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Preview: Currie Cup, Round Five

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 22:30
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Jan de Koning looks at all the Currie Cup Round Five action!
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South Africa's premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup Premier, reaches the halfway stage in what remains a hotly contested race.

So far no team has been able to put any distance between themselves and the chasing pack, with the table-topping Sharks' three-point lead over Western Province the biggest difference between first and second so far this season.

Even then, just six points separates first and fifth, and eight points first and sixth in the six-team strength-versus-strength competition.

It could all change this week, as the Sharks have a real chance of opening a handy lead over their rivals.

Blue Bulls flyhalf Louis Fouché tops the competition's point-scoring, with 66 points - six conversions, 17 penalties and a drop-goal. Behind Fouché in second place is Sharks centre Meyer Bosman on 41, with Western Province flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis third on 40.

Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane and Free State Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule lead the try-scoring stakes with four touchdowns apiece, with Blue Bulls loose forward CJ Stander and Griquas wing Rocco Jansen on three apiece.

Jan de Koning looks at all the Round Five action!

Saturday, September 8

Griquas v Sharks
(GWK Park, Kimberley - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Kimberley is not the best place to go if you are hoping to get five points and increase your lead on the standings.

Even more worrying for the table-topping Sharks will be the fact that their last two visits - with teams far more powerful than the current crop - came unstuck in the Northern Cape capital.

The Durban side will have taken a substantial amount of confidence from their remarkable 34-32 come-from-behind victory – their third in four matches – over the Free State Cheetahs last week.

However, that was in Durban and they are up against a team that ran both Western Province and the Cheetahs close, before knocking over the defending champion Lions in Johannesburg.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has taken note of Griquas progress.

"The way they dismantled the Lions was very impressive - they scored a try at the end through 13 phases, starting in their own 22, which was top drawer stuff," Plumtree said.

"In the first few rounds they haven't played for 80 minutes, but they did on the weekend and they dominated pretty much for 80 minutes as well and the Lions are a good side, Currie Cup champs.

"Every contest Griquas have been in, they've been right in it and leading and either just lost, or as we saw on the weekend, won. We have a lot of respect for them and we've done a lot of homework on them."

The Sharks mentor admitted that the home team has some "key performers" running the show and they will need to be cautious.

"One of them is Willie le Roux, he is a massive threat," Plumtree said, adding: "I like the way they use him on attack, he could develop into one of the best attacking backs in South Africa; he's quick, has a great step and a beautiful pass. He's going to get better and better, he has a big future."

Despite his team's improved fortunes, their first win of the season, coach Pote Human felt his team will have to lift their standards considerably against the Sharks.

"We were disappointed with our scrumming and our one-on-one tackling," he told this website, when asked about the trip to Johannesburg last week.

"We missed far too many tackles and we've worked hard on our defence.

"Our scrumming was certainly not very good, which is another aspect we will have to pay a lot of attention to."

Despite their recent record against the Sharks, who have not won in Kimberley since 2009, Human said they were taking nothing for granted.

"The belief and confidence is there, but we are well aware of how dangerous the Sharks are," the Griquas coach said.

"They are playing great rugby at present and they came back against the Cheetahs after it looked like they had already lost the game. They fight to the bitter end, so we are in for a huge battle on Saturday.

"We have beaten very strong Sharks teams here [in Kimberley], but we can't afford any measure of complacency. We have to improve on last week's performance [against the Lions] and come up with another big 80-minute effort."

Results this year:

Griquas:
Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Griquas 16-29 Free State Cheetahs
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

Sharks:
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

Prediction: You would be silly not to make the Sharks favourites. They are, after all, top of the table and playing against the team that is last. But it is not that simple - just ask the Golden Lions. Griquas have a settled team of hardy players and when they get it right, they can mix it with the best. Still, we'll back the Sharks to sneak a hard-earned win - 10 points or less.

Teams:

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Richard Lawson.

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel (captain), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Marius Joubert.

Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistants: Jaco Peyper, Francois de Bruin
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)

This is indeed the 'dance of the desperates. Both teams come off disappointing defeats ad neither can afford to lose any ground.

The nature if the competition - reduced to a six-team, strength-versus-strength format run over just 10 weeks - means any ground lost now will be double difficult to make up.

The Blue Bulls find themselves in the unfamiliar position of second-from-bottom after a 6-42 defeat at the hands of Western Province last week - a performance coach Pine Pienaar described as "pathetic".

His Lions counterpart, Johan Ackermann was equally unimpressed with his team's loss to Griquas, even if the scoreline was nowhere near as monstrous.

And Ackermann showed his displeasure by axing three Springboks - hooker Bandise Maku, prop CJ van der Linde and utility back Butch James.

As the cliché goes, you know what you have in them. Unfortunately they are not always performing to their potential.

The return of exciting utility back Jaco Taute, even though he is on the bench, will boost the team.

The dramatic changes to the Lions' front row has not changed the Bulls' view of their main threats.

Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter felt the Lions remain one of the competition's biggest threats.

"They [the Lions] have great set pieces ... they got four penalties and free kicks from scrums [against Griquas] last week," Potgieter told this website.

"Their line-outs are also right up there - there is no doubt our pack will be up against it this Saturday."

While the Bulls had a few scrum issues earlier in the season, Potgieter felt those issues have now been resolved.

"If there is one thing we can take from the WP game is that our scrum was relatively stable ... we conceded just one free kick for and early engage. In a game where everything else came apart at the seams, our scrums were fine.

"Compared to how we struggled earlier [in the year] we regard this [the scrums] as a strength. We have worked hard on our scrums, as it is a facet where we would like to launch some plays from."

However, like the Lions, the Bulls last week slipped far too many tackles.

"No matter what plans you have in place on attack, if your defence lets you down you will be in trouble.

"We spoke a lot about the mental aspect of it ... I believe defence is 80 percent in your head. You must make that decision to commit to the tackle."

He said there was nothing wrong with their defensive patterns, it was in terms of execution where they came up short against WP.

"We made some uncharacteristic errors on defence," Potgieter said, adding: "No doubt too many one-on-one tackles were missed and that is unacceptable.

"We know that the Lions are going to come at us all the time and if our mindset does not improve from what happened against WP we will be in trouble again."

Results this year:

Blue Bulls:
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Free State Cheetahs 32-18 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

Golden Lions:
Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Golden Lions 43-20 Free State Cheetahs

Prediction: The Lions have showed all season they can attack and score great tries. In fact the Lions have scored more tries (11) than the Blue Bulls (seven), who have to date relied heavily on the boot of Louis Fouche. However, it has been on defence - the Lions have leaked 11 tries and the Bulls 12 - where they have come up short. Whoever gets this facet of their game sorted out, should take home the spoils. We feel the Bulls, at home, should have enough fire power to edge the Lions - by at least five points.

Teams:
 
Blue Bulls: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Rudi Paige, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Jürgen Visser.

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco Taute.
 
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistants: Marius Jonker, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johann Meuwesen

Free State Cheetahs v Western Province
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)

The biggest challenge for Western Province will be to prove that last week's sublime free-flowing performance was not a once-off.

After months of playing a defence-orientated game, WP's young team showed the more senior members (who are either injured or on Springboks duty - what can happen when you play with freedom.

Now the men from Cape Town, who travel to Bloemfontein looking for a third win from five matches, will have to play that same expansive game against the masters of attacking rugby - the Free State Cheetahs.

There is no doubt the Cheetahs are at their best when the game is played at high pace and structure is at a minimum.

WP captain Deon Fourie said he was confident his side would be fully prepared for a tough Cheetahs challenge and said WP would have to forget about their convincing win over the Blue Bulls last weekend in preparing for their next fixture.

"We had a lot that went in our favour and the ball bounced well for us," Fourie said this week.

"But that does not go without saying that we were prepared and up for whatever was thrown our way, and we'll take the same approach with us to Bloemfontein."

Province coach Allister Coetzee believes the victory over the Bulls will build confidence and ensure the side will remain in the hunt for a semifinal spot.

"Some of our Under-21s have been tested at the highest level, and they have really put in a fantastic effort with the superior results," Coetzee said.

"Building our team has a dual purpose in developing players and consistently winning.

"It is a matter of keeping continuity and we want to be consistent.

"We are very fortunate to have a reserve bench who can cover more than one position, so we have selected players specific to the plan we've implemented and spoken about for a while now."

Despite the return from injury of Springbok loose forward Heinrich Brüssow, injuries have forced Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské to drag veteran Bok Hendro Scholtz kicking and screaming out of retirement.

Having played his last game in Italy back in May, before calling time on his career, the 33-year-old loose forward will be on the bench after hard-man Frans Viljoen was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a fractured arm.

Despite the return of Brüssow, after he recovered from his latest knee injury, the Bok stalwart will most probably not play more than 40 minutes.

Add to that the loss of Viljoen, Lucas Floors (knee), Johannes Prinsloo (shoulder), Philip van der Walt (foot) and Juan Smith (Achilles) and the enormity of the crisis is put into perspective.

Not how you want to go into a game against a team of WP's caliber.

Results this year:

Free State Cheetahs:
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Griquas 16-29 Free State Cheetahs
Free State Cheetahs 32-18 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 43-20 Free State Cheetahs

Western Province:
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

Prediction: If Western Province can reproduce last week's all-action performance in Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs are going be in for a long, tough day at the office. The scoreline may not be as big as it was against the Bulls, but Western Province appear to be a team on the rise and they should win - by 10 to 15 points.

Teams:
 
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.

Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Steven Kitshoff, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Patrick Howard, 22 Kurt Coleman.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistants: Joey Salmans, Francois Groenewald
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee

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