Currie Cup, Round 11 - teams and predictions
SATURDAY PREVIEW: The Sharks plan to turn up the heat on the unbeaten Cheetahs as the Currie Cup competition’s league phase approaches the home stretch.
The Cheetahs, hoping to overtake the defending-champion Bulls at the top of the table, entertain the Sharks in Bloemfontein.
This clash is followed by the Trans-Jukskei derby between the Bulls and Lions at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, with the visitors in that game fielding a full-blooded United Rugby Championship team.
Bloemfontein is where the early focus and heat will be, as the third-placed Sharks will be keen to cement their place in the top four and a play-off spot.
Sharks coach Etienne Fynn said he expects a “positive reaction” from his team after last week’s disappointing (10-20) loss to the Pumas in Durban.
Fynn spoke about ‘self-reflection’, firstly by the coaching staff and then the players.
“If they come back and don’t provide the answers we are looking for, then we have to act,” he told @rugby365com, adding that he was happy with the “positive” reactions from the guilty parties.
Fynn said to upset the Cheetahs you have to put their ‘game drivers’ – Springbok veterans Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar – under pressure.
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“You must force those big players to make poor decisions,” the coach said, adding: “That is how you affect any settled side.
“We just have to bring the heat and ensure the quality ball they are used to get, is disrupted.
“We are well aware of how important those individuals are to the Cheetahs.”
The importance of the game is not lost on Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie, who said he is pleased with the “continuity” and lack of injuries they have enjoyed this season.
Captain Ruan Pienaar described the Sharks as a “quality” team with depth – players that “trained under pressure” against the URC team.
“If you give them turnovers, like always, the Sharks will punish you,” Pienaar told @rugby365com, adding that their focus this week has been on “being more accurate”.
The other key to the Cheetahs’ prospect of success against the Sharks is the axis of Steyn, flyhalf Siyabonga Masuku and Pienaar.
“For any team, those are three very important positions to steer the team around the field, play in the right areas and make good decisions,” Pienaar said.
“We have won games the last few rounds, but I don’t think we have played to our full potential.
“For us, it is [about] showing that leadership and making good decisions when needed.”
* There is just as much riding on the game at Loftus Versfeld, where a young Bulls team will face a fully-loaded Lions URC outfit, desperate to cling to first place on the standings.
Current form would suggest a comfortable win for the hosts.
However, the Lions’ team selection means the winless Lions are actually pre-match favourites against the table-topping, defending champions.
Bulls Currie Cup coach Gert Smal, back in the hot seat after missing last week’s game as a result of illness, said it is a “great opportunity” for the young players against the visitors from Johannesburg.
The Bulls, with their URC team already preparing for a crucial URC encounter with Ospreys in Swansea next week, will be without 27 players.
“We knew it was going to happen at some stage,” he said of the under-strength Currie Cup selection facing a battle-hardened opposition.
Smal said not only are the Lions fielding a bulked-up team, but their form has improved significantly in the last few rounds.
“They are a team that also likes to play,” he said of the Lions’ well-documented expansive game.
“We will have to be up doe whatever they throw at us.”
Smal added that veteran Springbok Bismarck du Plessis will be key to bringing stability in the pack against the men from Johannesburg.
Ivan van Rooyen, in the coaching hot seat because it is essentially the URC team playing, said the focus is more internal than about what the Bulls will, or will not, bring to the game.
“There will always be expectations to do well, no matter what team we field,” he said of a team that is still winless in this year’s Currie Cup competition.
“We are going to go there [Loftus] and do what we do well,” Van Rooyen said.
* All the Saturday teams and predictions follow below …
Saturday, May 14
Cheetahs v Sharks
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 14.30; 12.30 GMT)
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by nine points
Cheetahs: 15 Cohen Jasper, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 David Brits, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Siyabonga Masuku, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Mihlali Mosi, 7 Andisa Ntsila, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Aidon Davis, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Dawson, 17 Louis van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Ockie Barnard, 20 Jeandré Rudolph, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Chris Smit.
Sharks: 15 Nevaldo Fleurs, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Murray Koster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Mpilo Gumede, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Emile van Heerden, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Blaine Golden, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Nick Hatton, 21 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 22 Joaquin Bonilla, 23 Ethan Fisher.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Philip Kotze
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
Bulls v Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 17.00; 15.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Lions by seven points
Bulls: 15 James Verity-Am, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Marco Janse van Vuren, 11 Kabelo Mokoena, 10 Juan Mostert, 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 Jaco Labuschagne, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 Dylan Smith, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (captain).
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Cebo Dlamini, 18 Francois Kloppers, 19 Ruan Delport, 20 Stephan Smith, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Diego Appollis, 23 Richard Kriel.
Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Heiko Pohlmann, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Cal Smid, 20 Jarod Cairns, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Henko van Wyk, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Referee: Griffin Colby
Assistant referees: Morne Ferreira, Local appointment
TMO: Christie du Preez