Mad dash for play-offs
CURRIE CUP SPOTLIGHT: Strap yourself in. The seventh and final round of league action is going to be manic!
The only team guaranteed of a place in the semifinals is Griquas, who secured their first appearance in the play-offs in a decade with their hard-earned 27-23 win over Western Province in Kimberley at the weekend.
For the rest, it is a mad dash – with five teams hustling for the three remaining spots.
And with all three the final round matches taking place on Saturday, it will be truly an enthralling day.
It all starts when Griquas host the Golden Lions in Kimberley.
The Lions, who sat pretty at the top of the standings after their first three matches, are coming off two defeats – both in which they collected two bonus points.
They require just two points to book their place, but don’t appear to be in a good mental space.
Captain Ross Cronje described some of the decision-making in their 28-30 loss to the Sharks at Ellis Park at the weekend as ‘insanity’.
“It is something we really have to look at,” he said, adding: “I was a bit disappointed with the boys.
“We have a big challenge, especially up-front. Griquas have a very solid pack.”
He said the Lions have not ‘clicked’ once this season.
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“The boys need to man up this [coming] weekend. It is a matter of some players putting their hands up and taking responsibility.
“Hopefully we will click in the play-offs, but we have to get into the play-offs first.”
The Free State Cheetahs, the pre-tournament favourites, host a Western Province team in desperate need to arrest their own slide.
Apart from their (23-27) loss to Griquas at the weekend, their only win in the last four rounds was against the hapless Pumas.
Stuck in fifth place, they need to beat the second-placed Cheetahs – whose only win in the last three rounds was a scratchy 43-37 triumph over the Pumas.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith will have to work on his team’s defence, after they coughed up five tries against the Pumas in Nelspruit at the weekend.
The return of Springboks Siyabonga Ntubeni, Wilco Louw and Dillyn Leyds will significantly boost WP. They can also bank on the amazing talents of Damian Willemse, who coach John Dobson sees exclusively as a flyhalf.
The final match of Saturday sees a desperate Blue Bulls team hosting the high-flying Sharks in Pretoria.
These two teams will know exactly what is required of them by the time their game kicks off.
If WP beat the Cheetahs, the Sharks will require a bonus-point win over the Bulls to advance. If the Cheetahs win, a solitary point will be enough for the Sharks to advance.
For the Bulls to advance, the Cheetahs must win, without WP getting any points, and then the Bulls must also score a bonus-point win over the Sharks (without the latter getting any points) and significantly increase their own points difference.
* Meanwhile the Pumas will start preparing for a possible promotion-relegation battle.
The top South African side in the First Division, the Griffons, has qualified to play in the promotion-relegation match, against the Pumas, should they decide to do so.
The table-topping Jaguares XV does not qualify for promotion to the Premier division and the Griffons could decline to participate in the promotion battle if they feel they will not be competitive in the upper echelon.
In the First Division, the Jaguares XV secured the top spot on the log after their seventh straight victory of the season.
The Jaguares XV will host the Falcons in Potchefstroom and the EP Elephants will travel to Welkom to face the Griffons in the semifinals.
@rugby365com, with additional reporting by SA Rugby Communications
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