Currie Cup, Semifinals - Teams and Predictions
FINAL FOUR: Winning at all cost will be the only objective when the four Currie Cup semifinalists take the field on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld and Newlands respectively to stake a claim for a place in the Final.
The Bulls will host their southern neighbours, the Lions, in Pretoria in the first semifinal, before the action switches to Cape Town for the match-up between Western Province and the Sharks.
The log-leaders from Pretoria will be guaranteed of a home final at Loftus Versfeld – their first since 2009 – if they succeed in recording their second victory in three weeks against the men from Jozi.
A victory for the Lions, however, will hand the winner between WP and the Sharks a home final – feats they last achieved in the 2018 and 2017 seasons respectively.
In the event of teams being level on the scoreboard at the end of the regular 80 minutes of play, 20 minutes of extra time will be played – two stanzas of 10 minutes each – with the side in the lead on the scoreboard advancing to the final.
If the teams are still level, the side that progresses to the final will be determined by the most tries in the match, and then the highest log position following the completion of the pool rounds.
We take a closer look at each match!
Saturday, January 23:
Bulls v Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 GMT)
There will be no love lost between the Bulls and the Lions when they meet on Saturday in their Currie Cup semifinal at Loftus Versfeld, and their close encounter three weeks ago is expected to fuel their motivation.
The prospect of a home final, the desire to earn a memorable double after winning the Super Rugby Unlocked competition, and back-to-back wins against their rivals will drive the Bulls, but the Lions have a score to settle after losing by seven points in their last match.
Memories of going down in the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein last year will also serve as a stark reminder of the feeling of despair that accompanies a knock-out defeat – something Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies and his team will be determined to prevent as they attempt to earn successive final berths.
Remember the Hoedspruit Lions on David de Beer’s stoep? Well this is what scared them off 😂 A sign of things to come this weekend @LionsRugbyCo? 😉#BullsFamily24#BULvLIO#CarlingCurrieCup#Rugby #loverugby pic.twitter.com/w90asyxm2g
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) January 20, 2021
The encounters between these sides have been balanced in the last few years, with the men from Pretoria winning five of their last nine Currie Cup games – four of which were at Loftus Versfeld – and given the high stakes this weekend, neither team will give an inch.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White named a full-strength squad with David Kriel (fullback), Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans (centres) back in action.
BlitzBok speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse is back on the right wing, while Springbok halfbacks Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf) and Morné Steyn (flyhalf) will steer the ship as the latter celebrates his 100th provincial match for team from Pretoria.
Upfront, Duane Vermeulen (No.8) resumes the captaincy and Sintu Manjezi has been named at lock, serving as one of the line-out targets for Schalk Erasmus (hooker), who will pack down between two Springbok props in Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane.
“We have reached the business end of the Currie Cup and I must commend our entire squad on getting us to this point,” said White.
“Focusing on this weekend has been in our minds for the last two weeks and we have done all we can in terms of preparation. We know how to win, and we have to do just that against a team that has pushed us each time we’ve played them.”
The Lions included six Springboks in their starting team and two more on their extended bench, with Jantjies leading the team into battle.
The backline has a familiar feel to it, with Burger Odendaal (centre) linking up with the hot-stepping Wandisile Simelane, while Andre Warner got the nod at scrumhalf.
Ivan van Rooyen (head coach) opted for the Rugby World Cup-winning experience of Jannie du Plessis in the front row alongside experienced hooker Jaco Visagie and Sti Sithole (prop), while Jaco Kriel (flank) will partner up with Len Massyn (No.8) and Vincent Tshituka (flank) in the loose trio.
“It is going to be a physical clash, so whoever dominates the contact and wins the set piece will be on the front foot,” said midfielder, Odendaal.
Van Rooyen added: “The conditions will certainly be a factor in how we approach and execute this match and we will have to put more pressure on them defensively than we did in our last encounter.”
Last 10 Currie Cup outings:
2013: Lions won 35-26, Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 41-13, Johannesburg
2014: Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
2015: Lions won 36-28, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 31-17, Pretoria
2017: Bulls won 54-22, Pretoria
2017: Lions won 36-33, Johannesburg
2018: Lions won 38-35, Pretoria
2019: Bulls won 31-26, Johannesburg
2020: Bulls won 22-15, Pretoria
@rugby365com: Bulls by five points.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements – from: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Francke Horn, 24 Nathan McBeth, 25 EW Viljoen, 26 Ross Cronjé.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs, Griffin Colby
TMO: Marius Jonker
Western Province v Sharks
(Newlands Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 16.30; 14.30 GMT)
The Currie Cup semifinal between Western Province and the Sharks in Cape Town ticks all the boxes for an epic showdown.
Both teams won seven matches this season, with the Capetonians scoring only two points fewer than the Durbanites, although WP’s defensive record is slightly better as they conceded 216 points and the Sharks 244.
Adding to this, Saturday’s game will mark the first time the sides meet this season after both matches were cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.
The hosts will also have a point to prove after suffering defeats in their last two Currie Cup matches against the Kwa-Zulu Natalians, while they won only one of their last three matches against the teams at Newlands.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is back at openside flank and will lead Western Province after having missed the previous two games due to COVID-19 protocols.
There are two further changes to the forward pack, with Salmaan Moerat (lock) also making his return, while in the front row Ali Vermaak (loosehead prop) makes his first start of the season in the absence of Springbok stalwart Steven Kitshoff, who was ruled out through COVID-19 protocols.
“We have earned the right to play this semifinal at Newlands and we want to deliver a fitting performance on Saturday,” said Western Province head coach John Dobson.
“We have had time to prepare properly and we are fielding a number of settled combinations, so the challenge is to go out there and put together an 80-minute performance and secure our place in the final next week.”
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) January 20, 2021
In the Sharks camp, Springbok prop Thomas du Toit is back from a few weeks on the sideline and will anchor the scrum in one of five personnel changes to Sean Everitt’s starting team.
Dylan Richardson and Sanele Nohamba are promoted from the bench and will start at flank and scrumhalf respectively, while the experienced backline duo of Marius Louw (centre) and Springbok wing Sibusiso Nkosi are also back in the run-on side.
“We know what Western Province’s strengths are in terms of set-piece dominance, they’ve proven it throughout the competition, so from our side, we’ve been working on us mainly, to try to strengthen any parts we feel need working on,” said Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am.
Last 10 Currie Cup outings:
2013: Sharks won 33-19, Cape Town
2014: Sharks won 28-20, Cape Town
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
@rugby365com: WP by two points.
Western Province: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements – from: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel, 24 Sazi Sandi, 25 Tristan Leyds.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Stuart Berry
Additional source: SA Rugby