PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Eight
FINAL ROUND SCRAMBLE: The scramble for play-off spots and the remaining home semifinal will reach fever pitch this weekend as the pool stages of the Currie Cup comes to a dramatic conclusion in the presence of several returning Springboks.
Defending champions, Western Province, are guaranteed of a home semifinal, while the Sharks are certain of a semifinal berth, but they both have a chance of securing the top spot on the log.
The Blue Bulls, Golden Lions and Pumas, meanwhile, will battle it out for the remaining two semifinal spots in the competition.
We take a closer look all Round Eight’s fixtures:
Friday, October 12:
Pumas v Golden Lions
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The action kicks off in Nelspruit on Friday where the Pumas host the Golden Lions in a thrilling match-up in which both sides will be desperate for a bonus-point victory.
A five-pointer for the Gautengers will keep them in a running for a possible home semifinal, while a defeat for the hosts will dash their hopes of reaching the top four.
History favours the Golden Lions, as they have only gone down once against the men from Mpumalanga since 2011, although that defeat was in Nelspruit.
— Xerox Golden Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) October 11, 2018
The visitors have been in superior form on attack this season with 53 more points scored. However, the Pumas have been more effective on defence, which will spice things up.
Ryan Nell will captain the men from Mpumalanga in the absence of the injured Hugo Kloppers. Their team shows three changes from their last outing, with Francois Kleinhans taking over at No.8, Cameron Lindsay will start at lock and Marné Coetzee is the new tighthead prop.
The Golden Lions team, which will be led by Nic Groom, show five changes, with Springboks Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe in action after the Rugby Championship, while the new-look front row features hooker Corné Fourie and prop Jacobie Adriaanse.
2017: Golden Lions won 29-28, Johannesburg
2017: Pumas won 43-36, Nelspruit
2016: Golden Lions won 68-26, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 41-11, Nelspruit
2015: Golden Lions won 44-27, Johannesburg
Prediction: The Golden Lions will take this one by 12 points.
Pumas: 14 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Ruwellyn Isbel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Stefan Willemse, 19 Jeandré Rudolph, 20 Abri Griesel, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Henco Marais.
Golden Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Wandisile Simelane, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Jo-Hanko de Villiers, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Corne Fourie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Driaan Bester, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Shaun Reynolds.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Johre Botha
TMO: Marius Jonker
Saturday, October 13:
Griquas v Sharks
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
The action continues in Kimberley on Saturday as Griquas meet the Sharks in a match that the home team will play purely for pride after winning only one game this season.
However, the visitors will be wary of the hosts, who apart from having nothing to lose, will be buoyed by the fact that they won three of their last seven matches against the Durbanites in Kimberley. They will also be inspired by the fact that they scored 12 more points than their opponents in their last five matches.
Throughout the bye week, #OurSharks have been hard at work, both on the field and in the Gym!🎤🎶💪This is a ParodyWE DO NOT CLAIM OWNERSHIP OR RIGHTS TO ANY OF THE MUSIC FEATURED IN THIS VIDEOSweat (Snoop Dogg vs. David Guetta) [David Guetta Remix]. (P) (C) 2011 Capitol Records, LLC. All rights reserved.
Posted by The Sharks on Friday, 5 October 2018
Griquas made three personnel changes, all among the forwards, with Ewald van der Westhuizen, Sintu Manjezi and Wendal Wehr earning starts.
Curwin Bosch will move to flyhalf, with Robert du Preez at inside centre for the Sharks. They also welcome back two Springboks to their starting team in Sibusiso Nkosi (wing) and Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), while Jean-Luc du Preez will make his return from injury off the bench.
Congratulations to our Tafel Lager Griqua Player, André Swarts !!!
André will reach a significant milestone in his Tafel Lager Griqua career on Saturday.
— Griquas Rugby (@GriquasRugby) October 11, 2018
Furthermore, Akker van der Merwe will start at hooker with regular skipper Chiliboy Ralepelle on the bench. Louis Schreuder will captain the Durbanites in Kimberley.
“Although we have nothing to lose, we have secured a top-four place, but then again, we have everything to gain,” said Sharks tighthead prop Thomas du Toit.
“If we win this game, it sets us up nicely for the next one, and the one after that. We’re very excited for this weekend but know it’s a must-win for us.”
Tafel Lager Griquas Rugby – G.W.R.U. vs Cell C Sharks pre-match Press Conference.🎙 #GRIvSHA #OurSharksForever
Posted by The Sharks on Thursday, 11 October 2018
2017: Sharks won 40-22, Kimberley
2017: Sharks won 41-3, Durban
2016: Sharks won 46-24, Durban
2015: Sharks won 45-20, Kimberley
2014: Griquas won 21-18, Durban
Prediction: Sharks will take this one by 20 points or more.
Griquas: 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Kyle Steyn (captain), 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Conway Pretorius, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Khwezi Mkhafu, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacments: 16 Liam Hendricks, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 19 Eital Bredenkamp, 20 Louis Venter, 21 Stephan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Edwin Sass.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Robert du Preez, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 JJ van der Mescht, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Grant Williams, 21 Marius Louw, 22 Kobus van Wyk.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Jaco Kotze
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe
Blue Bulls v Western Province
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
The Blue Bulls and Western Province will meet in the grand finale to the pool stages at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, where the Capetonians may need only one or two log points to take the top spot on the log.
Fortunately for both teams, they will know exactly what they have to do to finish in the top four by the time the match kicks off.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls vs DHL Western Province Press Conference
Posted by Blue Bulls on Thursday, 11 October 2018
With Western Province boasting the best attacking form in the competition, the home side will face a tough test on defence, in particular, but they will draw inspiration from the fact that they have won two of their last three matches against their Cape rivals at Loftus Versfeld, while the defeat was by only one point.
Four Springboks, Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier, have been included in the Blue Bulls’ matchday squad. Papier, who was named on the bench, will make his Currie Cup debut in this highly anticipated clash against the log leaders and defending champions.
Springbok tighthead prop Wilco Louw will play his 50th match for Western Province as one of four players who have returned from national duty. The others are Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Damian Willemse and Ruhan Nel.
There are two more changes to the WP backline, with Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Dan du Plessis (inside centre) both included to start.
“We certainly have everything to play for and need all capable hands on deck, so the availability of the four players are very welcome,” said Blue Bulls coach, Pote Human.
“We are facing a formidable WP side who will also have some Springboks back. They are already in the semifinals, so they will play without fear and that will make them a very dangerous opponent. They are a very skilful team with lots of game breakers and our defence will be tested.”
Western Province head coach John Dobson said that his team are expecting a typically tough examination at Loftus Versfeld.
“The Blue Bulls will obviously be highly motivated for this match, which should provide us with the sort of challenge we need ahead of the play-offs.
“We have got an extremely exciting team and we are all looking forward to putting our plans into action at Loftus Versfeld,” he said.
2017: Western Province won 46-45, Pretoria
2017: Western Province won 45-34, Cape Town
2016: Blue Bulls won 36-30, Pretoria (semifinal)
2016: Blue Bulls won 45-26, Pretoria
2015: Western Province won 23-18, Pretoria (semifinal)
Prediction: Western Province will win by 10 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Franco Naude, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Hendre Stassen, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Matthys Basson.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Ruan Nortje, 19 Nic de Jager, 20 Embrose Papier, 21 Tinus de Beer, 22 Dylan Sage.
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Josh Stander.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Eduan Nel
TMO: Lesego Legoete
The attention will shift to the battle for final berths in the First Division on Friday, as the four semifinalists give everything to advance to top two when they take to the field in George and Kempton Park respectively.
Log-leaders, the South Western Districts Eagles, will host the Griffons at Outeniqua Park, while the Falcons will take on the Leopards at the Barnard Stadium in the penultimate round of action.
In George, SWD will be highly motivated to earn their first home final since 2010 and their first final berth since 2015 when they meet the Griffons. But they will be wary of the visitors who staged a dramatic comeback from a disappointing start to the season to force their way into the top four.
The fact that the Griffons have participated in three of the last four Finals will also be in the back of their minds, meaning they will not write off the opposition.
SWD and the Griffons have been closely matched on attack this season, with the home side scoring only one point more than their Welkom counterparts. However, the hosts boast the best defensive record in the competition.
In Kempton Park, the Falcons will be hunting their third victory in a row against the Leopards in what marks their fourth semifinal in the last five seasons. The match will also mark their second encounter in a row, as they met in Potchefstroom last week where the Falcons ground out a 41-35 victory. All this is expected to set the scene for a thrilling clash.
A victory for the Leopards would see them book their spot in a fourth successive final, while a win for the Falcons would mark their first final appearance since 2014.
Interestingly, the men from Kempton Park were the best attacking team during the pool stages, with 305 points in their six matches. However, they were third on the list of the most points conceded, meaning they will target a strong improvement in their defence going into the clash.
First Division Semifinals:
Friday, October 12:
Falcons v Leopards
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius and local appointment
SWD Eagles v Griffons
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Kick-off: 18.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Ruhan Meiring and local appointment