PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Five
CURRIE CUP PREMIER DIVISION: Two big derbies, in Pretoria and Cape Town, will spice up the Currie Cup Premier Division this weekend as the competition shifts into a new gear.
The tournament passes the halfway mark this weekend and the battle for semifinal spots intensifies.
Only four pool rounds remain in the Premier Division following this weekend's matches with the finals set to be played early next month.
On Wednesday afternoon Griquas needed a strong second half performance to beat the Eastern Province Kings by 47-24 in their postponed match.
In the two main match-ups this weekend, the Blue Bulls will meet the Golden Lions in Pretoria on Friday and Western Province will host the Sharks in Cape Town on Saturday.
The other two matches in Round Five sees Boland host the Pumas on Friday and on Saturday the EP Kings travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Free State Cheetahs.
We take a look at all the Round Five action!
Friday, September 2:
Boland v Pumas
(Boland Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Boland and the Pumas will kick off the weekend's Premier Division action in Wellington on Friday, where the Lowvelders will be hunting their first victory of the season, while Boland will look to register their second win.
The last match between these sides, in the Currie Cup Qualifiers, was a thrilling affair with the Pumas edging Boland 12-10, but the men from Nelspruit dominated three of their four matches prior to that in the Currie Cup First Division in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Pumas head coach MJ Mentz recognised that the side is under some pressure after three losses in a row.
"We know that week in, week out there will be some form of pressure, but we are always motivated to start each week on a new page," said Mentz.
"We have a good chance for a win against Boland, especially after playing much better rugby against Griquas.
"Boland are a well-trained and experienced team and the pitch in Wellington is always heavier under foot, so we need to play the right type of game."
Prediction: Boland might be the home side, but the Pumas are the stronger side on paper. Expect the Pumas to win by at least eight points.
Boland Cavaliers: 15 Adriaan Carelse, 14 Gerrit van Wyk, 13 Christopher Bosch, 12 Ryan Nel (captain), 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Shaun McDoland, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Hanno Kitshoff, 3 Enoch Mnyaka, 2 Clemen Lewis, 1 Linda Thwala.
Replacements: 16 Francois Esterhuizen, 17 SP Wessels, 18 Ockie van Zyl, 19 Wayne Wilschut, 20 Kenan Cronje, 21 Gerhard Jordaan, 22 Robbie Louw.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Bernardo Botha, 13 Tyler Fisher, 12 Leighton van Wyk, 11 Jean-Paul Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Emile Temperman, 8 Renaldo Bothma (captain), 7 Nardus van der Walt, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jannie Stander, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Frank Herne, 1 De Jay Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Wiehan Hay, 19 Lambert Groenewald, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Marlou van Niekerk, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Divan Uys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Blue Bulls will have their work cut out for them as they aim for only their second victory in six outings against the defending champions, the Golden Lions, when the teams meet at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Such has been the Johannesburg team's dominance in the Gauteng derby since 2013, they scored more than 35 points in five of their last six matches.
The last time the Blue Bulls beat their rivals was in 2014 at Loftus Versfeld – a feat they are hoping to repeat this week.
Olympic bronze medallist Albertus Smith will run out for the visitors this week, while the Blue Bulls have selected a loose forward trio consisting of three former Junior Springbok captains in Hanro Liebenberg, Ruan Steenkamp and Arno Botha.
Despite their success at Loftus Versfeld in recent times, Lions head coach Johann Ackermann says it will be a massive challenge to try and beat the Bulls on their own home turf.
"We have played away from home so often that we are more familiar with the venue," said Ackermann. "It is always a challenge to play at Loftus - it is an important game for them, as it is a home game and they will be disappointed after their loss to the Sharks [last week].
"We are positive because we have had some good results there and there is no real travel, so it is not a disruption.
"The real challenge is for us to raise the standards of our game. We have not set the world alight with our game this season."
Prediction: Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has strengthened his team with a number of Super Rugby stars since their last outing and should be too strong for the Blue Bulls. The Lions will win this match by at least 10 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha (captain), 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Jacques Nel.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff
Saturday, September 3:
Free State Cheetahs v Eastern Province Kings
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
In Bloemfontein, the Free State Cheetahs will attempt to register their fourth successive victory in the tournament on Saturday when they face the EP Kings.
The Free Staters have won all their home games against the Port Elizabeth side since the 1997 season, and they won the Currie Cup Qualifier in Port Elizabeth in May.
The EP Kings, however, have had fair success against the men from Bloemfontein in the Eastern Cape, where they won three of their four matches in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
Flyhalf Fred Zeilinga has played an integral role in the Cheetahs' success so far this season, particularly in the wins over Western Province and the Blue Bulls.
However, Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith is trying his best not to single out any one player for the team's impressive performances over the last few weeks.
"He [Zeilinga] works very hard to improve," said Smith. "I think the fact that I selected him repeatedly contributes [to his good form].
"He is improving every week and his confidence is very high. He does have an important role to play.
"I don't want to highlight individuals because they all add the same value, but Fred [Zeilinga] is doing his job very well."
Prediction: This match is an easy one to predict. Expect the Cheetahs to win by 20 points or more against a struggling Kings outfit.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Michael van der Spuy.
Eastern Province Kings: 15 Johann Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Johan Greyling, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Ricky Schroeder (captain), 8 Christiaan De Bruin, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 Sebastian Ferreira, 4 Dylan Pieterse, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Hannes Huishamen, 19 Brandon Brown, 20 Vian van der Watt, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Ganfried May.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Vusi Msibi
TMO: JJ Wagner
Western Province v Sharks
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 17.10; 15.10 GMT)
In the final match of the weekend, the Sharks will be aiming to remain unbeaten this season when they meet Western Province in Cape Town, while the hosts will target back-to-back victories after registering their first victory of the season last week against the EP Kings.
Interestingly, the Sharks have won only two of the last six Premier Division matches between the sides, and both these victories were in Cape Town.
The Durbanites have an impressive track record in Cape Town which has seen them suffer only one defeat in their last five matches in the Mother City dating back to 2012.
"It is always an intense game when Western Province play the Sharks, so we would like to embrace the occasion and give it absolutely everything," said Western Province head coach John Dobson
"It was encouraging to get our first win of the season last week, but we know that we will have to raise our standards significantly on Saturday."
Sharks flyhalf Inny Christian Radebe said he and his teammates are keeping their feet firmly on the ground after four successive wins.
"We know that four out of four is a good start for us in the competition, but that means nothing in the bigger picture," said Radebe.
"We need to go out and take it game by game and Western Province is our next challenge. And not having had the best of starts, we're expecting them to come hard at us this weekend."
Prediction: The Sharks are riding a wave confidence and they are going into this match with a settled side. Western Province, on the other hand, have made a few changes in some key positions and are struggling to find their identity on the field. The Sharks will win by five points.
Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Jurie van Vuuren, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 EW Viljoen.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Inny-Christian Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22. Rhyno Smith.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Jaco Kotze
TMO: Marius Jonker