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Preview: Lions v Western Province

Thu, 18 Oct 2012 23:20
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Jan de Koning previews the encounter between the Lions and WP
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The Golden Lions are aiming to score their fifth consecutive Currie Cup win over Western Province.

Their current run of victories include a 2011 league match, as well as last year's semifinal, and if they get their fiver it will produce a rare season clean-sweep over the Capetonians.

However, there is an anomaly in this season's competition that could make a mockery of any attempt at predicting an outcome.

The Lions have twice beaten Western Province this year, while Western Province twice beat Griquas and Griquas twice beat the Lions.

WP coach Allister Coetzee must also wonder what he has done to upset lady luck - having lost three more senior Springboks to injury this week: Bok captain Jean de Villiers, lock Andries Bekker and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg.

In stark contrast Lions coach Johan Ackermann was able to leave three Boks - Bandise Maku, CJ van der Linde and Butch James - on the bench, with a fourth, Pat Cilliers, out of the matchday 22 altogether.

The Lions mentor, who is able to call on 17 members in his matchday 22 that featured in last year's semifinal and Final victories, is reaping the rewards of resting the bulk of his squad last week.

"That is one of the reasons we wanted to rest some of our senior players, so that I should not have selections issues," Ackermann told this website.

"We did have the hiccup with two players [Lionel Mapoe and Deon van Rensburg] injured, but luckily Jaco [Taute] and Alwyn [Hollenbach] that are back. We also have Dylan des Fountain to fall back on ."

Those missing from last year's play-offs are Wikus van Heerden (retired), Joshua Strauss (in Scotland), Michael Killian (EP Kings), Doppies la Grange (Italy) and Martin Bezuidenhout (abroad).

Their replacements are not half bad - Jaco Taute, Anthony Volmink, Warren Whiteley, Michael Rhodes and Bandise Maku.

Other youngsters have also put up their hands this year.

"Through the year players like Ruan Combrinck, Deon Helberg and Anthony [Volmink] showed they are up to standard at this [Currie Cup] level," Ackermann told this website.

"It is also an opportunity for players like that to make their mark.

"However, the core of our players do have that experience of playing in a semifinal and know what it takes to win in these crunch matches."

Province coach Allister Coetzee admitted this week that getting the players to calm down was a major issue, as last year they were a touch too hyped up before the semifinal.

"It is important for us to play well as a team and not worry too much about the result, but just make sure we get our processes right," Coetzee said.

"Last week [in the win against the Free State Cheetahs] it was also a pressure sort of game and we focused on what we could control and got that right.

"We know the importance of the game, I don't think you need to explain to players the importance of semifinals and play-offs."

The other vital factor is the weather - with a typical Highveld thunderstorm predicted for early evening.

"We have looked at the weather and there is a 65 percent chance of thunderstorms, but it is not going to change our plan," Coetzee said.

"Our preparations have gone well in terms of the team cohesion stuff and our set-piece that we want to get right and our decision-making around crucial areas at the breakdown."

Players to watch:

For the Golden Lions: Those brilliant attacking backs - Andries Coetzee, Jaco Taute, Alwyn Hollenbach and Anthony Volmink, but most of all flyhalf Elton Jantjies. They are the men that so often set the stage alight. However, that would not be possible without the hard work of a very effective loose trio - Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel and Cobus Grobbelaar.

For Western Province: With Gio Aplon at fullback there are bound to be a few more counter attacks. Juan de Jongh and Marcel Brache are two great steppers, but their distributions skills will be in the spotlight. Burly Duane Vermeulen, nimble Deon Fourie and the bruising Eben Etzebeth are the visitors' key forwards.

Head to head: Two of the most exciting flyhalves - Elton Jantjies (Golden Lions) and Demetri Catrakilis (Western Province) go head to head in what will be  good indicator of their future prospects - Jantjies as a Springbok pivot and Catrakilis as the Southern Kings' flyhalf in 2013. How much the Lions' front row of Jacobie Adriaanse, Callie Visagie and JC Janse van Rensburg can dominate against the WP trio of Frans Malherbe, Siyabonga Ntubeni and Steven Kitshoff could also go a long way in determining the outcome. The same goes for the line-out battle between Franco van der Merwe (Lions) and De Kock Steenkamp (WP).

Recent Currie Cup results:
2012: Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
2012: Western Province 9-22 Golden Lions
2011: Golden Lions 29-20 Western Province (semifinal)
2011: Golden Lions 42-25 Western Province
2011: Western Province 28-26 Golden Lions
2010: Lions 46-28 Western Province
2010: Western Province 32-0 Lions

Golden Lions v Western Province in semifinals:
1997: Western Province 38 Lions 18
2000: Western Province 43 Lions 22
2011: Golden Lions 29-20 Western Province

Road to the play-offs:

Golden Lions:
Round One: Golden Lions 43-20 Free State Cheetahs
Round Two: Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Round Three: Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Round Four: Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Round Five: Blue Bulls 23-32 Golden Lions
Round Six: Free State Cheetahs 23-38 Golden Lions
Round Seven: Golden Lions 28-22 Sharks
Round Eight: Western Province 9-22 Golden Lions
Round Nine: Griquas 37-21 Golden Lions
Round 10: Golden Lions 29-50 Blue Bulls

Western Province:
Round One: Western Province 23-25 Sharks
Round Two: Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Round Three: Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Round Four: Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Round Five: Free State Cheetahs 22-29 Western Province
Round Six: Sharks 43-27 Western Province
Round Seven: Western Province 45-21 Griquas
Round Eight: Western Province 9-22 Golden Lions
Round Nine: Blue Bulls 26-13 Western Province
Round 10: Western Province 36-15 Free State Cheetahs

Prediction: The weather may cause the Lions a few problems, but it will not dampen their attacking spirit. The men from Johannesburg have found the right balance between kicking and running, without becoming too conservative. This should ensure the Lions win by a converted try.

Teams:

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

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

Date: Saturday, October 20
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 19.00 (18.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Rain and thunderstorms are predicted for Saturday evening .The high will be 24°C and it will cool down to about 19°C.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johann Meuwesen

By Jan de Koning

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