Currie Cup, Round Seven - Teams and Predictions
FINAL ROUND: With the Currie Cup log positions set in stone and the semifinalists confirmed going into this weekend’s final pool round, log leaders, the Bulls, will target winning momentum in Nelspruit, while pride will be at stake in Kimberley.
The Bulls sealed the top spot on the standings on Wednesday for a home semifinal and pole position for a home final when they defeated the Lions 22-15 in Pretoria, and these sides will meet again in a repeat of this encounter in the semifinal.
Western Province will host the Sharks in Cape Town in the other semifinal after their closing pool match, scheduled to play out in Cape Town on Saturday, was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols and declared a draw.
As a result of this, only two matches will be played this weekend. First up, Griquas host the Cheetahs in Kimberley on Saturday and on Sunday, the Pumas take on the Bulls at the Mbombela Stadium.
We take a closer look at each match below:
Saturday, January 9:
Griquas v Cheetahs
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 16.30; 14.30 GMT)
There may only be pride at stake when Griquas welcome the Cheetahs to Kimberley on Saturday, but this is expected to bring out the best in the teams in what could prove to be a gripping Currie Cup match-up.
Form may favour the Free Staters, who will enter the match with five victories in their 11 matches this season, but they will be careful to write off the home side, who have a favourable track record of three wins in four outings against them in the Currie Cup since 2017 – two of which were in Kimberley.
Griquas made two changes to the backline and two up front for the central clash, with Daniel Kasende starting on the right wing and Harlon Klaasen being named on his inside, in place of Enver Brandt and Berton Klaassen respectively.
In the forward pack, Adre Smith comes in for Ewan Coetzee at lock, and Mox Mxoli (prop) earns a start in place of Andrew Beerwinkel.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie made wholesale changes to his matchday squad, with six changes in the starting team and a new-look bench.
There were three changes to the forward pack, two of which were in the front row – Marnus van der Merwe takes over from the injured Wilmar Arnoldi at hooker, and Conraad van Vuuren (prop) moves up from the replacements bench in place of Khutha Mchunu.
In the loose trio, George Cronje, a star of the SA Schools side in 2019, fills the void left by the experienced Oupa Mohoje, who is nursing a back injury.
In the backline, Duncan Saal gets a run on the right wing, which sees Rosko Specman switch to the other side and Rhyno Smith drop down to the bench, while Tian Meyer takes over from Ruben de Haas at scrumhalf.
Cheetahs captain Carl Wegner believes Saturday’s game is still an important one for the Cheetahs players.
“I don’t think it’s an anti-climax for us,” said Wegner. “It’s still an important match for us.
“We have to get momentum for the matches that lies ahead after this competition. It won’t be too long before we play again.
“We want to get the best out of our defence and attack this weekend. We want to get some confidence ahead of our next games in February.”
Last 10 Currie Cup outings
2013: Cheetahs won 52-21, Kimberley
2014: Cheetahs won 34-27, Bloemfontein
2014: Cheetahs won 36-25, Kimberley
2015: Cheetahs won 31-9, Kimberley
2015: Cheetahs won 44-24, Bloemfontein
2016: Cheetahs won 63-26, Bloemfontein
2017: Griquas won 30-25, Bloemfontein
2017: Griquas won 59-24, Kimberley
2018: Griquas won 52-24, Kimberely
2019: Cheetahs won 68-14, Bloemfontein
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by 14 points.
Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Johan Momsen, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adre Smith, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Replacements – from: 16 CJ Conradie, 17 Bandisa Ndlovu, 18 Tijde Visser, 19 Ewan Coetzee, 20 Siba Qoma, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Ederies Arendse, 24 Andrew Beerwinkel, 25 Raegan Oranje, 26 Masixole Banda.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 George Cronje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner (captain), 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Boan Venter,
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Assistant Referees: Griffin Colby, Paul Mente
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni
Sunday, January 10:
Pumas v Bulls
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT)
The Bulls will have their sights set squarely on building winning momentum in preparation for the Currie Cup play-offs when they line up against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Sunday following their return to the field earlier this week for the first time after almost a month out of action.
With a quick four-day turnaround from their last match – against the Lions – they will be bracing themselves for a tough test physically and mentally in the Lowveld.
History favours the Bulls, who have suffered only one defeat against the Lowvelders in the competition since 2011. But the visitors’ will be mindful of the fact that the Pumas come off narrow defeats against the Cheetahs and Lions respectively and should not be written off.
The Bulls midweek win over the Lions was an impressive result for Jake White’s side as they were missing some key players and they did play any rugby since December 12 before that match because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We literally had our whole [regular] backline not starting,” said White. “It was always going to be difficult, but I compliment the way we fought back.
“I think it was always going to take time and we didn’t really have the ball in the beginning. As soon as we started holding onto the ball and started to get a bit more confidence, I knew that we would start believing.
“It’s difficult for teams to come and play at Loftus now and that is part of what we talk about.
“I was happy with the way all the players contributed. We didn’t even really train. To be fair we had three training sessions because COVID hit us so badly.
“What more can I say other than I’m really happy. We didn’t start as well as I would have liked, but at the end of the day we got the result and we finished top of the table, which is great for us.”
Due to their match on Wednesday and COVID-19 testing protocols, the Bulls team will be announced on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Pumas head coach, Jimmy Stonehouse, opted for consistency in selection for their final Currie Cup match of the season, making only one personnel change in the starting team.
Alwayno Visagie is promoted from the replacements bench to the run-on team in place of Erich Cronje at outside centre.
The only other difference to the starting XV that went down 25-33 against the Lions last week, was in the engine room where locks Pieter Jansen van Vuren and Darrien Landsberg switch numbers.
Last 10 Currie Cup outings
2010: Pumas won 22-21, Nelspruit
2011: Bulls won 16-12, Nelspruit
2011: Bulls won 47-12, Pretoria
2014: Bulls won 37-6, Nelspruit
2015: Bulls won 25-24, Nelspruit
2016: Bulls won 41-14, Nelspruit
2017: Pumas won 51-15, Nelspruit
2017: Bulls won 52-32, Pretoria
2018: Bulls won 39-29, Pretoria
2019: Bulls won 25-17, Nelspruit
@rugby365com: Bulls by eight points
Pumas: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Devon Williams, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Eduan Swart, 18 Heath Backhouse, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Giovan Snyman, 21 Tiaan Botes, 22 Sebastian de Klerk, 23 Liam Hendricks.
Bulls: 15 Clinton Swart, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Marnus Potgieter, 12 Dawid Kellerman, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Arno Botha (captain), 6 WJ Steenkamp, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Divan Venter, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Kabelo Mokoena, 23 Jay-Cee Nel.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge. AJ Jacobs
TMO: Johan Greeff
Additional source: SA Rugby
*Stats provided by Eddie Grieb