PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Seven
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The pool stages of the Currie Cup Premier Division will reach a dramatic conclusion on Saturday as five teams battle it out for the three remaining semifinal berths, while Griquas eye the top spot on the log and home ground advantage next weekend.
The log leaders from the Northern Cape host the Golden Lions in Kimberley in the opening match of the weekend on Saturday, which will be followed by clashes between the Free State Cheetahs and Western Province in Bloemfontein, and the Blue Bulls and Sharks in Pretoria.
The outcomes of these matches will determine the four semifinalists as well as the venues where these matches will play out.
We take a closer look at Round Seven’s fixtures!
Saturday, August 24:
Griquas v Golden Lions
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Griquas, who booked their first semifinal berth since 1998 last week, boast a two-point buffer at the top of the standings and they will be driven by the prospect of registering another victory to finish the regular season as the top team.
They will, however, face tough competition from the Golden Lions – who trail by only two log points – and who will enter the match knowing that while a victory could book them a home semifinal, a defeat without a bonus point could place their hopes in jeopardy depending on the other results.
Interestingly, the home side have scored two tries fewer than the Jozi outfit, while they both conceded 148 points in their five matches up to now, which will set the scene for an exciting clash.
Hoofafrigter – Brent JV Rensburg
— Griquas Rugby (@GriquasRugby) August 22, 2019
The Golden Lions have won seven of the last nine matches between the sides, but their two defeats were in Kimberley, which will be in the back of their minds.
The Golden Lions made four changes among the forwards for the clash, with Cyle Brink and Marnus Schoeman (both flanks), as well as Springbok lock Marvin Orie (lock) and Jacobie Adriaanse (prop), being drafted into the team.
The only change among the backs at inside centre where Duncan Matthews comes in for Manuel Rass.
The Griquas starting team showed only three changes, with Mox Mxoli (prop), Gideon van der Merwe (flank) and Chriswill September (scrumhalf) coming in for Khwezi Mona, Zandre Jordaan and Zak Burger respectively.
2018: Golden Lions won 62-41, Johannesburg
2017: Golden Lions won 34-17, Kimberley
2017: Golden Lions won 48-43, Johannesburg
2016: Griquas won 30-24, Kimberley
2015: Golden Lions won 29-19, Johannesburg
Griquas: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Chriswill September, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Nqobisizwe Mxoli.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Johan Momsen, 19 Conway Pretorius, 20 Christiaan Meyer, 21 Chris Smit, 22 Bjorn Basson, 23 Ruan Kramer.
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Duncan Matthews, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Ruben Schoeman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange, 23 Jamba Ulengo.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe
Free State Cheetahs v Western Province
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
The Free State Cheetahs and Western Province will be equally desperate for victories when they take to the field at the Free State Stadium.
The Capetonians, in particular, have their backs against the wall as a defeat will probably mark the end of their season, while the hosts will enter the match with a little more peace of mind knowing that a defeat with a bonus point could still see them finish in the top four. A victory, meanwhile, could nudge them to home semifinal.
The Free Staters boast a better attack and defence going into the match having scored over 50 points more than the opposition and 21 points fewer conceded. They will also draw inspiration from the fact that they emerged victorious the last two matches between the teams in Bloemfontein.
Western Province, however, won the last two outings between the sides in Cape Town, while they will also be fighting for survival, which will fuel their determination.
John Dobson (Western Province coach) named all three of their returning Springboks, newly-capped Scarra Ntubeni (hooker), Wilco Louw (prop) and Dillyn Leyds (fullback) in their starting team, while another Springbok, Damian Willemse (flyhalf) returns, and Junior Springbok centre Rikus Pretorius will make his debut in the midfield.
Pretorius will be a familiar face for Free State fans when he runs onto the field.
“Rikus is a good player. I think it is going to be a big game for him and I think he would love to show the Free State supporters that he has become a better player after he left Grey College,” said Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith.
“We would have loved to keep him in our fold, but now he is getting his opportunity in a big competition. So, it must be a huge game for him.”
Replacement hooker Chad Solomon faces a big milestone as he will earn his 50th Western Province cap should he take to the field.
Dobson said that his team is ready to give everything in Bloemfontein as they look to secure a place in the Currie Cup play-offs.
“We know that we need to produce a clinical performance on Saturday and it is a challenge that every single player has embraced this week.
“We are very excited about what this combination can do, with some talented players coming in this week and our focus is on making the most of that by being as accurate as possible,” he said
The Free State Cheetahs reshuffled their team with Darren Adonis (wing), Tian Schoeman (flyhalf), Abongile Nonkontwana (flank), Sintu Manjesi (lock), Abram Venter (prop) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) all earning starts in a side that show six personnel changes and three positional switches.
2018: Western Province won 32-0, Cape Town
2017: Western Province won 57-14, Cape Town
2017: Free State Cheetahs won 30-17, Bloemfontein
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 32-25, Cape Town
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 28-21, Bloemfontein
Prediction: Western Province
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Darren Adonis, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Tian Meyer (captain), 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjesi, 3 Abram Venter, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dries Swanepoel/Dian Badenhorst, 22 Louis Fouche.
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Nama Xaba, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Ruhan Meiring, Mpho Matsaung
TMO: JJ Wagner
Blue Bulls v Sharks
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.30; 17.30 GMT)
The Blue Bulls and defending champions, the Sharks will enter their match knowing exactly what they have to do to advance to the semifinal – a luxury of playing the last match on Saturday. But this will not have an influence on their mindset as they will both target a victory at all costs.
A win for the Sharks should be enough to see them through to the top four, while a bonus-point win for the Blue Bulls could still leave them short depending on the other results.
Given how closely matched the teams have been on attack and defence – with both teams having scored 14 tries this season and the KwaZulu-Natalians having conceded only four points less – it could prove to be an epic clash.
The Sharks have won the last five matches between the sides, but this will mean nothing to the Blue Bulls whose only focus will be to finish the season on a high note.
As expected, the Blue Bulls beefed up their team with Springboks Lizo Gqoboka (prop) and Marco van Staden (flank) in what marked the only two changes to the run-on side, with the Sharks opting to do the same with their returning Springboks, Thomas du Toit (prop) and André Esterhuizen (centre), while another Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen is also back in the front row.
“We know what we need to do, so our options are very clear cut,” said Blue Bulls coach Pote Human.
“We need to beat the Sharks by 12 points, with a bonus point and make sure they don’t get a bonus point. The job at hand cannot be clearer than that. So, this is a quarterfinal match for us, if you like.”
Ivan van Zyl will again lead the Bulls team and the scrumhalf indicated that the squad still have some rugby left to play.
“We are pretty determined to still be playing in three weeks’ time, come the Final of the Currie Cup. Everyone is on the same page with the same mind-set. We have the quality in the squad to do this, we need to go out and prove that.”
Meanwhile, Sharks wing Kobus Van Wyk believes his team has the momentum on their side after their victories over the Cheetahs and Golden Lions in the last two rounds.
“The team is in a good space right now and hopefully everything falls into place with this last game,” Van Wyk said.
“We’re almost there as a team, small margins have cost us a bit in terms of our rhythm, but everyone has bought into what coach Sean [Everitt] has put together as a campaign and in the games we lost.”
He added: “This is going to be a determined Bulls team, so we need to go out there and do what we have been doing for the last two weeks. We have the team to do it, we just need to do it. The past three or four weeks have been finals rugby for us, we’ve had to win every game and the team has grown immensely in that time.”
2018: Sharks won 26-10, Durban
2017: Sharks won 37-27, Durban (semifinal)
2017: Sharks won 18-5, Durban
2017: Sharks won 28-20, Pretoria
2016: Sharks won 28-19, Durban
Prediction: Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl (captain), 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corne Els, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Vaughen Isaacs, 23 Stedman Gans.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 JP Pietersen.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Phumzile Mbewu
TMO: Johan Greeff
With the Jaguares XV boasting admirable attacking statistics of over 10 tries per match in the pool stages, the Falcons will be wary of the fact that nothing but their best efforts will do to counter the Jaguares XV, who have conceded fewer than half the number of points so far, and scored close to triple the number of tries.
The Falcons will enter the match fresh off back-to-back defeats – one of which was a 19-122 drubbing against the Jaguares XV in Brakpan, but neither team will read much into that result after the East Randers fielded a largely inexperienced team for the match to cover for their star players, who participated in a tournament in Australia. Despite this, these results are expected to fuel the Falcon’s determination to create an upset.
The Griffons, meanwhile, be wary of the EP Elephant, who finished the pool stages only four points adrift on the table with four victories in their seven outings. Given the small margins on attack and defence between the sides throughout the season, with the men from Welkom scoring only eight more tries and conceding 22 more points, it could prove to be a nail-biting clash.
Both sides will enter the match with confidence as the EP Elephants come off three successive victories, while the home side suffered their only defeat in the first round.
The Griffons emerged victorious in their pool match, but it was a by a mere four points due to their superior kicking, as both teams scored three tries in the match.
Should the Jaguares XV win their semifinal, they will book a home final as the top team on the log at the conclusion of the pool stages.
First Division semifinals:
Saturday, August 24:
Jaguares XV v Falcons
Venue: Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds, Potchefstroom
Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT
Referee: Egon Seconds
Griffons v EP Elephants
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT
Referee: Quinton Immelman