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Preview: Currie Cup, Round 10

Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:23
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The return of the Springboks has added a different dimension to the final round
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The league phase of the Currie Cup comes to an end this weekend, with something on the line in every game on Saturday.

The return of the Springboks has added a different dimension to the final round, as the Currie Cup hits full strength ahead of the play-offs.

Although defending champions Western Province and last year's beaten finalists the Sharks have already secured home semifinals, their clash at Kings Park will determine which team finishes on top of the log so there will be everything for them to play for.

Below them there are three teams fighting over the last two play-off spots, with the Cheetahs and the Lions favourites to make the cut and the Bulls something of a long shot.

They will need to secure a comprehensive bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein to give themselves a chance of sneaking into the semifinals, whilst the Free State side know that just one bonus point will be enough to ensure they are in action next week.

The Lions could also miss out on the semifinals, but the chances of that happening are pretty slim as they host a second-string Griquas outfit who have an eye on their upcoming promotion/relegation play-offs.

We take a closer look at the matches:

Golden Lions v Griquas
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Griquas coach Pote Human made a staggering 12 changes to his team and allowed his only capped Springbok Willie le Roux the week off as they look to give themselves the best possible chance in the upcoming promotion/relegation play-offs.

It has been a difficult season for the Kimberley side, with injuries playing a significant role in their position at the bottom of the standings, and they face another tough assignment at Ellis Park.

They will take on a Lions side that has played an attractive brand of rugby all season, but have lacked the consistency to challenge for a home semifinal.

The Johannesburg team are coming off consecutive losses against Province and the Sharks, so they need a win on Saturday as much for the morale as for the log points.

Johan Ackermann's side will want to book their spot in the play-offs and get some good momentum going before the knock-out phase of the competition, but the Lions coach knows that despite all the changes the Griquas will pose a stern test.

"They still have enough players to cause us a major headache, especially if you underestimate them - for us it remains a quality Griquas team and it remains a game we must win.

"Hopefully the players will have the same attitude as when they play Western Province, the Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs and won't underestimate the opposition because a few [frontline] players are absent," he said.

Both teams have been solid in the scrums this season, and with Bok squad member Lourens Adriaanse back to captain Griquas they will want to take the Lions on in that area.

However, the focus will be out wide as both teams favour a free-running approach and are certainly not afraid to play with a bit of width.

Another thing they have in common are their leaky defences, and this area could well determine the outcome at Ellis Park.

The visitors have nothing to lose and there will be plenty of players who will want to put their hand up for inclusion in the promotion/relegation play-offs, so they will certainly not roll over and allow the Lions to walk over them.

The hosts on the other hand will have a completely different set of priorities as they will be seeking a win first and foremost, whilst they will also want to iron out any weak areas in their game ahead of the knock-out stage of the competition.

Prediction: Griquas will have a full crack, but they should be outgunned by the Lions who will win by more than 15 points.

Teams:

Golden Lions:
15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Andries Coetzee, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacobus Roux, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Kobus de Kock.

Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Du Randt Gerber, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Jaco Nepgen, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Rynhard Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse (captain), 2 Matthew Dobson, 1 Janro van Niekerk.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Dalton Davis, 19 Patrick O'Brien, 20 Enrico Acker, 21 JP Nel, 22 Logan Basson.

Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Sieg van Staden
TMO: Johan Greeff

Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)

The Bulls will have it all to do in Bloemfontein as they look to sneak into the semifinals through the back door.

They will have their Springbok midfield of Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht in action, but the rest of the side that has battled to assert themselves on the competition this season remains.

They are up against a fairly settled Cheetahs side, with the only changes coming in the front row with the return of Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen.

The equation for the home side is simple - one point and they are through to the semifinals. But they will be hoping for a more convincing effort at home to give them some confidence when they head down to the coast next week.

The Bulls have battled at scrum-time this season, and it will not get any easier for them with an all-Springbok front row waiting for them in Bloemfontein.

Although they pushed the Sharks all the way in Pretoria last week the Bulls have have struggled since the mass exodus after the Super Rugby season, and they are up against a Cheetahs side full of confidence after running Griquas ragged so it will take a serious turnaround in fortunes if they are to pull this one off.

Coach Pine Pienaar said that his side have brought this situation on themselves and now have no option but to give it everything in Bloemfontein.

“We painted ourselves into this corner and it is up to us to get out of it as well. This is not the ideal situation, but there is still something to play for. We will have to take our chances, it is as simple as that,” Pienaar said.
 
Captain Jono Ross echoed those sentiments.
 
“We still have a chance to make the play-offs. We need to prove to ourselves that we are good enough to do it,” he said.

Prediction: The Bulls have no choice but to go flat-out, but they are up against a good Cheetahs side that should win by about 10 points.

Teams:

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagné, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Freddie Ngoza, 19 Teboho Mohoje, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Willie du Plessis.

Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 David Bulbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Francois Venter, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.

Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Francois de Bruin
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee

Sharks v Western Province
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)

It wil be a replay of last year's final as the Bok-bolstered Province and the Sharks warm up for their respective home semifinals with a match that will determine which side finishes top of the standings.

The defending champions are the only unbeaten side in the competition and have won their last two clashes with the Sharks - last year's final in Durban and this year at Newlands.

Although that gives them plenty of confidence and momentum heading into this one, these are effectively two different sides with all the Boks back in the mix, so it seems that all bets are off.

The Sharks have been impressive this season under the guidance of outgoing Director of Rugby Brendan Venter, and their rotation policy means that their stars will have solid support.

Province have good depth as well, with very few injuries and an exciting blend of youth and experience in their team.

Coach Allister Coetzee said that the returning Springboks have made an impact in training this week, and he expects his side to raise their standards as a result.

"What we have seen throughout the week is the intensity of those players when they train and the accuracy that they bring to the team.

"That is what we discussed about those guys coming back to Currie Cup level and maintaining the same standards," he said.

The Sharks boast the first-choice Bok front row, and they will undoubtably look to put the visitors under pressure in that area, although Province have been very consistent at scrum-time this season and should put up a fight.

The Durban side have placed a focus on territorial dominance this season, and are not likely to play much rugby in their own half, especially as Province rely on their defence to produce counter-attacking opportunities.

This means the kicking duel between flyhalves Fred Zeilinga and Demetri Catrakilis will play a big role, although neither of them can make much difference without a big performance from their pack.

Whilst the set-pieces will be critical, the breakdown and collision area will be just as decisive as both teams need quality, quick ball to make their possession count.

The winner of this match will take a huge psychological advantage into the play-offs, and with both teams at full strength the intensity should be greater than anything we have seen in the Currie Cup so far this season.

Prediction: There should be little to choose between the sides so we are backing the Sharks to edge a narrow victory at home.

Teams:

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 Louis Ludik.

Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Jean de Villiers.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

By Michael de Vries

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