Currie Cup preview: Round Two
After a thrilling opening round, South Africa's provincial heavyweights continue their battle for supremacy this weekend.
Last weekend's contests were closely fought affairs and all three results were decided in the dying minutes of each match. There are several interesting match-ups lined up for this weekend and due to Saturday's Rugby Championship Test between the Springboks and los Pumas in Soweto, there's a slight change in the Currie Cup programme.
There will be two encounters on Friday. In the early game, the Sharks host the Golden Lions in Durban and the Blue Bulls face high-riding Griquas later on in Pretoria.
Saturday's action sees defending champions Western Province face the table-topping Free State Cheetahs in Saturday's only match at Newlands in Cape Town. This encounter follows immediately after the clash between South Africa and Argentina.
Friday, 16 August
Sharks v Golden Lions
Blue Bulls v Griquas
Saturday, 17 August
Western Province v Free State Cheetahs
1. Cheetahs 5
2. Griquas 4
3. Western Province 2
4. Blue Bulls 2
5. Golden Lions 1
6. Sharks 1
Sharks v Golden Lions
Kings Park Stadium, Durban
The Sharks will be desperate to claim their first victory of the season after suffering a disappointing 32-30 defeat to Griquas in Durban last weekend.
Winning home fixtures will be important for all the teams in the competition and after last week's shock result against the tournament's least-fancied side the hosts cannot afford another slip-up.
The Lions, however, are also smarting after going down 30-29 to the Free State Cheetahs in Johannesburg in their opener, and will be just as determined to get their first win under their belts.
The Sharks' stand-in captain Jacques Botes is aware of the consequences of another home defeat for his side, said registering a win was critical even at such an early stage of their campaign.
"This is a vital match for both teams, but we're playing at home and you don't want to slip up in back-to-back games at home," he said.
"They'll come out firing as they always do, they like to play an attractive brand of rugby and it will demand a lot from us from a defensive point of view."
Lions coach Johan Ackermann has shuffled his starting XV and the selection of Elton Jantjies at fly-half and Marnitz Boshoff at full-back could mean that the men form Johannesburg will make more use of the boot this weekend.
They played expansively in that defeat against the Cheetahs and maybe a change of style could be on the cards from coach Johan Ackermann and his troops this weekend.
Prediction:The Sharks cannot afford another home defeat and will be desperate to make up for last week's shock result against Griquas.The Lions will be no pushovers, however, and will push them all the way. It will be another close clash, but the hosts will triumph by two points in the end!
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 SP Marais, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Butch James, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Jaco van Tonder
Golden Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruin, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Crysander Botha.
Kick-off:17:05 (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Ben Crouse
Blue Bulls v Griquas
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
The men from Pretoria surprised many enthusiasts when they registered a 24-24 draw with the defending champions, Western Province, last weekend.
They could so easily have won that match and only a missed conversion kick from Tony Jantjies denied them what would have been a memorable triumph.
They will look to build on that result against the men from Kimberley who caused the biggest upset of the opening round with their last-minute victory in Durban.
The Bulls dominated the last quarter of that match in Cape Town - clawing their way back from a 21-9 deficit - and coach Pine Pienaar has rewarded his charges for their fine performance by making only one enforced change to his run-on side.
"From the start I told the team they would be rewarded for good performances," Pienaar said on Tuesday.
"So nobody is guaranteed a place in the team as we feel the union and the jersey come first.
"Most of the players did well and it was a 22-man effort against Western Province."
Bulls skipper Jono Ross is not underestimating Griquas especially after their victory over the Sharks.
"Griquas are a really good side and, in the past, people said they were only tough at home, but Saturday proved they can play anywhere," Ross said.
The Kimberley-based outfit's coach Pote Human said his side's win over the Sharks have given them confidence ahead of this weekend's clash.
"We've struggled in the past to win our away games, but we have succeeded in beating the Sharks at home," Human said.
"Now we must beat the Bulls on their own turf if we are to build on that momentum. We play Western Province in two weeks' time in Kimberley and will need all the momentum we can manage against last year's Currie Cup champions."
Prediction:The Bulls will be buoyed by last weekend's result against WP and should take the honours by eight points!
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (c), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen.
Kick-off:19:10 (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Western Province v Free State Cheetahs
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Western Province owe their supporters a much improved showing after almost coming a cropper against the Bulls in their opener. The champions' draw, after dominating for most of the match, has made them determined to take the challenge to the Cheetahs.
"We need to cut down our errors and improve our discipline, otherwise Free State will make life very uncomfortable for us on Saturday," said assistant coach Robbie Fleck.
The promotion of Michael Rhodes to the second row adds experience and physicality to the home side's pack. Players like Rhodes, Rynardt Elstadt and captain Deon Fourie will be expected to take the game to the visitors while backs like Gio Aplon, Damian de Allende and Gary van Aswegen must provide the spark.
The Cheetahs got their campaign off to a perfect start with a narrow away victory against the Lions. They've managed to retain the core of their Super Rugby squad and the experience of players like Philip van der Walt, Robert Ebersohn and skipper Boom Prinsloo helped them over the line against the Lions in their opening fixture.
That trio will be expected to lead from the front but they Bloemfontein-based side will know that playing against WP in Cape Town is never easy and it will take a 15-man effort to claim their second successive away victory.
Prediction:Province seldom play poorly in front of their home fans on successive weekends, so expect a far better showing.WP to win by six points!
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Ryan Nell.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo (c), 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Oupa Mohoje, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Joubert Engelbrecht, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Kick-off:19:15 (17:15 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan