Preview: Currie Cup, Round Two
There were those cynics who claimed the Currie Cup has lost its appeal! Don't believe them for one minute.
There were those cynics who claimed the Currie Cup has lost its appeal!
Well Round One of South Africa's premier domestic competition was more than just value for money, it was edge of your seat stuff that had us salivating for more.
The biggest winning margin was just two points, with the winning points a converted try in the final minutes. The other matches also went to the wire - with two missed conversions deciding the outcome.
Add to that 17 excellent tries, yes an average of almost six tries a match, and it is clear the detractors will now have to find something else for their miserere.
This weekend - as a result of the start of the Rugby Championship home Test, when South Africa host Argentina in Soweto on Saturday - we will have two back-to-back games on Friday.
The Sharks host the Golden Lions at Kings Park and the Blue Bulls are at home to Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
On Saturday Western Province take on the Free State Cheetahs in a late game in Cape Town.
Jan de Koning looks at all the Round Two matches
Friday, August 16
Sharks v Golden Lions
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
The weather predictions is for clear skies and a nice balmy 20°C, which will be ideal for another entertaining game.
The Lions, as we all know, have bought into backline coach Swys de Bruin's attacking philosophy and the Sharks are just as keen to show they can entertain with the ball in hand.
However, given that both teams lost last week, winning might be a bit higher up on their list of priorities this week, especially the Sharks - who would not like to lose a second consecutive home match.
Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt admitted that both teams will want to get their first 'W' of the season.
"Obviously we were disappointed [with the 30-32 loss to Griquas last week]," Everitt told this website.
"It was a new quad, with four debutants," he said, adding: "I thought it was a bit of a nervous start.
"We also folded under the pressure they applied in the set pieces," he said of Griquas' dominance in the scrums.
"We worked hard at that to rectify and we are determined to pull off a good win against the Lions on Friday."
Lions coach Johan Ackermann also spoke of the problem areas his team focussed on in their desire to put the one-point (29-30) loss against the Free State Cheetahs behind them.
"We made plenty of handling errors," the Lions mentor said, adding: "There were plenty of 50-50 passes.
"We also conceded far too many penalties that resulted in points against us. If you want to build pressure you have to be able to look after the ball and have some continuity.
"The fact that the Cheetahs scored four tries meant we had to pay a lot of attention to our defence.
"Hopefully all that work will bear fruit on Friday."
Everitt, who described the Lions as a tough team that contest the breakdown really well, admitted that both side like to move the ball around.
However, the Sharks will want to improve their ball in hand game.
"We were a little bit one-dimensional in our attack last Friday and we have obviously worked on that, so hopefully we can give the ball a little more width this weekend," he added.
2012: Golden Lions won 28-22, Johannesburg
2012: Sharks won 30-14, Durban
2011: Sharks won 53-9, Durban
2011: Golden Lions won 28-19, Johannesburg
2010: Golden Lions won 22-20, Johannesburg
2010: Sharks won 48-19, Durban
Prediction: With first-game jitters out the way, the two teams can settle into their respective game plans. The Sharks look to have more fire power in the backline, while the Lions' pack may have an edge if they play like they did on the second half against the Cheetahs last week. We'll have to go with home ground advantage on this one - the Sharks to edge the Lions, by less than 10 points.
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 SP Marais, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Butch James, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Golden Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruin, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Chrysander Botha.
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
Blue Bulls v Griquas
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
Sound set pieces and solid defence. Those are the two key aspects highlighted by both coaches this week when quizzed about the game.
The set piece battle will start in the scrums, where Griquas will rely on the impressive form of discarded Springbok Lourens Adriaanse and the Bulls will hope the late withdrawal of Frik Kirsten (ankle strain) will not prove to be too much of a disruption. Springbok Werner Kruger, called up after initially failing to make the matchday 22, would like to restore his shattered reputation after a poor Super Rugby season.
The irony of this game is that it will be a vastly more experience Griquas squad that will arrive in Pretoria, especially among the forwards - where the likes of Boks Hilton Lobberts and Lourens Adriaanse, as well as Ryno Barnes and Steph Roberts will be looking to make a big statement.
Griquas, however, will be missing two key forwards in lock Rynhardt Landman and flank Marnus Schoeman.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar said the biggest challenge is that it is a home game and they have to be successful in their home games.
"We will be up against a highly motivated Griquas team," Pienaar told this website, adding: "Griquas always play very well against the Bulls.
"You often find a few former Bulls in the Griquas line-up and they raise the bar against their former union.
"Then, their coach Pote Human is a good mentor and he was involved here [at the Bulls]. He [Human] knows what it takes to put the Bulls under pressure, from his days as a coach here [in Pretoria].
"His message will be the same, they will focus on what they believe will put the Bulls under pressure."
Pienaar feels Griquas have one of the most physical set of forwards in the competition.
"The game could be won or lost up front," he said, adding: "We will have to ensure we can handle their scrums and then cope with the other forwards. They have some strong ball carriers, so we have to ensure we contest the advantage line [collisions] otherwise they will get on the front foot and get quick ball."
Human felt his team will need to reproduce the defensive effort that served them so well in Durban last week.
"The Sharks threw everything at us and we weathered the storm," Human said.
He admitted his team had "some soft moments" - which allowed the Sharks to score three very soft tries - and said against the Bulls you can't afford mistakes like that.
"We will have to focus for 80 minutes," Human said, adding: Then we have to repeat that performance [we produced in Durban]. You can't afford to be a one-hit-wonder.
"You have to be consistent every weekend and reproduce that form if you want to get near the semifinals of the competition."
2012: Griquas won 49-34, Kimberley
2012: Blue Bulls won 35-20, Pretoria
2011: Griquas won 48-44, Kimberley
2011: Blue Bulls won 44-20, Pretoria
2010: Blue Bulls won 48-36, Kimberley
2010: Blue Bulls won 39-38, Pretoria
Prediction: The come from behind draw with Western Province at Newlands last week showed how much this young Bulls side was underestimated. They have a deep desire to do well in that light blue jersey. Griquas also showed great intent to get a win on the road, but their win was based more on grit and experience, rather than youthful exuberance. It will make for an intriguing contest. Griquas may well get a rare win at Loftus - but by less than 10 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende, Attire Buitendag
TMO: Johan Greeff
Saturday, August 17
Western Province v Free State Cheetahs
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 19.15; 17.15 GMT)
The monsoon-like weather that has gripped Cape Town this week will have started to settle down and the rain may even have cleared by kick-off.
The wind will also have died down to a gentle breeze, but the temperature would have dropped into single digits.
It may well contribute to testing conditions and put the constraints on both teams' endeavours to play expansive rugby and the teams could find themselves playing a territorial game.
Province forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot is particularly wary of a Cheetahs team that - apart from the front row - pretty much have their Super Rugby team on show.
"They are a good side that finished well in the Super Rugby competition," Proudfoot told this website.
"That [preliminary play-off] game [against the Brumbies] in Canberra was a tough game and they could have taken it," he said of a 13-15 loss that could have seen the Cheetahs take the game into extra time, had it not been for a missed conversion in the last minute.
"Coming back from [our Super Rugby] tour [to Australasia], they were one of the most physical side we played in that last stretch," Proudfoot said of the five-match winning streak that saw the men from Cape Town beat the Reds (20-15), Kings (19-11), Cheetahs (28-3), Kings (24-12) and Bulls (30-13) in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition.
"The power that they [the Cheetahs] have means it is going to be a tough game for us," he added.
That said, the home team will welcome back hard-running Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who is finally over his long-term injuries.
Cheetahs backline coach Hawies Fourie admitted the Cheetahs left too many points on the table last week and would come unstuck if they make the same mistake against WP.
"In the first half I felt we did enough to have had more points on the board," he said of the game that saw them trail 13-16 at the break.
"There were three or four very good chances to get tries which we wasted, through bad handling or poor decision-making," Fourie told this website, adding: "We have work on that [to finish off the opportunities created].
"Also our defence needs work.
"We were fortunate to get away [without conceding tries], when the Lions made errors of judgement that allowed our defence to recover.
"We also spend a lot of time on our defence," he said, adding that the past week saw them working hard on their attack, to turn opportunities into points and sharpening up their defence.
2012: Western Province won 36-15, Cape Town
2012: Western Province won 29-22, Bloemfontein
2011: Free State Cheetahs won 34-20, Cape Town
2011: Free State Cheetahs won 28-22, Bloemfontein
2010: Western Province won 31-7, Cape Town (semifinal)
2010: Free State Cheetahs won 29-24, Cape Town
2010: Western Province won 25-11, Bloemfontein
Prediction: No doubt, given that Newlands will have a good amount of surface moisture even if the rain have stopped, it will be a game of set pieces and territorial dominance. The inclusion of Michael Rhodes is key - he must provide the grunt that was missing from the Province pack last week. If the Cheetahs can sort out their set-piece woes, then they will have a very good chance - as the rest of their game is in place. We feel the Cheetahs will take this one - by 10 to 15 points.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Ryan Nell.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Marc van Zyl Marc
TMO: Deon van Blommestein