Last week threw up a few unexpected results and with the exception of Griquas – and to a lesser extent Western Province – who are already in a bit of trouble, the teams all appear to be very closely matched, both in terms of form and log position. Let’s run the rule of the round 4 action.
Lions v Griquas
The Lions did very well to squeak their game against Province last week and bounced back well in that game after a tame loss to the Sharks in round two. The trophy-holders are right up at the top of the log and will want to beat Griquas with a bonus point on Friday night in order to consolidate their position. They’ve made a few unnecessary changes to their side, though, which may disrupt them a little; that said, Griquas themselves seem to be chopping and changing at will in the hope of stumbling upon a winning combination. The Lions have received a boost with the likely availability of Elton Jantjies for the rest of the season and we don’t see them losing too many games with him in tow, particularly not in Johannesburg. Lions to win by 12.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Butch James, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Joshua Strauss, 3 CJ Van der Linde, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie/Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Deon Helberg.
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, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Matthew Rosslee.
Sharks v Cheetahs
The Cheetahs have been forced into a bit of a late re-shuffle given Johan Goosen’s Bok call-up, whereas for the Sharks, it remains to be seen whether Keegan Daniel (and, in fact, new addition Piet Dixon) will be drawn straight into the action this week. Given relative form, though, one would have to say that the Cheetahs might even be slight favourites going into this game; if the Sharks can tighten up on defence, though and continue to improve their intensity up front, they should be able to sneak a win against a side that never looks quite as good with Sias Ebersohn at pivot. Key will be the Sharks’ ability to shut down danger men Sarel Pretorius and Raymond Rhule, with the former, in particular, having scored many tries against them whilst playing for Griquas in years gone by. The loss of Gossen, coupled with home ground advantage, should see the Sharks take this one by around 3 points.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Barry Geel, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sis Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Lucas Floors, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Western Province v Blue Bulls
The traditional North-South derby brings the weekend to a close, with Western Province holding home ground advantage and, to be fair, little else against a Bulls side that played bloody well against the Sharks last weekend. While the visitors have lost only replacement loose forward Arno Botha this week, Province have the usual slew of injuries and Bok call-ups to contend with, leading to a massive eight changes to the side that lost in Joburg last week. As the only one of the “big five” to have suffered a home loss – as well as the only one to have failed to beat any of the other big teams so far, Province are under pressure and you’d fancy that they really, really need a win against the Bulls this week in order to stave off looming disaster. The Bulls, although playing well at home to date, were beaten badly in their only away game of the campaign and we’d like to think that even despite all the home side’s disruptions, the uncertainty of playing at Newlands may just be enough to undo them, given their lack of experience. We’re backing Province to win a squeaker, by 2 points, but it could just as easily go the other way.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Ederies Arendse, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Steven Kitshoff, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Damian de Allende, 22 Kurt Coleman.
Blue Bulls: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Rudi Paige, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Jurgen Visser.