PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Seven
WESTERN PROVINCE V SHARKS: Western Province and the Sharks will go head-to-head in a table-topping thriller in the Currie Cup in Cape Town on Saturday, where the winning side will secure a home semifinal.
The match – which marks the only Currie Cup Premier Division clash this weekend – is expected to be epic as both sides have won all four of their matches this season with bonus points and need only three more points in their two remaining matches to guarantee home semifinals in the competition.
Defending champions, Western Province, will enter the match as the second-best attacking team, with 27 tries to 17 by the Durbanites, while the teams have been closely matched on defence with the Capetonians conceding 78 points and their counterparts 72, which sets the scene for a cracker.
The fact that the last time the teams met was in the 2017 Currie Cup Final, which Western Province won 33-21 in Durban, is expected to spice things up.
Interestingly, the hosts have won four of the last five match-ups between the teams – three of which were in Durban – but they suffered defeats in all but one of their home games against the KwaZulu-Natalians at Newlands since 2013.
Western Province made eight personnel changes to their starting line-up, which features a new front row of Ali Vermaak, Scarra Ntubeni and Michael Kumbirai, while JD Schickerling and Ernst van Rhyn join Juarno Augustus in the loose trio. The changes among the backs see Jano Vermaak, SP Marais and Dillyn Leyds earn starts.
In stark contrast the Sharks squad shows only two changes, with Jacques Vermeulen taking over from Luke Stringer in the loose trio, while Leolin Zas is drafted onto the bench.
“The Sharks were very impressive physically against the Lions from what I saw, so it is going to be a nice Currie Cup classic Test match,” said WP coach John Dobson.
“After our second half [against Griquas] and their [Sharks] performance we have got no room for complacency.”
Western Province assistant coach Dawie Snyman said: “We are really looking forward to the game on Saturday.”
“It’s a big one, they are unbeaten and so are we. They have been showing some good form in the last few games, so we are expecting a big game and it is a nice challenge for us as a team.”
Meanwhile, Sharks prop Coenie Oosthuizen he warns that it’s going to be no easy feat if the Sharks are to come away victorious against the log leaders (on points differential only).
“They’re a phenomenal team, also unbeaten, and we know there is plenty of pressure on us for this game, even if we’re also unbeaten,” he said.
“Although we have won all the games so far and it is easier when you’re winning rather than losing, the job doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter how good you were the last game, the next game is the most important thing.
“So, there’s pressure to perform and pressure to be your best and always pressure for the team to bring their best. You’re only as good as your last game and we’re not resting on our past victories, we do our preparation 100 percent and respect every opposition. Western Province deserves every bit of respect they have earned.
“We’re feeling the pressure on us to win, but each and every one of us is up for the challenge, we want to win this game, we want to remain unbeaten in the tournament.”
2017: Western Province won 33-21, Durban (Final)
2017: Western Province won 31-20, Durban
2017: Sharks won 21-20, Cape Town
2016: Western Province won 34-27, Cape Town
2015: Western Province won 37-27, Durban
Prediction: There will be a lot on the line in Cape Town, so it should be an intense encounter. We think WP will win by five points.
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Cris Massyn, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle (captain), 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 18 Ruben van Heerden, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Leolin Zas, 22 Aphelele Fassi.
Date: Saturday, September 29
Venue: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 14.00 (12.00 GMT)
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds, Divan Uys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
In the First Division the Leopards, will have their sights set on a home semifinal, while the Boland Cavaliers will give everything in their final pool match to book their place in the top four, as the battle for semifinal places reaches fever pitch.
The Falcons will host the winless Eastern Province in the opening match on Friday, where they will target a victory to stay in contention for a place in the top four after stumbling last week.
This will be followed by an intense clash between the South Western Districts Eagles and Boland Cavaliers in George, who will both give everything, as a victory for the hosts could steer them a step closer to a possible home semifinal, while a bonus-point win for Boland will guarantee them a semifinal berth.
The clash in Welkom on Saturday between the Griffons and Leopards will mark a repeat of last year’s final, but the situation will be vastly different this time around as a win for the Leopards will guarantee them a home semi-final, while the hosts will be fighting for survival.
Even if the Griffons secure bonus-point victories in both their remaining matches, their fate may not be in their control after a disappointing start to the competition.
First Division Round Six fixtures:
Friday, 28 September:
Falcons v Eastern Province
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Kick-off: 14.00 (12.00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Mpho Matsaung and local appointment
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Kick-off: 18.00 (16.00 GMT)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Local appointments
Saturday, 29 September:
Griffons v Leopards:
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Darren Colby and local appointment
Watch the latest episode of Late Tackle below: