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Preview: Currie Cup, Round 10

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 20:42
Sharks-mascot-runs-630 Lions-mascot-with-cc-trophy Griquas-mascot-with-cc-trop Cheetahs-mascot-with-cc-tro Bulls-mascit-with-trophy-63
Jan de Koning looks at all the Week 10 action
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The result of the revamped strength-versus-strength Currie Cup competition is there for all to see!

As we head into the final round of South Africa's premier domestic competition, we have four of the six teams in a mad dash for the two remaining places - with every match to have an influence on the final standings.

In what will be one of the most intriguing conclusions to a season, Western Province, currently in third, could easily find themselves involved in a promotion-relegation match next week.

While the table-topping Sharks (on 30 points) and the second-placed Golden Lions (28 points) have already booked their places in the play-offs, first place and a home Final are still up for grabs.

However, it is far gripping when one looks at the script involving the other four teams.

Only two points separate WP (20) and the bottom-placed Blue Bulls (18) and such is the range of permutations that even if the Bulls and Cheetahs (both on 18 points) win, they could still finish last and be forced into a promotion-relegation match with the Kings next week.

Unlike WP coach Allister Coetzee, who admitted his team selection was motivated by the threat of a promotion-relegation match, Bulls mentor Pine Pienaar said they are not distracted by the sideshows playing itself out in the build-up to the final weekend of league action.

"We have no influence over what happens in the other games ... the bottom line is that we must win," Pienaar told this website in an interview.

"Whether that win gives us a place in the semifinals, or a fifth place so that we avoid a promotion-relegation game is beyond our control.

"We are focussing only on what we must do to get past the Lions," he added.

The Sharks can seal top spot - which brings with it a home semifinal and possible home Final, if they advance - when they host Griquas in Durban on Friday. The visitors, tied on 20 points with WP, are determined to secure one of the remaining play-off spots.

A win for Griquas, coupled with a victory for WP against the Cheetahs in Saturday's first game, in Cape Town, will confirm the four semifinalists - but leave the final match, between the defending champion Lions and Blue Bulls in Johannesburg, as a possible battle to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

However, defeat for Griquas, while the Bulls and Cheetahs both win, could see the Kimberley outfit face the Kings in next week's promotion-relegation battle.

Jan de Koning looks at all the Week 10 action!

Friday, October  12

Sharks v Griquas
(Mr Price Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)

The Sharks may not have been as liberal with the use of their Springboks as some other teams, but coach John Plumtree has included enough of them on the bench for insurance.

Plumtree named only one of his returning Boks, Pat Lambie at flyhalf, in the starting XV. However, he has prop Jannie du Plessis, hooker Craig Burden, flank Marcel Coetzee and wing Lwazi Mvovo are on the bench.

"The only thing that is on the line for us is to ensure that we host the Final in Durban," Plumtree said.

"We are expecting a huge onslaught from Griquas because for them there is a lot to play for as well.

"We will be looking to guys like Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane to get the ball rolling.

"Our impact bench can provide cover later on."

Griquas coach Pote Human admitted that his team has an enormous mountain to climb, but feels they have already showed this season they can knock over any team.

"You just can't afford to panic," he said, when asked what it will take to upstage the Bok-laden Sharks outfit.

"If you panic, your discipline and concentration goes.

"We must be patient and focus for 80 minutes."

Human said his team has grown tremendously in stature this season and have gained tremendous confidence from their wins over the Lions (twice) and Sharks (in Kimberley) this season.

"We play great attacking rugby, we can retain the ball through phases and everybody is enjoying it," Human said, adding: The guys play for each other ... they are truly enjoying what they are doing."

The Sharks are fresh from a 37-30 victory over the Cheetahs last week, and a similar performance will be vital if they are to beat a Griquas side on a high after beating the Lions in Kimberley.

"We need to pitch with the same attitude as we did against the Cheetahs," Plumtree said.

"We put in a good performance in Bloemfontein, but the challenge is to repeat that against a motivated Griquas side.

"They gained a lot of momentum from their victory over the Lions and will be a tough ask, even in Durban."

Results this season:

For the Sharks:
Free State Cheetahs 30-37 Sharks
Sharks 13-12 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 28-22 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

For Griquas:
Griquas 37-21 Golden Lions
Free State Cheetahs 35-20 Griquas
Western Province 45-21 Griquas
Griquas 49-34 Blue Bulls
Griquas 22-15 Sharks
Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Griquas 16-29 Free State Cheetahs
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

Prediction: It might be a lot closer than most pundits think, as Griquas have a way of unsettling the opposition with their all-action approach. The Sharks may well need to call on that insurance on the bench, but should manage a win - by 10 points or less.

Teams:


Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandré Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

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

Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistants: Ben Crouse, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Saturday, October 13

Western Province v Free State Cheetahs
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)

The threat of a promotion-relegation match forced WP coach Allister Coetzee to bring out all his big guns for the final weekend.

Coetzee made eight changes to his starting line-up, with the introduction of seven Springboks - including national skipper Jean de Villiers, who takes over the captaincy from flank Deon Fourie.

There is obviously a huge element of risk in making so many changes, but Coetzee admitted he had no alternative.
 
He would face a mutiny if Province were to drop out of the play-off race, or even worse, if they are subjected to the ignominy of playing the Kings in a promotion-relegation match.

The Cheetahs are in the same boat. They need the win not only to stay alive in the play-off race, but to also avoid finishing last and be subjected to a game against the Kings instead of playing for a trophy.

WP captain Jean de Villiers admitted that it will require a major adjustment for the national team members.

"The reality is that we have got seven guys coming into a side that has changed a bit from a style and mindset point of view, but we just need to get in a good 80 minutes on Saturday and hopefully put ourselves in a position to play in a play-off," De Villiers said of the more expansive approach Province have taken in the Currie Cup competition.

"We played Super Rugby and we were under constant pressure to play a more expansive game, we finished top of the log and it felt as if that wasn't good enough," he said of the Cape franchise's defence-orientated gameplan.
 
"Now you sit in a situation where you are playing a more expansive game and scoring tries, but you have got the possibility of playing promotion-relegation next week, which one do we really prefer?
 
"I think it is very exciting the way we have played in the Currie Cup and I am excited to play with that gameplan, but I think what we will probably bring from a national point of view is maybe a little bit more consistency or stability and decision-making in our own half and exits from our own half. We will look to combine that with the attacking mindset that has been very evident in the players in the last couple of weeks, so hopefully that will be the blend that can be the answer for us.
 
"Both teams have got something to play for so there is a lot on the line."
 
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss, who was De Villiers' vice-captain in the Bok team just a week ago, also spoke of the significance of the Newlands encounter.

The Bok hooker, who will be making his 50th Currie Cup appearance for the Cheetahs alongside fellow Bok Coenie Oosthuizen (also in his 50th game), said the 'must win' status of the game means it will be close to Test match intensity.

"It is effectively a knock-out game - win and we can be in the play-offs, lose and we may play promotion-relegation," Strauss said.

Results this season:

For Western Province:
Blue Bulls 26-13 Western Province
Western Province 9-22 Golden Lions
Western Province 45-21 Griquas
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 Free State Cheetahs:
Free State Cheetahs 30-37 Sharks
Free State Cheetahs 35-20 Griquas
Blue Bulls 34-30 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 could easily be the most brutal game of the weekend, given that there's so much at stake for both teams. It won't be pretty, that much Jean de Villiers made very clear. It is 'win at all cost'. Western Province will struggle in the first half and the Cheetahs may get close to an upset, but the quality in the WP team will see them secure a narrow win - by about five points.

Teams:

Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Gio Aplon.

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

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistants: Marius Jonker, Linston Manuels
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein

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

Lions Johan Ackermann has the luxury of keeping his powder dry, so to speak, as he rests a number of key players - mostly those who have been subjected to excessive game time this year.

It is a ploy that worked well last year and has worked for other teams in the past.

The Bulls don't have that convenience, as they are literally fighting for survival.

However, there is another reason, according to Bulls coach Pine Pienaar, why he did not hesitate in using all his Boks.

"Just, for a moment, forget about the standings ... in my opinion they are the team that plays the best rugby," he said of the defending champions.

"They are in the same situation that we are," Pienaar told this website, adding: "They are, like us, basically a Super Rugby team with the Boks that return."

The Lions mentor named only two of his returning Springbok players, with Pat Cilliers replacing Jacobie Adriaanse at tighthead prop and CJ van der Linde replacing captain JC Janse van Rensburg at loosehead.

The side's star flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, could be given an opportunity to face his Bulls counterpart Morné Steyn off the bench.

Ackermann, earlier this week, told this website why he needs to rest his key players. While many feel Griquas do have a chance of beating the Sharks on Friday and leaving the back door open, the Lions coach think the Sharks will win.

That means his team will finish second, regardless of whether they win or lose against the Bulls, and there is no need to risk his frontline players.

The likes of Cilliers and Van der Linde are there because they are in need of game time, having not seen much action with the national team.

Ackermann was adamant they are not going to hand the game on a platter to the Bulls.

"Regardless of what side we selected, it would be a tough game because they [the Bulls] will be a full-strength side," Ackermann said.

"We are going out to win the game and there is no doubt in my mind that the players will feel the same.

"If the Bulls are good enough to beat us with the team they bring, then they deserve a place in the semis."

Ackermann, however, sent a stern warning to the Bulls not to underestimate his side.

"It is definitely not a given that they are going to win and hopefully the Bulls don't think that way, otherwise they are going to have a surprise."

The Bulls mentor is aware of the enormity of the challenge and said his team will have to be accurate in the execution of the gameplan.

"We will have to absorb the pressure they will put on us and return the favour ... put them under pressure," Pienaar said, adding: "It will be a titanic battle."

He also felt that the set pieces are going to be crucial.

"The Lions have, by some distance, the best scrum [in the competition] and we will have to be on top of our game in that regard.

"Against WP [last week] we showed improvement and played tactically very well - the one aspect that cost us was our discipline ... we conceded 22 penalties, which we have addressed."

Results this season:

For the Golden Lions:
Griquas 37-21 Golden Lions
Western Province 9-22 Golden Lions
Golden Lions 28-22 Sharks
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 Blue Bulls:
Blue Bulls 26-13 Western Province
Sharks 13-12 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 34-30 Free State Cheetahs
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

Prediction: The Lions will put up some stern resistance, especially in the first half. However, the Bulls have been building some decent momentum and they will pull away in the final quarter - to win by 10 to 15 points.

Teams:

Golden Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Andrew James (captain), 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Whestley Moolman, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Mapoe.

Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Juandré Kruger, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dean Greyling.

Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistants: Lourens van der Merwe, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johan Greeff

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