JON CARDINELLI analyses the key match-ups and picks the winner of the Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands.
Province's unbeaten run in the 2013 Currie Cup is set to continue. They've played a balanced style of rugby and as a result are favourites to win the title.
While they've achieved much of their success this season without their Springboks, the likes of Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth should make the difference in this do-or-die clash.
Etzebeth and Vermeulen have enjoyed outstanding seasons for the Boks and will certainly lend WP something extra at the set pieces and collisions. While Etzebeth is a key man at the front of the lineout, Vermeulen is an important option at the back. Along with De Kock Steenkamp in the middle, these men will provide the hosts with several attacking options and ensure the Lions are kept guessing.
Province will field two flankers who are strong on the ground, not to mention Vermeulen, who is more than capable of winning important defensive turnovers. While these turnovers will be first prize, the Province forwards will at the very least look to stifle the Lions at the breakdown and slow the recycling of possession.
The threat of the Lions is in the speed they put on the ball. WP boast the best defence in the competition, but the Lions' strength is with ball in hand. They are particularly dangerous on the counter-attack.
In Elton Jantjies they have a capable distributor and goal-kicker. The Lions will rely on Jantjies's decision-making on attack as much as his performance from the kicking tee. That being said, Jantjies will need his forwards to provide him with the platform from which to run the ball.
I don't think the former Stormer will enjoy this luxury on Saturday. The Lions forwards face a massive challenge. WP's starting pack is stacked with Boks and their bench boasts a World Cup winner in Schalk Burger.
De Villiers will bolster a backline that is heavy on talent but light on experience. Province will need that calming influence in a game where their defence is sure to be tested.
I expect that the Lions will threaten from broken play and look to force Province to play a less structured game. It wouldn't surprise me if the Lions end up scoring more tries than the hosts.
As I wrote on Wednesday, Demetri Catrakilis will hold the key to WP's hopes. The flyhalf won the Currie Cup for Province last year with his cool goal-kicking. The Newlands faithful will be expecting a repeat showing of that performance this weekend.
Province will attempt to play a structured game and build a lead through the boot of Catrakilis. They should dominate the forward exchanges, but if they do concede turnovers, the Lions are capable of making them pay.
The result is predictable, but the margin of WP's victory will be far smaller than most expect.
MY CALL: WP by 6
Western Province – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Golden Lions – 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Chrysander Botha, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Andries Coetzee, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (c), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Robert de Bruyn.
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
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