Thu 13 Sep 2012 | 10:47

Preview: Currie Cup, Round Six

Preview: Currie Cup, Round Six
Thu 13 Sep 2012 | 10:47

Preview: Currie Cup, Round Six

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The second half of the Currie Cup season gets underway with very little separating the six teams – just seven points between first and last.

The top-of-the table Western Province travel to Durban to face the third-placed Sharks, with only points difference separating them.

The Lions, second on the standings, but also on 15 points like WP and the Sharks, travel to Bloemfontein where they face the fourth-placed Free State Cheetahs – the latter just four points off the pace.

The other match will see the fifth-placed Griquas (10 points) host the bottom-placed Blue Bulls (eight points) in Kimberley.

Yes, it is that close at the halfway stage – literally all to play for.
 
Blue Bulls flyhalf Louis Fouché tops the points scoring after, with 74 points made up of seven conversions, 19 penalties and a drop goal. Behind Fouché in second place is WP flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis on 59, with Sharks centre Meyer Bosman on 56.

Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane and Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule continue to lead the try-scoring stakes with four touchdowns apiece, with Blue Bulls loose forward CJ Stander, Griquas wing Rocco Jansen and Free State Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius on three each.

Jan de Koning looks at all the Round Six action!

Saturday, September 15

Griquas v Blue Bulls
(GWK Park, Kimberley – 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

The first match of the weekend is the basement battle in which hosts Griquas will look to build on their back-to-back wins over the Lions and Sharks.

Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted he has been working harder on the mental aspects of his team's game than their physical attributes.

"When you go to Kimberley, all you hear the whole week is how tough it will be and how hard the surface is," Pienaar told this website.

"I can promise you, the pitch we train on, our B-Filed, is just as hard. If you keep telling yourself it is tough there [in Kimberley] and suddenly you start doubting what you must do."

He felt that enough teams have gone to Kimberley in the past and done well there.

"Yes, Griquas do have an outstanding team this year and they are coming off two great victories [over the Lions away and Sharks at home] – the growth they have shown from our first-round win over them till now is enormous.

"They have a great group of players – Marnus Schoeman is outstanding on the ground and their backs are ken to run the ball.

"However, we have to be prepared to scrap it out there – if you keep telling yourself it is going to be tough, you may just end up believing that."

Griquas coach Pote Human was not shy with the plaudits for the opposition either, as both outfits attempted to claim the underdog tag.

He felt that the Bulls' position on the standings does not reflect their true capabilities.

Coming off those back-to-back wins will give Griquas plenty of self-belief, but Human felt there is still plenty of work to do.

"This week the Bulls arrive [in Kimberley] and as everybody know, there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded Bull," he said of the bottom-placed team from Pretoria, adding: We know they will throw everything at us."

Despite Pienaar's best attempt to downplay the 'home-field factor', Human felt playing in Kimberley is an advantage.

Human spoke of the need for his team to improve their discipline.

"We still conceded too many penalties at the breakdown," he said, adding: "That is one aspect we have worked on this week.

"Our kicking game is improving, but we know against the Bulls you need a good kicking game. They are great exponents of that [kicking game], so we will have to be up for that … both in terms of how we execute [the kicks] and receive [their kicks]."

Results this year:

For Griquas:
Griquas 22-15 Sharks
Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Griquas 16-29 Free State Cheetahs
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

For the Blue Bulls:
Blue Bulls 23-32 Golden Lions
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Free State Cheetahs 32-18 Blue Bulls
Blue Bulls 35-20 Griquas

Prediction: There is no doubting the home ground factor, but the Blue Bulls are overdue a good performance. Griquas are on a high, but they could be vulnerable against a structured team that remain disciplined on defence. The Bulls have the tools and may well sneak a win – but by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins (captain), 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Matt Dobson, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Richard Lawson.

Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistants: Lesego Legoete, Francois de Bruin
TMO: JC Fortuin

Free State Cheetahs v Golden Lions
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – 17.05; 15.05 GMT)

It has a hint of desperation to it, but the decision to name scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn at flyhalf suggests that Coach Naka Drotské's love-hate relationship with Sias Ebersohn is at the heart of the team's inconsistency.

The Cheetahs will look to bounce back from their 22-29 home defeat to WP last week when they welcome the very dangerous Lions in what could be the weekend's most entertaining affair – a high-scoring match in which defence may not always be at a premium.

Since the injury of Johan Goosen in the Super Rugby season the Cheetahs' attack has spluttered along, only occasionally reaching its true potential.

De Bruyn has been charged with the task of getting the Cheetahs the momentum that will not only get them back on the winning track, but also help them regain that effective ball-in-hand game that made them such a joy to watch.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann, who this week spoke of the need for his team to improve their discipline and defence, said his side will continue with their all-out attacking game.

"They [the Cheetahs] play some great rugby," he said of his team's trip to Bloemfontein, adding that they remain a force on attack.

"Over many years they have proven just how dangerous they are and can beat any team.

"We are expecting an enormous onslaught from them – it should be an exciting game."

The fact that both teams play great ball-in-hand rugby, probably the two most exciting teams in the competition, means this could be a real thrill-a-minute affair.

Ackermann said the Lions will not revert to a defence-orientated or conservative game.

"We will stay with what we do best, but there is no doubt that defence will be vital on Saturday as we are playing against a team that enjoys an expansive game.

"However, it is important that we don't stray away from our game – if we look after the ball we'll be able to put them under pressure.

"From a neutral's point of view this could be one of the best games of the season."

Ackermann admitted that his team had worked hard on their discipline, as there were still a few unnecessary penalties in last week's win over the Bulls.

"We are far form perfect and there is plenty to work on," the coach told this website, adding: "We need to put teams under more pressure.

"While our defence was better last week, there is still room for improvement in terms of our one-on-one tackling."

Results this year:

For the Free State Cheetahs:
Free State Cheetahs 22-29 Western Province
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Griquas 16-29 Free State Cheetahs
Free State Cheetahs 32-18 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 43-20 Free State Cheetahs

For the Golden Lions:
Blue Bulls 23-32 Golden Lions
Golden Lions 32-42 Griquas
Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Golden Lions 43-20 Free State Cheetahs

Prediction: Expect plenty of attacking flair, especially from the Lions, with a bit more structure from the Cheetahs, Tewis de Bruyn is a talented player, but he is there to add some structure to a team struggling for continuity. The Lions will have their work cut out, but they could sneak a vital away win – by five points or less.

Teams:

Free Sate Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (Captain, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Tewis du Bruyn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Hendro Scholtz, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen (Vice Captain), 4 Francois Uys, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Sias Ebersohn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco Van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco Taute.

Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistants: Quinton Immelman, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee

Sharks v Western Province
(Kings Park, Durban – 19.10; 17.10 GMT)

It may be a cliche, but this is indeed crunch time. It may not be 'Dunkirk' just yet, but with the abbreviated competition now into the season half of the season any defeat from here on will have dire consequences for the losers.

Province, like the Sharks and Lions, have 15 log points, but are at the top of the standings as a result of their superior points differential.
 
The Sharks have beaten their Cape rivals in their last two meetings – the Super Rugby semifinal in July and their first-round Currie Cup match at Newlands.

However, Sharks coach John Plumtree refused to read anything into those wins – mainly because both teams have undergone drastic personnel changes since the Super Rugby season.

"I also think they have progressed a lot since the [Currie Cup] first round," Plumtree said.

"Everyone has got better since then but it's still tricky to pick the winners and the losers in this competition.

"Province have their strengths and so do we. It will be a tough contest.

"When we beat them in Cape Town, it wasn't expected, but this group has played some good passages of rugby at times, and the fact that it is a home game means we don't want to give it up.

"It's a massive game for us.

"We've seen sides move up and down the log regularly in this campaign, short as it is, and there are only five pool games left, so every game now is a massive one for us.

"There is huge determination from us to get a positive result on the weekend."

Province coach Allister Coetzee played down his team's position on the standings, tagging the Sharks as favourites, despite their impressive form – which include victories over the Cheetahs and Bulls in the last three weeks.

"This is a good Sharks side – even without their many Springboks," Coetzee said.

"Their pack then [when WP lost to them in the first round] was probably weaker than the one now – they've got [Anton] Bresler back and [Keegan] Daniel too.

Really, they're a quality outfit across the board," the coach added.

He felt home ground advantage could come into the equation.

"It's an away game, which is another challenge for us.

"Every game is important and tough, but we want to start the second half of season better and we want to continue improving our game," added the WP boss.

Results this year:

For the Sharks:
Griquas 22-15 Sharks
Sharks 34-32 Free State Cheetahs
Blue Bulls 42-31 Sharks
Sharks 30-14 Golden Lions
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

For Western Province:
Free State Cheetahs 22-29 Western Province
Western Province 42-6 Blue Bulls
Golden Lions 26-23 Western Province
Griquas 20-25 Western Province
Western Province 23-25 Sharks

Prediction: Injuries continue to play havoc with WP and the main spin-off from that is a lack of consistency. However, the men from the Cape have overcome that with youthful exuberance in the last few weeks. The only problem is that the Sharks have gained so key players, particularly Keegan Daniel. His captaincy and skill, especially at Currie Cup level, will be critical. The Sharks to gain a valuable win – by about 10 points, to rob Western Province of a crucial away bonus point.

Teams:

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandré Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Brynard Stander, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 S'bura Sithole.

Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Steven Kitshoff, 17 Tom Botha, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Joe Pietersen.

Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistants: Jaco van Heerden, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

PV: 2
Preview: Currie Cup, Round Six | Rugby365