Finals day in the 2008 Absa Currie Cup is still just over a week away, but there is plenty to play for this weekend as the first leg promotion/relegation matches get underway in Wellington and Brakpan.
Rugby 365 reports that the Boland Cavaliers will host the Griffons at the Boland Stadium in Wellington in Friday’s first encounter, followed by the Falcons against the Leopards at Brakpan’s Bosman Stadium.
The Leopards and the Griffons qualified for these matches by ending first and second, respectively, on the First Division log, whilst their opponents, Boland and the Falcons, ended seventh and eighth, respectively, on the Premier Division standings.
Of course, the Griffons will be on a high after capturing the First Division title last Friday, their 31-26 win over the Leopards handing them silverware for the first time since the 2001 season.
But the Welkom-based team head into this fixture without ace flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba, who has a groin injury. Tsimba – the Griffons’ unofficial ‘lucky charm’ – has been in fine form since his debut against the Pumas in early August, with coach Harry Pienaar forced to play regular scrumhalf Jandré Blom at No.10 this weekend.
The Leopards, meanwhile, have made a few tweaks to their line-up, with top first-class try-scorer Jan van Zyl returning at fullback – that after spending two weeks on the bench.
For Leopards head coach Chaka Willemse, this match is a chance at redemption after their disappointing defeat in the First Division Final.
“I’ve watched the video… and we threw away seven try-scoring chances [in the First Division Final],” Willemse told sarugby.co.za.
“It makes me feel better, knowing that we actually created those try-scoring opportunities, but it was just one of those days against the Griffons – clearly it wasn’t ours [day].”
Willemse, however, has no doubt that his team will “get up” for Friday’s meeting with the Falcons.
“Going into the First Division Final we’d just come off two big successive wins against the Pumas, maybe the guys weren’t as fired-up as they should’ve been [in the Final],” admitted Willemse.
“But looking at Friday, the players know this is their big chance to put one foot back into the Premier Division of the Absa Currie. They’re playing against a team in a higher division – there is enough motivation in that alone.
“Remember, also, last week’s match was a one-off, whereas these promotion/relegation matches are played over two legs, on a home-and-away basis, which is a lot fairer. We’re away first and that suits us, as a strong performance this weekend will set us up nicely to round things off at home [next week].
“Funnily enough, our away record has been superb over the past few seasons, in the Vodacom Cup and the Absa Currie Cup, so we’re confident of doing the job away from home.”
Interestingly, Premier Division teams, Boland and the Falcons, were also involved in last year’s promotion/relegation play-off matches.
The Falcons played against the Eagles; with the Falcons winning both matches – 22-17 in Brakpan and 21-11 in George. Boland beat the Mighty Elephants 42-13 in Wellington and 26-21 in Port Elizabeth to retain their Premier Division status.
Looking at this weekend, Boland have made just one change to the team that went down 50-40 in a high-scoring final league encounter against the Free State Cheetahs two weeks ago.
Lock Bradley Mockford returns to the starting XV ahead of Cecil Kemp. Mockford will once again partner Nico Esterhuyse, with Johan Peacock dropping out of the matchday 22 altogether.
The Falcons, meanwhile, have an all-new centre combination, with Alwyn Burger and Franco Booysen – both of whom played for Potchefstroom University – lining up at inside and outside centre, respectively.
In other changes to the team that lost narrowly to the Blue Bulls two weeks ago, the strong-running Dewald Pretorius returns on the right wing for Frank Wagenstroom and loose forward stalwart Sean Plaatjies misses out altogether. Thabo Mamojele will start at No.8 in Plaatjies’ place, with Reg Muller coming in on the side of the scrum.
Promotion/relegation fixtures for this weekend:
Friday, October 17:
Boland Cavaliers v Griffons
Boland Stadium, Wellington, 16.30 (14.30 GMT)
rugby365.com prediction: The Griffons will find the pace at Currie Cup level is a huge step up from the First Division and they don’t have nearly as many Cheetahs in their team as they would have liked. The Cavaliers are fighting for survival and will take an early lead in the two-match series by winning this round by 10 points or more.
Boland: 15 Justin Peach, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 Piet van Zyl (captain), 12 Hein Myburgh, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 David Hendricks, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Zolani Mofu, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Nico Esterhuyse, 3 Kobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Wium, 1 Janro van Niekerk.
Replacements: 16 Clemen Lewis, 17 Jean Botha, 18 Cecil Kemp, 19 Angelo Brinkhuis, 20 Neil Papier, 21 Lionel Cornelius, 22 Dewey Swartbooi.
Griffons: 15 Cecil Afrika, 14 Darryl Coeries, 13 Jacko Jackson, 12 Werner Griesel, 11 Howard Noble, 10 Jandré Blom, 9 Danny Theron, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Shaun Botha, 5 Ockie van Zyl, 4 Windpomp van Rooyen, 3 Jaco Louw, 2 Andries Kruger, 1 Sarel Louw (captain).
Replacements: 16 KleinJan Ferreira, 17 Gert Greyling, 18 Isak van der Westhuizen, 19 Jonothan Mokuena, 20 Nicky Steyn, 21 Hugo Kleynhans, 22 Shane Hancke.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Touch judges: Deon van Blommestein, Jerome America
Falcons v Leopards
Bosman Stadium, Brakpan, 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
rugby365.com prediction: The Leopards may have lost in the First Division Final, but they have shown all season they are close to Currie Cup standard. The Falcons team, which shows numerous changes every week and is not a settled unit, will go into this game as the underdogs. We may well have a new Currie Cup team next year. The Leopards to sneak an away win – by less than 10 points – and set themselves up for promotion.
Falcons: 15 Jeff Perkins, 14 Dewald Pretorius, 13 Franco Booysen, 12 Alwyn Burger, 11 Poerie van Rooyen, 10 Hanno Coetzee (captain), 9 Gerrie Odendaal, 8 Thabo Mamojele, 7 Reg Muller, 6 Gert Lubbe, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Nico Luus, 3 Snoepie Coetzee, 2 Jody Jeneker, 1 Zane Killian.
Replacements: 16 Rayno Barnes, 17 Gavin Whittingham, 18 Wouter Moore, 19 Daan-Roux van Coller, 20 Freddie van Zyl, 21 Len Olivier, 22 Nicky Kritzinger.
Leopards: 15 Jan van Zyl, 14 Vuyo Zangqa, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Japie Nel, 11 Colin Lloyd, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Theo van Wyk, 8 Riaan Swanepoel (captain), 7 RW Kember, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Draad Linde, 4 Antonie Gronum, 3 Dietlov Coetzee, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Divan Kotze.
Replacements: 16 Pellow van der Westhuizen, 17 Nardus Lombard, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Bennie Adams, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Basil de Doncker, 22 Anvor Schooney.
Referee: Willie Roos
Touch judges: Theuns Jonker, Peet Badenhorst