Currie Cup, Round 13 - teams and predictions
FRIDAY PREVIEW: With only one spot secured and one team out of the running, it is a six-team race for the remaining three places in the Currie Cup play-offs.
The Sharks, topping the standings with 43 points, is the only team already securing their place in the play-offs.
The only team definitely out of the running is the newcomers, the Griffons.
The Cheetahs, second on 41 points, need just one point from their last two matches to book their place in the semifinals.
From here on it gets manic!
The defending-champion Pumas (36), Western Province (31), Lions (31), Bulls (31) and Griquas (30) are all in a mad dash for places.
Three of the four teams in that mad scramble play of Friday – with Griquas hosting Western Province in Kimberley and the Bulls hosting the Griffons in Pretoria.
Griquas need to beat WP to keep their play-off hopes alive.
However, WP added some serious United Rugby Championship muscle to their team – Clayton Blommetjies, Ruhan Nel, Hacjivah Dayimani, Ben-Jason Dixon and Neethling Fouche (who captains the team) give the visitors a real hard edge.
Dawie Snyman, the Stormers and WP backline coach, said the trip to Kimberley is always a tricky outing.
Their biggest challenge is probably to get the players up after the big ‘let-down’ of their loss in the URC Final last week.
“It was quite grim for a few days,” he said of the mood in the camp.
“The Currie Cup is also a big motivation for us,” he said, adding: “We haven’t done well in this competition the last few seasons [failing to make the play-offs in the 2022 and 2019 seasons, while losing in the semifinals in the 2020-21 and 2021 seasons].”
He said the only way to get over the disappointment of losing in the URC Final was to get into the field and play again.
Snyman said he is confident the players won’t retreat into their proverbial shells, with a ‘fear of failure’ gripping them and preventing them from playing to their true potential.
“The result and what we need to do [in Kimberley] on Friday won’t be in the back of their minds,” he told @rugby365com.
“They know what they need to do and if we do those things right we can play the type of game we want to play,” Snyman added.
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* In the second of Friday’s games the Griffons travel to Loftus Versfeld where they will find a Bulls team in an unforgiving mood – given the historic victory they scored over the men from Pretoria in their round four encounter in Welkom.
The Northern Free Staters will also be up against a fully-loaded Bulls side, with Marcell Coetzee reinstated as captain.
Loaded with Springboks, the Bulls will be favourites to beat a team languishing at eighth in the standings.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White dismissed the notion that it is a game of ‘revenge’ for them.
“Considering that, after four rounds, we had not won a game and now we still have a chance to make the play-offs, it has been a good [recovery] effort,” White said.
“The Griffons beat us last time and we know we have to win this game if we want to stay in contention for the play-offs.
“It is not about what happened in the past,” he said, adding: “It is about staying alive in the competition.”
White’s biggest challenge is to keep the energy levels up after 46 weeks in the current United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup seasons.
“To do the competition justice we have to give ourselves a chance to be competitive,” he said of fielding a near full-strength URC team.
“It is no good putting your name down and then you don’t want to be there at the back-end of the competition.
“While we still have a chance we have to do as best we can.”
The Bulls boss admitted that points difference will come into the equation in the final wash-up, which means not just a bonus-point win, but a BIG win is necessary.
It will make for an entertaining affair as try-scoring is at a premium.
“The reality is, we have to score as many points as we can if we want to stay alive in the competition,” White said, adding: “It is not a case of can we do it, we have to do it.
“The statistics are simple – we are minus-43, [so] we at least have to get to a positive points difference.
“That means we will have to score some tries and keep them from not scoring points against us.
“You can’t just run from everywhere. You also have to be watertight [on defence].
“Every seven points they score, you have to score 14 to stay ahead of them.”
* All the Friday teams and predictions follow below …
Griquas v Western Province
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Western Province by 12 points
Griquas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Jay-Cee Nel, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Johan Mulder, 8 Carl Els, 7 Hanru Sirgel (captain), 6 Thabo Ndimande, 5 Derik Pretorius 4 Dylan Sjöblom, 3 Justin Forwood, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Kudzwai Dube.
Replacement: 16 Sean Swart, 17 Cebo Dlamini, 18 Eddie Davids, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Stephan Smit, 21 Reagan Oranje, 22 Eduard Fouche, 23 Sango Xamlashe.
Western Province: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Angelo Davids, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jurie Matthee, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 Connor Evans, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Neethling Fouche (captain), 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Allister Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Louw Nel, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Cornel Smit.
Referee: Griffin Colby
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Dylen November
TMO: Quinton Immelman
Bulls v Griffons
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by 28 points
Bulls: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Chris Barend Smit, 11 David Kriel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Simphiwe Matanzima, 17 Joe van Zyl, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Mihlali Mosi, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Sibongile Novuka, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
Griffons: 15 Duan Pretorius, 14 Domenic Smit, 13 Carel-Jan Coetzee, 12 Marquit September, 11 Randy Fielies, 10 Robbie Petzer, 9 Jaywinn Juries, 8 Sokuphumla Xakalashe, 7 Thomas Ongera, 6 Thato Mavundla, 5 Michael Benadie, 4 Rian Olivier, 3 Doctor Booysen, 2 Hendrik van Schoor, 1 Xolani Jacobs.
Replacements – from: 16 Dandre Delport, 17 Stephan de Jager, 18 Buhle Nojekwa, 19 Wikus Nieuwenhuis, 20 Ludio Williams, 21 Jean Pretorius, 22 Keanu Vers, 23 Duren Hoffman, 24 Curtly Thomas, 25 Chadley Wenn, 26 Ethan Williams.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Christopher Allison Phumzile Mbewu
TMO: AM Jacobs