PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round 12
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Sharks will have their sights set on cementing the top spot on the Currie Cup Premier Division log this weekend in what will be a decisive round for all six sides in action, with only two pool rounds remaining after this weekend.
The Sharks, Griquas and Pumas have only two matches left to seal their fate in the competition while the other four teams still have three matches to play.
While the Mpumalanga side have a bye this week and the KwaZulu-Natalians boast a comfortable 13-point cushion at the top of the table, their Kimberley counterparts find themselves in a tough position as they could drop out of the race even if they win both their remaining matches with bonus points.
We take a look at all the Round 12 action!
Friday, September 29:
Sharks v Golden Lions
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
In Durban, the Sharks will be hunting their 10th victory in a row when they host the Golden Lions, who come off three successive wins.
They may, however, have to work hard for a win as the visitors will be equally determined to register a victory to remain in the top four on the standings.
The coastal side won the last outing between the sides in Johannesburg, but the Golden Lions won their four match-ups prior to that.
The Sharks made two changes to their team, with hooker Franco Marais replacing Mahlatse Ralepelle, who is on Springbok duty, and centre Tristan Blewett takes over from the injured Jeremy Ward, while the Golden Lions made three personnel changes, which sees lock Rhyno Herbst, No.8 Fabian Booysen and wing Aphiwe Dyanti start.
"We set goals for ourselves in this competition and are delighted to have won nine in a row," said Sharks head coach Robert du Preez.
"Despite our success, it is important that we keep our feet firmly on the ground and that there is no room for complacency going into these last two matches.
"Our emphasis is on ourselves and sticking to our game plan and what works for us. The players know what is required of them and they love playing in front of our home crowd."
2017: Sharks won 47-31, Johannesburg
2016: Golden Lions won 28-16, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 26-18, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 31-16, Durban
2014: Golden Lions won 50-20, Johannesburg (semifinal)
Prediction: After their recent run, it is hard to see the Sharks slipping up at home. The Sharks will win by eight points.
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tristan Blewett, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Inny Radebe, 22 Rhyno Smith.
Golden Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Marco Janse van Vuren, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen (captain).
Replacements: 16 Sithembiso Sithole, 17 Pieter Jansen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Bradley Thain, 22 Anthony Volmink/Nicolaas Hanekom.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Archie Sehlako, Vusi Msibi
Saturday, September 30:
Griquas v Free State Cheetahs
(Kimberley Park, Kimberley - Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 GMT)
Griquas will be determined to bounce back from five consecutive defeats when they host the Free State Cheetahs in Kimberley on Saturday, while the visitors will look to build on their win last week to remain in second place on the log.
Interestingly, the hosts' last victory in the tournament was against their neighbours from Bloemfontein, but the Free State Cheetahs will draw inspiration from the fact that they have only suffered two defeats against Griquas since 2011.
The Griquas team shows 10 personnel changes, six of which are among the forwards, while captain and fullback Adriaan Coertzen makes a welcome return among the backs. The Free State Cheetahs, in turn, named the same side that pipped the Pumas last week.
2017: Griquas won 30-25, Bloemfontein
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 63-26, Bloemfontein
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 44-24, Bloemfontein
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 31-9, Kimberley
2014: Free State Cheetahs won 36-25, Kimberley
Prediction: Griquas are at home and they will be desperate for a win. Griquas will win by five points.
Griquas: 15 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Conway Pretorius, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Floris Pelser, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 Abraham Le Roux, 1 Liam Hendricks.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Louwrens Strydom, 18 Wandile Putuma, 19 Shaun McDonald, 20 DeWet Kruger, 21 Renier Botha, 22 Andre Swarts.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Ali Mgijima, 12 Lloyd Greeff, 11 Cecil Afrika, 10 Robbie Petzer, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Chris Dry (captain), 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Dennis Visser, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Gert Kotze.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Andrew Kuhn, 18 Jeremy Jordaan, 19 Nicolaas Immelman, 20 Juan-Philip Smith, 21 Stephan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Jacobus Jonker.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Mpho Matsaung and Griffin Colby
TMO: JJ Wagner
Sunday, October 1:
Blue Bulls v Western Province
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 14.30; 12.30 GMT)
The clash between the Blue Bulls and Western Province in Pretoria on Sunday will be equally entertaining as the hosts are under pressure to win their remaining matches after back-to-back defeats, while the visitors will want to build on their 55-point haul last week and remain in the top three on the standings.
The Capetonians won the last match between the sides, but the Blue Bulls won three of their last four matches at Loftus Versfeld, which they will want to build on.
The clash will be particularly significant for Blue Bulls hooker Edgar Marutlulle and flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, both of whom will earn their 50th Currie Cup caps.
The Blue Bulls have named a new loose trio for the clash featuring Marco van Staden, Tim Agaba and Nic de Jager.
WP coach John Dobson will announce his side on Friday.
Blue Bulls head coach John Mitchell said the quest to improve has not changed, neither did the objective within the group to improve week after week.
"We can do better in certain areas and have shown progress in others, one of which is some sort of consistency in team selection," said Mitchell. That alone should bring some calm, especially in the backs, but also improved communication in defence, an aspect that was lacking last week."
Blue Bulls captain Burger Odendaal, said the dangerous attackers in the visiting backline will be a huge challenge.
"We will need to dominate the contact areas in order to put our backs and not theirs on the front foot. That will be crucial," Odendaal said.
2017: Western Province won 45-34, Cape Town
2016: Blue Bulls won 36-30, Pretoria (semifinal)
2016: Blue Bulls won 45-26, Pretoria
2015: Western Province won 23-18 (semifinal)
2015: Western Province won 29-14, Cape Town
Prediction: It will be physical in Pretoria and it will be close, but we thin Province will emerge victorious by 10 points or less.
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Burger Odendaal (captain), 12 John Jackson, 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Jano Venter, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Western Province: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Allister Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Ruhan Nel.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Egon Seconds