Only three rounds left to go – and it’s still as tight as a very tight thing at both ends of the Currie Cup log. Let’s have a look at this weekend’s action.
Sharks v Blue Bulls
The first game takes place at Kings Park on Friday night and sees both teams desperate for a win – but for very different reasons. In beating the Cheetahs at Loftus last week, the Bulls have finally lifted themselves off the bottom of the log and are now out of the relegation zone, at least temporarily. Their decent home form, though, has been tempered by an inability to win away and should they succeed in Durban, it would be their first win of the season anywhere other than Loftus. The Sharks botched a golden opportunity to claim top spot in losing to the Lions last week and will be under pressure to stay clear of the chasing Western Province. Plumtree’s mena re clinging to second spot by a single log point and won’t want to drop out of the home play-off spots by losing their first game at home this season. We expect the Sharks to be too strong for the Bulls this week and to win by around 8 points.
Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Louis Ludik , 10. Meyer Bosman, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Keegan Daniel (Capt), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Pieter Dixon, 1. Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Julian Redelinghuys, 18. Jandre Marais, 19. Lubabalo Mtembu, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Marius Joubert, 22. Sibusiso Sithole
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Louis Fouchè/Lionel Cronjè, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bongo Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjè/Willie du Plessis, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Cheetahs v Griquas
For the first time this season, we have a scheduling clash, with two Currie Cup matches kicking off at exactly the same time. In the one sure to be less-watched, Griquas will chase a somewhat unlikely victory in Bloemfontein in the hope of managing to stay in the play-off race. The men from Kimberley suffered a big setback last week in getting nothing at all from their trip to Newlands and another heavy loss here could see them all of a sudden right back in the danger zone. The Cheetahs have been atrocious this year, but were also one of the only sides to actually win in Kimberley and with Sias Ebersohn back at flyhalf, should have their neighbours’ number. Cheetahs to win by 5.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Raymond Rhule, 12 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Andries Strauss.
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 Janro van Niekerk.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 JP Nel.
Western Province v Lions
The big game of the weekend will see most neutral observers hoping that Province, in third, can upset the first-placed Lions, in so doing preventing the latter from building up an unassailable lead at the top of the table. Both sides have been disrupted after good wins last week and it remains to be seen whether the loss of Gio Aplon for Province – or that of Elton Jantjies for the Lions – proves more telling. The men in the hooped jerseys came very close to an upset win in Johannesburg in the first round, so it’s probably safe to give them this match. Province to win by around 3 points.
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Patrick Howard.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco Van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain)
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Deon Van Rensburg, 22 James Kamana