Now for the 'massive' trip to Bloemfontein
REACTION: The competition logjam means the final fortnight of league action is going to make for an intriguing and brutal run into the Currie Cup play-offs.
With just two rounds and a catch-up match remaining, the Bulls are still sitting pretty at the top the table – with 35 points.
Western Province (second on 31), Lions (29), Sharks (28) and Cheetahs (26) are seemingly fighting for the three semifinal places.
The teams who come first and second enjoy home advantage in the semifinals, adding spice to the remaining league fixtures.
It starts this coming Saturday, January 2, with three matches – the Pumas hosting the Lions in Nelspruit, the Sharks at home to Griquas in Durban and the ‘BIG’ match of the weekend, the Cheetahs against Western Province in Bloemfontein.
Four days later, Wednesday, January 6, the Bulls host the Lions at Loftus Versfeld in their catch-up match.
The last round of league action will see Griquas at home to the Cheetahs in Kimberley and the Sharks travelling to Cape Town to face Western Province in another humdinger at Newlands (both on Saturday, January 9).
The final match is when the Pumas hosts the Bulls in Nelspruit on Sunday, January 10.
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This week the focus will definitely be on the two biggest movers of the past weekend – WP and the Cheetahs.
Province moved into second place with a 34-17 bonus-point win over Griquas at Newlands this past weekend.
Coach John Dobson admitted it will be a “massive game” in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs team that demolished the Sharks 37-10 on Sunday, for the defending champions to move within two points of a play-off spot.
“We talked about this game [against the Cheetahs] in the change room,” the WP coach said, adding that their focus shifted to the Bloemfontein trip the moment they walked off the pitch after the victory over Griquas.
“We just talked about the importance of recovering and getting ready for next week and how important it is.
“We are actually a bit desperate to play as much rugby as we can at Newlands before [the departure to the Cape Town Stadium] next year.
“That is why next week’s game [in Bloemfontein] is so important.”
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie also spoke of the significance of putting another 80-minute performance on against the highly-rated WP outfit that will feature “several Springboks” – despite the COVID-19-enforced absence of captain Siyamthanda Kolisi.
“We all know that if you have 15 players who are on the same page – everybody is motivated, while believing in each other and the game plan – you can go a long way,” Fourie said of the pending encounter.
“We are looking forward to the match and, as it has been reported, these games are all knock-out fixtures for us.
“We know that if we lose this weekend we are out of the race, so winning is not negotiable.”