Currie Cup preview: Round Three
Things are hotting up in the Currie Cup with two rounds completed and there are some interesting battles lined up for this weekend.
The action kicks off in Bloemfontein on Friday where the Cheetahs - who are playing there first home match of the tournament - host the Sharks.
The Cheetahs suffered a nail-biting defeat to Western Province in Cape Town last weekend while the Sharks managed to take the spoils against the Golden Lions in Durban.
In the weekend's other action, Griquas also play their first match at home when they take on the champions Western Province in Kimberley.
Griquas are keen to return to the victory trail, after losing to the Blue Bulls last weekend, while the visitors will be determined to avoid what could be a potential banana skin for them.
The final match of the weekend sees Gauteng neighbours, the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions, facing off in Pretoria. The Bulls struggled before overcoming Griquas in round two and the Lions are desperate for a win after losing their previous games.
Friday, 23 August
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks
Saturday, 24 August
Griquas v Western Province
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
1. Blue Bulls 6
2. Western Province 6
3. Cheetahs 6
4. Sharks 5
5. Griquas 5
6. Golden Lions 1
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
The Cheetahs will be out for revenge as they suffered two narrow losses to the men from Durban in last year's competition. The Sharks triumphed 34-32 in Durban and then beat the Cheetahs 37-30 in Bloemfontein.
The home side have named out-of-favour Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane in their starting line-up for this clash which is a sign that they could be targeting the scrums as an attacking platform.
This after they came off second best in the set-pieces in a narrow 15-14 defeat against Western Province last weekend. In that clash, the Cheetahs went to sleep in the second half - they failed to score any points during that period - and they can not afford to make the same mistake again against the Sharks who are quietly making their move up the table after a poor start.
The Sharks claimed their first of the tournament last weekend when they beat the Lions 33-25 after they were stunned 32-30 by Griquas on the opening weekend.
The Durban-based outfit's back-line coach Sean Everitt said beating the Lions was a morale-booster for the side after the loss to Griquas.
"It's been a tense 160 minutes of rugby so we were very happy with the win and getting our campaign on track," he explained.
"We've been together for three weeks and new things were put in place and it takes a while for things to become a habit so that the players can do things on the field sub-consciously."
Prediction: This could be the most entertaining match of the weekend as both sides have expansive game-plans. It should be a high-scoring affair but home ground advantage will be the deciding factor so the Cheetahs will win by six points!
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 Lood de Jager, 4 Teboho Mohoje, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Freddie Ngoza, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Joubert Engelbrecht.
The Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Sizo Maseko, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes (capt), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 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 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Griquas v Western Province
GWK Park, Kimberley
Griquas have gained a reputation as giant-killers when playing in their own backyard in recent seasons, and Western Province will not be underestimating their hosts in this encounter.
Last year Pote Human's charges beat the Golden Lions, Sharks and Blue Bulls in Kimberley and WP battled to a 25-20 victory when they visited GWK Park.
The champions expect another tough encounter and coach Allister Coetzee has bolstered his side by selecting returning Springbok midfielder Juan de Jongh for this encounter.
Coetzee expects a bruising encounter this weekend and has opted not to play first-choice pivot Gary van Aswegen, who is nursing a shoulder knock. His place in the run-on side has been taken by Kurt Coleman.
"In a game against Griquas, the physical element is right up there and Gary is not 100 percent," said Coetzee.
"I have a policy which is that if players are not 100 percent, they should not play."
WP came from behind to beat the Cheetahs in Cape Town last weekend and Griquas went down 15-9 to the Blue Bulls in Pretoria - a game which their coach Pote Human described as one of the worst matches he has ever watched.
He has therefore selected his strongest possible side in a bid to return to the victory trail.
"We are approaching every game in the Currie Cup as if it is a final," said Human.
"Therefore it is difficult to take chances. The game against Province is one we can't afford to lose."
WP also beat Griquas 45-21 in Cape Town last season but that narrow win in Kimberley is the result which Griquas supporters will remember. If they can put in a similar effort this weekend they could add the champions' scalp to their list of conquests.
Prediction: Although Griquas are always competitive at home, WP have just too much class in key areas. WP to win by eight points!
Griquas: 15 PJ Vermeulen, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Hilton Lobberts, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Jonathan Adendorf,3 Nick Schonert, 2 Ryno Barnes (c), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Burger Schoeman, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Richard Lawson.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Tim Swiel, 22 Ryan Nell.
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Both sides have not reached their peak yet this season but are at the opposite ends of the table. The Bulls are currently in pole position with six points after drawing their opener against Western Province in Cape Town and beating Griquas in a dull affair in Pretoria last weekend.
The Lions only have a solitary point in the standings, after losing by a point to the Cheetahs in their first game before suffering a 33-25 defeat to the Sharks in Durban in their second match.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar believes there's plenty of room for improvement from his charges, who have been bolstered by the acquisition of former Southern Kings stalwarts, Bandise Maku and Jacques Englebrecht who are playing off the bench for the men from Pretoria.
"We have played well in patches this far and now need to produce a more lasting effort," said Pine Pienaar.
"The Lions have a lot of momentum and have played as a unit for a while now, so we will need to counter that by playing as a team. I am happy to call on the likes of Bandise and Jacques as they have slotted in very well and I am sure they will make a telling contribution off the bench."
The Lions know that another loss will leave them in a precarious position on the table and will thus hungry to upset their hosts. Their entertaining style of play makes them difficult opponents but they also have a tendancy to concede plenty of points.
When these sides met at Loftus Versfeld last year the Lions won 32-23 but the Bulls had their revenge later in the campaign when they claimed a convincing 50-29 victory in Johannesburg.
Prediction: Should be another entertaining encounter. The home side came in for plenty of criticism after last weekend's dour clash with Griquas and will be keen to impress their supporters. That paves the way for a Bulls victory by less than seven points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Golden Lions: Golden Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruyn, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tiaan Meyer, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan