The Golden Lions will perhaps face their toughest challenge of the Currie Cup season when they take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Sharks vs Golden Lions
It’s been a pretty comfortable start to the season for the Lions, with Johan Ackermann’s charges having clinched bonus-point wins over the EP Kings and Pumas.
Although the Lions were 44-27 victors over the Pumas last weekend, that scoreline was rather flattering. It’s no surprise that Ackermann has called for a more disciplined performance against the Sharks.
In the opposite camp, Sharks coach Gary Gold has acknowledged that only a vast improvement – particularly on defence – would give them a chance of recording what would be a morale-boosting victory over last year’s runners-up.
The Sharks battled their way to a win over the EP Kings last weekend, but with the experience of Michael Claassens at scrumhalf, S’bura Sithole back from injury and an exciting new-look midfield combination, the hosts do boast a dynamic backline.
Sharks – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Daniel du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 18 David McDuling, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Stefan Ungerer, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 SP Marais.
Golden Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Steph de Wit, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Blue Bulls vs Western Province
This should be another cracking encounter between two unbeaten teams.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls have displayed encouraging enterprise on their way to a couple of bonus-point wins, and currently top the table at this early stage of the season.
Another positive result over the defending champs would unequivocally install the Bulls as real title contenders this year, and they will be determined to make it a memorable occasion as prop Werner Kruger becomes the first Bulls player to earn 100 caps in both Vodacom Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.
After scrapping their way to an unattractive and somewhat fortuitous win over the Free State Cheetahs last weekend, Western Province will be looking forward to an opportunity to once again get their backline moving on Saturday.
Unfortunately, they have suffered a serious setback with the loss of Juan de Jongh to a knee injury, which has necessitated just the solitary change to their starting lineup as youngster Johnny Kotze comes in at outside centre for his first Currie Cup start.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dan Kriel.
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Charlie van Jaarsveld.
Griquas vs Free State Cheetahs
This is quite a tricky one to call in Kimberley. Griquas haven’t been able to complete one of their giant-slaying tricks during challenging opening encounters against Province and the Bulls, but may fancy their chances on Friday night.
The Cheetahs will be desperate to get their first win of the season, though, especially after butchering a golden opportunity during the closing stages of their encounter against WP last weekend.
Talented winger Sergeal Petersen comes on as the right wing, and he is undoubtedly one of the dangermen Griquas will need to wrap up if they hope to record their first ‘upset’ win of the season.
Griquas – 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Ntabeni Dukisa, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Hilton Lobberts, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jonathan Adendorf, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Danie Mienie.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 18 Jaco Nepgen, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Rudi Van Rooyen, 21 Clinton Swart, 22 Jacquin Jansen.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
EP Kings vs Pumas
The Kings produced a much-improved performance against the Sharks last weekend, and will have taken plenty of encouragement from that outing.
However, it’s going to require something extra special for them to overcome a passionate Pumas team that tends to punch above its weight, particularly considering Kings captain Luke Watson is a late withdrawal from the team due to a leg injury.
No 8 Tim Agaba proved to be an inspirational figure for the Kings last weekend, but the Pumas will be looking to their game-breakers such as Faf de Klerk and Rosco Speckman to help them clinch a second win of the season.
EP Kings – 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 JP du Plessis, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Karlo Aspeling, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Lizo Gqoboka, 17 Edgar Marutlulle, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Cameron Lindsay, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Hansie Graaff.
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosco Speckman, 10 JC Roos, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Rudi Matthee, 3 Khwezi Mona, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corne Fourie
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Giant Mtyanda, 19 Jaco Bouwer, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Justin van Staden, 22 Hoffmann Maritz.
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images