Pro14 Cheetahs v Bok-laden Lions?
CURRIE CUP SHOOTOUT: Golden Lions coach Zacharia de Bruin will not hesitate to rush back all his available Springboks for the final round of league action.
And he will have good reason to do just that.
The Lions, despite their impressive 29-20 come-from-behind win over Western Province at Ellis Park this past Saturday is likely to face vastly improved Free State Cheetahs team in the final round of league action.
With the Pro14 taking a two-week hiatus - while the European Champions and Challenge Cup competitions get underway - the Cheetahs will be fielding a significantly strengthened team.
The Cheetahs Pro14 coach Rory Duncan told OFM that they will be making use of Pro14 players.
"We will put a competitive side together for the match against the Lions," Duncan told the Bloemfontein-based radio station.
That means the Cheetahs will field players like Francois Venter, William Small-Smith, Makazole Mapimpi, Teboho Mohoje, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Retshegofaditswe Nche - to name only a few.
The Cheetahs also confirmed that their "full coaching structure" will take charge of the Currie Cup team in preparation for the upcoming match.
The structure includes Springbok assistant coach Franco Smith as Director of Rugby and Rory Duncan as head coach - assisted by Corniel van Zyl, Daan Human, Charl Strydom and Dave Williams.
The Cheetahs and Lions will be in a straight shoot-out for play-off places - given the final round of league matches.
The Blue Bulls and Pumas get the action underway at Lotus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday. If the Blue Bulls win, they will move past the Cheetahs and Lions into third place in the standings. If the Pumas win they move ahead of the Lions into fourth place.
Next up will be the Sharks against Western Province in Durban - with the Sharks already ensured of first place and home ground advantage in the play-offs.
If the Sharks win, second place (and home ground advantage in the semifinals) is up for grabs. Victory for WP will secure the second spot for the Cape Town outfit.
After that, the Cheetahs and Lions will be in a shootout - with anything from second to fourth place up for grabs.
The Lions mentor, De Bruin, admitted his team will be in for a tough encounter on Saturday.
"We know it is in the home straight now, regardless of what they [the Cheetahs] do [with their team selection]," he said.
Asked if he will be able to use his Springboks, he said he is hopeful to be able to do so.
"They are contracted to us," he said, adding that he will make some phone calls to the players to see who is keen to play.
Obviously, the contracted Springboks are not available, but De Bruin could call on players like Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje.