Preview: Free State Cheetahs v Golden Lions

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 16:43
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CURRIE CUP ROUND SEVEN: Strap yourself in. It is going to be a wild ride in Bloemfontein on Thursday.

Despite the South African Rugby's unfathomable decision to schedule such a big game in midweek, there is plenty of reason to get excited.

This was always going to a crucial encounter, even before the start of this compacted and downscaled season.

And it has become even more critical, especially for the defending champion Lions, to come away with a win - given the two teams' respective positions in the standings.

The Cheetahs, currently top of the standings, are in pole position for home ground advantage in the play-offs.

In fact, victory may just gift them a spot in the play-offs.

After Thursday's encounter with the Lions, they face Pumas in Nelspruit next Friday and Griquas at home a week later.

The Lions' road to the play-offs are paved with more pitfalls than they would have hope -0 courtesy of two away losses - to Griquas and the Blue Bulls.

Currently, in the fifth position, two points behind the fourth-placed Griquas, the Lions not only face the Cheetahs on Thursday, have encounters with the Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth next week and then host the Sharks in Johannesburg a week later.

The latter game may just be a straight shoot-out between the two teams for a spot in the semifinals.

Cheetahs coach, who declined to go to Sydney in Australia for a Super Rugby pow-wow to focus on the Currie Cup, said the expansive styles of the two teams will make for an entertaining showdown.

However, there will be no lack of intensity, as the defence will still play an important role.

"A lot of people will look forward to the match, between two teams who play an attractive ball-in-hand game," Smith told rugby365.

"However, defence will still be vital," he added.

Prediction: It is a tough call to make, as the Lions will be desperate and the Cheetahs have the momentum. The Lions have been a touch erratic and have yet to win away from home this season. It will hand the Cheetahs a slight edge and they are likely to win - but the margin will be in single digits.

The teams:

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Armandt Koster, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Fred Zeilinga.

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Selom Gavor, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Pieter Scholtz, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Howard Mnisi.

Date: Thursday, September 15
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Jaco Kotze
TMO: JJ Wagner

@rugby365com

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 30 September 2016
Golden Lions v Sharks 15h00 Johannesburg
EP Kings v Pumas 16h00 Nelspruit
Western Province v Boland 17h10 Cape Town
Dragons v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Rodney Parade
Connacht v Edinburgh 18h35 Sportsground
Bristol v Saracens 18h45 Ashton Gate
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs 18h45 Franklin's Gardens
Sat, 01 October 2016
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas 12h00 Bloemfontein
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers 13h30 AJ Bell Stadium
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
South Africa v Australia 15h05 Loftus Versfeld
Munster v Zebre 16h00 Thomond Park
Ulster v Ospreys 17h30 Kingspan Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Leinster 18h35 BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Blues v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Stadio Monigo
Sun, 02 October 2016
Argentina v New Zealand 22h10 Ascoli Piceno
Wasps v Harlequins 13h30 Ricoh Arena
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons 14h00 Sixways
Tue, 04 October 2016
Edinburgh v Ulster 19h35 BT Murrayfield
CURRIE CUP
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Free State Cheetahs 7 7 0 0 34
Blue Bulls 8 6 0 2 30
Sharks 7 5 0 2 25
Western Province 7 4 0 3 23
Golden Lions 7 4 0 3 22
Griquas 7 4 0 3 20
Boland 7 2 0 5 9
Pumas 7 0 0 7 5
EP Kings 7 0 0 7 1