Last roll of the dice for WP
MAKE OR BREAK: With just one round remaining, the race for a top-four spot in the Currie Cup is a mad dash between three teams for two places.
The two leading teams – the Bulls and Sharks – have already qualified for the play-offs.
The defending champion the Bulls (44 points on the standings) and the second-placed Sharks (40 points) are guaranteed home ground advantage in the semifinals.
The Sharks is the only team that can still overtake the Bulls at pole position.
The other places are a race between Griquas (33), Pumas (32) and Western Province (30).
Following the Cheetahs’ defeat to the Pumas this past Saturday, the Bloemfontein team and the Lions have dropped out of the playoff race.
‘Still in our hands’
The Bulls need just two points to conclude the season at the top of the table and book a home Final – if they win in the semifinal.
To overtake them, the Sharks need to secure a bonus-point win over Province in Durban and hope the Bulls do not get two or more points from their encounter with the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld.
Given Sharks’ superior point difference over Jake White’s men, a bonus-point win could see the Durbanites end the season in the No.1 position.
However, it will be easier said than done, as the Sharks face a very desperate Western Province side.
Fresh from a shocking 25-46 loss to the Griquas, the men from the Cape will have to produce one of their best performances this season to beat the Sharks and quality for the playoffs.
John Dobson’s side is in control of their own destiny when they travel to Durban.
However, should they lose it will mean that the last two spots will go to the Griquas and Pumas.
A draw between the third-place Griquas and Pumas (fourth) on Saturday could also see Province’s season come to an uncanny end.
Speaking to reporters, following Sunday’s loss in Kimberley, Dobson said he is targeting five points against Sharks.
“It was a very disappointing day for us, especially not getting the points that we needed,” he said.
“We’re still in the competition,” Dobson said, adding: “We just need to make sure that we get five points in Durban.
“We have a reasonable recent record there.
“It is still in our hands, and we have a lot to play for next week.”
For the Sharks the fixture against WP is a chance to settle on combinations ahead of the play-offs said head coach Sean Everitt.
“We are a performance-driven team, so we want to put in a good performance week in and week out,” Everitts told reporters.
“We have rotated our team regularly to try and build depth in the squad and from next week onwards we like to start settling on certain combinations that will take us forwards in the semifinals and hopefully the Final,”
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) August 23, 2021
The outside forces
Griquas and Pumas have added to the very interesting conclusion of the Currie Cup season.
Having won Currie Cup three times (in 1899, 1911 and 1970) the Griquas have been very impressive under the guidance of coach Scott Mathie.
The Kimberley side recorded big wins against the Lions, Sharks and did the double against Province.
The Pumas have also bagged some major scalps this season.
Saturday’s 28-19 win over the Cheetahs was their fifth victory of the season.
“A little bit disappointed that we did not get a bonus point,” Pumas head coach Jimmy Stonehouse told reporters.
“However, we will take this win and the four points.
“The way we fought in the last ten minutes was amazing,”
He added: “The only injury concern is Pieter however given we have a full week he will have ample time to recover and the whole squad will be available for next week,”
Saturday, August 28
Griquas v Pumas (kick-off 14.30)
Bulls v Cheetahs (kick-off 16.45)
Sharks v Western Province (kick-off 19.00)