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Preview: Currie Cup, Round Seven

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 21:48
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Jan de Koning looks at all the Round Seven action!
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Crunch time! Those two words perfectly sum up Week Seven's Currie Cup action.

You have the two top teams - Golden Lions and Sharks, both on 20 points and separated only by points difference - tackling each other. The Lions have the home ground advantage.

Also going head-to-head are the teams in third and fourth places on the standings - Western Province and Griquas, on 15 points and also separated only by points difference. Province are at home.

The added spice to the weekend's drama is that the Blue Bulls (last place, nine points) and Free State Cheetahs (just two points above them in fifth ) face each other.

And with just three round remaining after this week's action it is obvious the margins for error are minimal.

The Bulls may be bottom of the standings, but their flyhalf, Louis Fouché, is at the top of the points scoring list - with 83, made up of 10 conversions, 20 penalties and a drop-goal. Behind Fouché in tied second place are Sharks centre Meyer Bosman and Griquas flyhalf Francois Brummer, who both have 79.

Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane, Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule, Blue Bulls loose forward CJ Stander and Griquas wing Rocco Jansen are the joint top try-scorers with four touchdowns apiece.

Jan de Koning looks at all the Round Seven action!

Saturday, September 22:

Western Province v Griquas
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Griquas coach Pote Human pointed out this week that the men from Kimberley have not won at Newlands since 1911 - that is more than a century since they last tasted success in a Currie Cup match in Cape Town.

And in that period Western Province at times fielded teams that seemed, on paper at least, far less intimidating than the class of 2012.

There was last week's disappointing loss to the Sharks, in which some players seemed determined to show the most spiteful side of WP rugby.

However, Griquas feel that was a minor hiccup by a team brimful of quality players.

"WP at Newlands are very different," the Griquas mentor, Human, told this website.

"A few weeks ago they gave the Bulls a huge hiding at Newlands," he said, adding: "They are very dangerous and they will come back us this weekend, they will throw everything at us - they will be determined to make up for the loss in Durban."

Griquas, who put on display their full array of attacking skills, last week handed the Bulls another demoralising defeat in Kimberley.

However, according to Human they were still below the expected standards and will need to raise the bar considerably.

"I am disappointed with the number of tries we concede," the Griquas coach said, adding: "We make unforced errors and concede soft tries. I am concerned about our defence - that is one aspect we have to work on.

"Also, we concede to many penalties at the breakdown ... we need to be more disciplined at the breakdown.

"For the rest, I have to compliment the team for the quality of their rugby."

Province have some worries of their own. Their discipline was appalling in Durban, where they were reduced to a 12-man team at the end, after being on the receiving end if two red cards and one yellow card.

Canadian import Jebb Sinclair was later given a slap on the wrist and cleared to play, because of provocation, while Tyrone Holmes was handed a minimal one-week ban.

The Province faithful will see the results of the disciplinary hearing as vindication of their belief that their players were not thugs. However, the reality is that their lack of discipline - the fact that they allowed themselves to be provoked so easily - is what cost their team last week.

WP captain Deon Fourie spoke of the importance of maintaining discipline and the need to focus on the game, not the man.

"It was frustrating at times," Fourie said, when asked about the team's discipline.

"After that yellow card we were down to five forwards, so it was difficult.

"Luckily we learned from it and saw that we can't play with five forwards.

"I think that is the biggest frustration this week, that if the two red cards and the yellow card hadn't have happened then we probably would have won that game."

And that is the key.

Province, when on song and playing to their potential, are capable of beating any team.

Griquas are capable of upsetting any team's rhythm.

Results this year:

For Western Province:
Sharks 43-27 Western Province
Free State Cheetahs 22-29 Western Province
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

For the Sharks:
Sharks 43-27 Western Province
Griquas 22-15 Sharks
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

Prediction: It is Newlands and there is a good reason why Griquas haven't won there in over 100 years. It is the same reason why the Blue Bulls coughed up over 40 points there not so long ago. Western Province have the talent and at home they play like demons possessed. WP should win a high-scoring affair by between 10 and 15 points.

Teams:

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

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Richard Lawson, 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 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu.

Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistants: Sindile Mayende, Marc van Zyl
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein

Blue Bulls v Free State Cheetahs
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)

The coaches from both teams dismissed the notion that they are already fighting for survival.

However, the losing team on Saturday will be that much closer to a promotion-relegation series against Port Elizabeth's very own Kings at the end of the season.

For the winner the 'prize' is that their Premier Division play-off dream stays alive during the last few frantic weeks.

Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted that his side has no option left but to win.
 
"Our task is a simple one," he told a media briefing at Loftus Versfeld this week, adding: "We have to win every match from here on in if we want to play in the semifinals.

"Everyone understands that and accepts the fact that we only have ourselves to blame for this."

Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter were just as frank in his assessment of the situation.

"There are no second chances left," Potgieter said.

"We have to turn this season around and justify all the hard work that we put in and reward the faith that has been placed in us," he added.
 
The return of two Springboks - released from national duty for this weekend - is a welcome boost for the beleaguered Bulls.

"It is great to have the likes of [scrumhalf] Jano [Vermaak] and [loose forward] Jacques [Potgieter] back and I am sure their experience will be very valuable on the weekend," Pienaar said.
 
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie raised the issue of 'soft moments' when asked what they needed to do to turn their season around.

The men from Bloemfontein, just like their rivals from Pretoria, have stumbled in their last three outings.

"One aspect is to stop conceding so many soft tries," Fourie said.

"We work hard to score points and the last two weeks, against the Lions and Sharks, we just conceded soft tries - that contributed to our defeats.

"It is vital that on defence we remain switched on for the entire duration of the game."

He admitted that on attack they were also not up to the standard they expect of themselves.

"It is a big focus point for us to get our attack on the level it was in Super Rugby," Fourie said, adding: "We are not getting quick ball from the breakdown, while we also are not organised for long enough in the game ... after four or so phases the players start playing one-off runners from No.9, which makes us predictable and easy to defence against."

Results this year:

For the Blue Bulls:
Griquas 49-34 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 23-32 Golden Lions
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Free State Cheetahs 32-18 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

For the Free State Cheetahs:
Free State Cheetahs 23-38 Golden Lions
Free State Cheetahs 22-29 Western Province
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

Prediction: This is probably the toughest game of the weekend to call. It is indeed a case of which team wants it most and desire is the most difficult aspect to predict. They will all tell you they want to win, but not until the game gets underway do you get to see who really wants it. The Bulls, because they are at home, should be fancied to win by a narrow margin - less than 10 points.

Teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Ulrich Beyers.

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie  Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Raymond Rhule, 12 Robert  Ebersohn (captain), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Tewis de Bruyn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Sias Ebersohn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Andries Strauss.

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistants: Lourens van der Merwe, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Golden Lions v Sharks
(Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)

In some quarters it is billed as a 'replay' of last year's Currie Cup Final, because it is Johannesburg. Others again suggest the Lions will be looking to avenge their first-round defeat to the Sharks.

However, it is significant because of the influence it will have on the standings and the knock-on effect in the last few weeks before the play-offs.

Sharks coach John Plumtree suggested this top-of-the-table clash could be decisive in determining the destiny of the Currie Cup trophy this year.

"It's an important stage of the competition,' Plumtree said, adding: "It's a run-in now with only four games to go before the play-offs.

"It's the side that finds some real consistency now and strings those three or four wins together that's going to claim that top spot.

"That's ultimately key to winning the Currie Cup, having a home Final is really important."

Lions coach Johan Ackermann echoed similar sentiments, adding that his team will look to build on the momentum created with their victories over the Cheetahs and Bulls in the last fortnight.

"It was good to win away from home," Ackermann said of his team's triumphs, adding: "It showed the guys that they can do it.

"However, this week is a new challenge and regardless of where we play we have to play well.

"It is a short competition, there are not a lot of games, so every game is important. Regardless of who we are playing and what happened against them in the first round. it is another game and another opportunity to keep our noses in front."

The Lions mentor felt his team's set pieces have been the ideal launchpad for their fine attacking style and they will again hope to create a platform for victory in this department.

"For us the scrum is an area of launch, where we want to start playing with our ball, and if we can give the backs a good stable scrum then that is our main focus.

"I know the scrums have gone well recently, and it is a pack that is working together nicely, but we don't sit down and say that we are going to scrum this side or do that.

"On defence you obviously want to have a certain type of scrum and on attack you want to give your backs the ball.

"So we are just focusing on our game and not saying that this side has got a weak scrum, we just want to have a good scrum every scrum regardless of whose ball it is."

Results this year:

For the Golden Lions:
Free State Cheetahs 23-38 Golden Lions
Blue Bulls 23-32 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

For the Sharks:
Sharks 43-27 Western Province
Griquas 22-15 Sharks
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

Prediction: This will be a cracker - not just because of the game's importance, but because of the quality of the two teams. The Sharks have some key players back from Springbok duty and will start as favourites ... only just. The Lions, as always, will be energetic and full of running. The Sharks' defence may just trump them. The Sharks to win by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach /Jaco Taute, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes/Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1  JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen/Ruan Botha, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20  Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco Taute/Dylan des Fountain.

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Brynard Stander, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Paul Jordaan, 22 Sbura Sithole.

Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistants: Jaco Peyper, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: JC Fortuin

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