How quick – but exciting – this season’s Currie Cup Premier Division has been. Let’s see if we can call the results in the penultimate round of action.
Blue Bulls v Western Province
The first game of the weekend, on Friday night, is also the hardest one to call. The Bulls were actually pretty good in the rain at Kings Park last week and came within a whisker of a major upset against the Sharks, whereas Province managed to plumb new depths of woeful in losing to the Lions at home. That said, the last time these sides met, in Cape Town, it was Province who dished out a proper hammering, winning 42-6. This one could go either way and Loftus certainly isn’t the fortress it once was for the Bulls, at least not in the Currie Cup. That said, I think the team in blue has a bit more momentum, so I’m calling a Bulls victory, by about 7 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouchè, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett/Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjè, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
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 Nic Groom, 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 JJ Gagiano, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Pat Howard.
Griquas v Golden Lions
One fancies that if the Lions were going to slip up and lose an away game in the run-up to the play-offs, then it would have been last week’s clash against Western Province. Even without Jaco Taute or Elton Jantjies, they managed to successfully get through that hurdle and I’m afraid I simply can’t see Griquas offering anything more than token resistance this week, their first-round victory at Coca Cola Park notwithstanding. This is a Lions team playing with purpose – and for pride – and they’ll want to host a second successive final to prove to the powers that be that they deserve their place in the upper echelons of the local game. Lions to win by around 10 points.
Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 JP Nel, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Jaco Nepgen, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Walter Venter.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Deon Van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 9 Ross Cronje, 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 Bandise Maku, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Guy Cronje, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.
Cheetahs v Sharks
The Sharks need to win on Bloemfontein to keep maximum pressure on the Lions in the hope of capitalising should the latter slip up in the next two weeks. That makes Saturday’s late game, in Bloemfontein, a must-win for the visitors and looking at the respective team sheets, you’d have to argue that the Sharks hold all the aces, on paper at least. Talk of “bogey sides” should have been put to rest over the last few seasons with the Sharks winning far more than they’ve lost against the Cheetahs in recent years. That said, last season’s stunning 52-23 reversal in Bloemfontein will ensure no complacency on the part of the men in black and white. The Sharks should take this one, by around 5 points.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Waltie Vermeuelen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Phillip Burger.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Charl McLeod, 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 Kyle Cooper, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 S’bura Sithole.