead of the semifinals and Final – after rotating players during the course of the competition,” the Sharks coach said.
Everitt admitted that the team’s set pieces – and the scrums in particular – are a cause for concern.
“I was a bit disappointed in our scrum, particularly in the first half when we gave away four penalties which weren’t ideal,” he said of last week’s impressive win over the Lions.
Western Province John Dobson said his team is determined to stay alive in the race for the coveted golden cup.
He spoke about the impact the conditions will have on the game – breezy and cooler, with periods of rain.
“That [the rain] will be a big challenge, because they have a huge kicking game,” the Province coach told @rugby365com.
“We know they also like to offload and play a bit of freestyle,” he said, adding: “I am not sure how effective it will be in the conditions.
“Their kicking game will be a major threat in the conditions.”
He said given the expected rain, the territory game will be “absolutely critical”.
Given the Cape Town team’s well-documented problems with restarts, that could also be a pressure point.
“In those conditions, how [fast] we get off the line [on defence] could put their skills under pressure.
“I don’t think this will be a ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ game.
“The conditions will be a great leveller, which might be a good thing for us.”
2015: WP won 37-27 Durban
2016: WP won 34-27, Cape Town
2017: Sharks won 21-20 Cape Town
2017: WP won 31-20, Durban
2017: WP won 31-21, Durban
2018: WP won 50-28, Cape Town
2018: Sharks won 17-12, Cape Town
2019: Sharks won 32-27, Durban
2021: Sharks won 19-9, Cape Town
2021: WP won 32-31, Cape Town
@rugby365com: Sharks by nine points
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Murray Koster, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Western Province: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Marcel Theunissen, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Johan du Toit, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Andre-Hugo Venter, 1 Leon Lyons.
Replacements – from: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Simon Miller, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Rikus Pretorius, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Justin Basson, 25 De Wet Marais.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, local appointment
TMO: Aimee Barrett-Theron