PREVIEW: Blue Bulls v Western Province
CURRIE CUP SEMIFINAL: The clash between the Blue Bulls and Western Province at Loftus Versfeld is expected to be a humdinger given the intense rivalry between the teams.
The home side will enter the match with confidence after finishing the season in second place on the log standings and since they defeated Western Province 45-26 in the opening match of the season.
But they will be wary of the fact that this result marked one of only two victories in their last nine Currie Cup matches against the Capetonians. Both victories, however, were at Loftus Versfeld.
Blue Bulls captain Arno Botha knows the hype that is associated with every North-South derby.
"The people around make it a bigger issue than you as a player makes it, but it's not a bad thing," said Botha.
"As a team, you want to be better than the team you playing against, so I think the guys enjoy the hype and knowing that it's a North-South derby and knowing what happened in history. We can repeat it, so it's always nice to have that hype."
Botha also believes a win against their old foes in a semifinal will do wonders for their confidence levels.
"For the players, it will be an awesome victory and for their mind-sets and even going into next year, it will be awesome.
"For the union, it will be awesome to do it and we can do something that hasn't happened in six years and that will be something amazing to do. I think that must be the motivation also - to go and get that which didn’t happen for a while now."
Western Province head coach John Dobson believes his team is well-prepared, mentally and physically, for the play-offs after a tough league phase of the competition.
"Having the bye week gave us the chance to get well-organised in terms of our plans," said Dobson.
"What Juan [de Jongh] and Bongi [Mbongeni Mbonambi] have brought into the group has also been a big boost and to have Huw Jones, Dewaldt Duvenage and JD Schickerling back.
"We had about five quarterfinals, because every time we were going to lose we were going to get knocked out and we sort of clawed our way back into the semis.
"Now it feels like we are trying to play for something positive. We are playing for the Final and we are not playing for the fear of failure - we are playing for the desire to win. It is a different mindset now."
Dobson also believes everything points to them being underdogs at Loftus Versfeld.
"Looking at the bookies and looking at how the Bulls have played since they lost to the Sharks in Durban, they just got better and better.
"Looking at the similarities between their Super Rugby side and ours. Also the pressure of playing at Loftus, the altitude and that they playing good rugby.
"A lot of people did not expect us to be in the semifinals, so we are the underdogs, but we like that," Dobson added.
Players to watch:
For Blue Bulls: Locks Rudolph Snyman and Marvin Orie have been in fine form for the Pretoria side this season and will both be key in the physical exchanges. Scrumhalf Rudy Paige had a great outing for the Springboks in the 18-10 win over the Wallabies and his experience could give the home side the edge. Centre Burger Odendaal is a strong ball carrier in that midfield channel, while Ulrich Beyers has a good all-round game in that fullback position.
For Western Province: Huw Jones is definitely the most dangerous player in the Western Province team. The centre has a great eye for the gap and he has the ability to put his teammates into space as well. Fullback Cheslin Kolbe is always a danger with ball in hand from the back, while Dewaldt Duvenage's kicking game is one of the best in South Africa. Up front, Mbongeni Mbonambi has plenty of power, while flank Kobus van Dyk is a youngster that has been growing with each opportunity.
Head to head: The midfield battle should be an intriguing one. Dries Swanepoel and Burger Odendaal are both physically strong in that channel for the Bulls, while Huw Jones and Juan de Jongh are two players that perform well with a bit of space in front of them. Up front, Province hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi always has a point to prove when he come up against his old team and it will be interesting to see if has a more influential performance than his direct opponent, Jaco Visagie.
2016: Blue Bulls won 45-26, Pretoria
2015: Western Province won 23-18, Pretoria (Currie Cup semifinal)
2015: Western Province won 29-14, Cape Town
2015: Blue Bulls won 47-29, Pretoria
2014: Western Province won 31-23, Cape Town (Currie Cup semifinal)
2014: Western Province won 23-18, Pretoria
2014: Western Province won 41-17, Cape Town
2013: Western Province won 29-18, Pretoria
2013: 24-24 draw, Cape Town
Prediction: Western Province have their sights set on their fifth consecutive Final berth when they meet the Blue Bulls in what will mark the third straight Currie Cup semifinal encounter between the two rivals. The Capetonians won the last two semifinals 23-18 and 31-23 respectively. The Blue Bulls last featured in the Currie Cup Final in 2009 – which they won 36-24 against the Free State Cheetahs and it is expected to motivate them significantly going into the clash. It will be a close one, but we think the home side will edge it by at least five points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson/Nic de Jager.
Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Johnny Kotze, 23 Scott van Breda.
Date: Saturday, October 15
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 18.00 (16.00 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be mostly sunny with a high of 31C and a low of 18C.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Shaun Veldsman