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Preview: Semifinal - WP v Lions

Fri, 18 Oct 2013 06:49
Jean-de-villiers-wp-trainin Franco-van-der-merwe-handso Demetri-catrakilis-kicks Elton-jantjioes-places-ball Cheslin-kolbe-wp-celebrates Andries-coetzee-lions-ball
This game is ours to lose
Quote-end

Outright favourites and with everything to lose, defending Currie Cup champions Western Province will be the team under pressure.

Not only are they at home against a relatively inexperienced Golden Lions team, but they are also the only unbeaten team this season and boast the best defensive record in yet another campaign.

Any team that can leave Springboks of the quality of Schalk Burger and Juan de Jongh on the bench, along with utility forward Michael Rhodes, must have some special talent in the starting XV.

Not surprising then the Province camp this week spoke of a game that is "ours to lose".

Province coach Allister Coetzee put it in a nutshell when he said: "You get opportunities in life and you have got to take them, this is a massive opportunity for us."

If there is one aspect of the game in which the Lions have outperformed WP it is in scoring tries.

The men from Johannesburg have crossed the tryline 40 times in 10 starts, nine better than the second-placed Cheetahs (31) and almost double WP's 23 tries.

However, the Lions will know they are up against the most miserly defence in South Africa - the only team that their free-running game has been unsuccessful against, scoring just three and two tries in their two meetings this season.

Against other opposition the Lions average four or more tries per game.

With Springbok playmaker Elton Jantjies back in the starting XV the Lions will have a two-pronged attack again - with fullback Marnitz Boshoff's skills an additional threat.

However, Province said they have not focussed on any individuals, but rather concentrated on their own game and what strengths they have.

"We really rate Elton [Jantjies] as a quality flyhalf," Coetzee said of the pivot who played for the Stormers, while on loan during the Lions' absence from Super Rugby this year.

"We know that he can be dangerous given time and space on the ball, but it is not that we have planned for specific individuals in the Lions side."

Coetzee spoke of the need to "respect" the Lions and their threats on attack.

"They just want the guys to go out and 'jol' and play, therefore you didn't see much tactical kicking," the WP mentor said of Saturday's opposition.

"That is their mindset at times, they love keeping the ball, taking it through phases and having a go so we have got to make sure that we are very accurate this weekend."

In contrast Province will rely on their traditional strengths - a stoic defence and a sound kicking game.

The return of Demetri Catrakilis from the Southern Kings has restored one of the key elements in last year's victorious WP recipe.

"We know that Demetri's kicking ability is one of his biggest strengths, but you do need it," Coetzee said of the flyhalf.

"It is something that we have addressed, we know that they have got a fantastic maul, but in the first place we shouldn't allow them to get there.

"Obviously it is going to be a battle of attrition, that is what we will have to face and front up."

Lions coach Johan Ackermann said that while his team may be a little more circumspect in their approach, they will not deviate too far from their expansive game.

"I think the advantage is that, unlike to few weeks ago, we don't have to keep going for line-outs and tries," Ackermann said.

"We can take the kicks at goal more often - that is unless we have to start chasing the game again.

"However, you still have to stick to what you have done and with what the players are comfortable with - it won't be a good move to make dramatic changes at this stage.

"Our players like to express themselves and that is what they want to do."

One major flaw in the Lions' makeup is the slow starts, but the coach said the guys know what is at stake and they should have the required "enthusiasm and focus" from the outset.

"We [the coaching staff] have done our bit through the week, so hopefully the players will produce on the day," the Lions mentor said, adding: "They know you can't get too far behind in a semifinal and must stay in the hunt.

"You don't want to find yourself where you are out of the game with 10 or 20 minutes remaining. We simply can't afford to go 3-23 or 6-30 behind again and think we can make it up against a team of the calibre of WP.

"They have been setting the bar as the top defensive team for years now."

With the return of the Springboks - players like Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Jean de Villiers - there is no doubt WP are the form team and the team to beat.

Recent results:
2013: Western Province won 36-23, Cape Town
2013: Golden Lions and Western Province drew 31-all, Johannesburg
2012: Western Province won 21-16, Johannesburg (semifinal)     
2012: Golden Lions won 22-9, Cape Town
2012: Golden Lions won 26-23, Johannesburg
2011: Golden Lions won 29-20, Johannesburg (semifinal)
2011: Golden Lions won 42-25, Johannesburg
2011: Western Province won 28-26, Cape Town
2010: Golden Lions won 46-28, Johannesburg

Prediction: You can't ignore the formbook and that tells you there will be only one winner - that is the team with seven Springboks in the line-up. The Lions, as usual will entertain and may even run Province a lot closer than most expect. But Western Province have just too much class and should win by 10 to 15 points.

Teams

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

Golden Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Chrysander Botha, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Andries Coetzee, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Robert de Bruyn.

Date: Saturday, October 19
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 14.30 (12.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Sunny with a moderate south-easterly wind. High of 22°C and a low of 12°C
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha, Marc van Zyl
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

By Jan de Koning

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