Let’s have an impartial. sober look at the four teams contesting the Currie Cup semi-finals and see if we can pick a winner based solely on the strength of their squads.
We’ll do this position by position and rank the teams from best to worst… here we go.
The front row
Leading the pack here simply has to be the Sharks, with an all-Bok front row in Tendai Mtawarira and the du Plessis brothers. The fact that their reserve props, Eugene van Staden, Pat Cilliers and even young Wiehahn Herbst have all stood up well this year, coupled with a pair of in-form reserve hookers (Craig Burden has been one of the players of the tournament) means that their depth is second to none. Next best is the Cheetahs, with hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss forming a superb unit with Coenie Oosthuizen and WP Nel. They lose out to the Sharks because their reserve depth isn’t as strong. The Blue Bulls come in third, mostly due to the fact that they are without two key men in Gary Botha and Gurthro Steenkamp, both of whom are out injured. Chilliboy Rallepelle is a more than capable hooker, while Werner Kruger at tighthead is becoming a legend in Pretoria. Where the Bulls are always impressive is the young depth they possess, with Dean Greyling, Rossouw de Klerk and countless other strong youngsters in their ranks. Let’s not forget the impact that old man Jaco Engels can bring either. Bringing up the rear here are Western Province, who are without Wikus Blaauw and Tiaan Liebenberg, on whom so much of their early season dominance was based. While JD Moller, Deon Fourie and Brok Harris are all capable players, further depth is a serious question mark for Province.
The second row
The Blue Bulls are clear favourites here, with Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha without peer in world rugby, either individually or as a pair. The backup ranks, which include further Springboks in Danie Rossouw and Flip van der Merwe, as well as promising youngsters like Fudge Mabeta, sees the Pretorians rise head and shoulders above anyone else here. The Sharks are a short head in front of Western Province in second spot, with Steven Sykes and Alistair Hargreaves probably about even with their Province counterparts, Anton van Zyl and Adriaan Fondse. Where the Sharks take this one is in the depth they have, with Gerhard Mostert and Ross Skeate both experienced options. Province have the young De Kock Steenkamp and nobody else. The Cheetahs are fourth, with a bunch of retreaded flankers whose names I haven’t yet bothered to learn playing in their second row. I think there’s also some oke called Waltie, or Zakkie, or something. Whatever!
The loose forwards
Wow… how do you call this one? Trying to find a South African side without talent and depth aplenty in the loose forward ranks is tough enough without having to limit your search to the four best teams in the country. Province have Schalk Burger, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen who form a very complimentary trio, with the talented Pieter Louw the best of an impressive bunch of youngsters in reserve. While the Sharks are short of a second real bruiser in the absence of Jean Deysel, in Willem Alberts, Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes they have three of THE form players of the tournament so far – and that’s not even mentioning Ryan Kankowski, or Mike Rhodes, who has done well when asked. The Bulls have Pierre Spies still to come back and join a very crowded bunch that includes Derick Kuun, Dewald Potgeiter and Danie Rossouw, while Free State have the most experienced (and probably in-form) campaigners in Hendro Scholtz, Juan Smith and Ashley Johnson. Based simply on the way they play and the impact they bring, I’m going to give this battle to the Cheetahs, with the Sharks and Province tied for second place. The Bulls are fourth, simply because I don’t rate Kuun and I believe they lack balance in the back row.
I don’t think anyone would have too much to say if I pick Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn of the Bulls as the best halfbacks in the top 4. With promising Ruan Snyman and Jacques-Louis Potgieter in reserve, the Bulls have the vital decision-making positions sewn up, which could prove huge for them. The Sharks are second, with Charl McLeod and Pat Lambie proving a real handful for their opponents whenever they’ve played together. Rory Kockott and Andre Pretorius are also both talented and experienced options. Province are third here, as they have two very good scrumhalves in Ricky Januarie and Dewald Duvenage, but are nullified in having a flyhalf (Willem de Waal) who tends to nullify their attacking potential. With Tewis de Bruyn and Louis Strydom as their halfbacks, the Cheetahs have gone right through the bottom of the barrel and are now scraping the concrete floor beneath it.
With three Bok centres on their books (Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh), Province are streets ahead of anyone else here, without even needing to look at their impressive reserve depth. The Cheetahs are second, with Meyer Bosman and Rob Ebersohn playing some great rugby. They are a little short of depth, mostly because their reserve centres are forced to play wing. The Bulls come in third, mostly due to Wynand Olivier, who always plays well for them in the Currie Cup. Jaco Pretorius is still a bit of a muppet, but they do have some good young options coming through the ranks in Stefan Watemeyer and Stephan Dippenaar. The Sharks, with the bash-it-up duo of Dries Strauss and Riaan Swanepoel at 12, coupled with out-of-position Stefan Terblanche at 13, bring up the rear here, although Adi Jacobs, at least, does offer a little bit of hope.
The back three
Province are the leaders here, with a truckload of talented players including Bryan Habana, Conrad Jantjes, Gio Aplon, JJ Engelbrecht and even Jean de Villiers, who looked the part against the Sharks. Call me biased, but I’m going to say that the Sharks aren’t far behind. Lwazi Mvovo and Louis Ludik are a real attacking threat, while the high work-rate of Odwa Ndungane in indispensable. JP Pietersen should also be fit now and can come in somewhere. The Bulls look a bit pedestrian out wide, with Gerhard van den Heever not enjoying his greatest season. Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Zane Kirchner are certainly not my cup of tea either, but they’re pretty effective playing the Bulls game. The Cheetahs bring up the rear simply because they don’t have wings to match the class of fullback Hennie Daniller, another of the players of the tournament so far.
Let’s add those up, giving 4 points for first place, 3 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth.
That leaves us with the following:
Sharks to win the cup? If only it were that simple!Tweet