Griquas and Western Province will be fighting for a semi-final place when they meet in Kimberley on Friday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
GRIQUAS vs WP
Griquas and WP currently sit at fourth and fifth respectively on the Currie Cup log. Both teams need a win in this, the penultimate round of the league stage, to strengthen their chances of playoff qualification.
Province are coming off an important 31-23 bonus-point win against the Pumas. While that performance lacked polish, WP have gathered some momentum and will be favourites to down Griquas, who lost 57-20 to the Blue Bulls last week.
Juan de Jongh has been released by the Springboks to play for WP against Griquas this Friday. While De Jongh has battled to make an attacking impact at Test level, he should add value in a Currie Cup match where the opposition defence is of a lower standard.
Griquas – 15 AJ Coertzen (c), 14 JW Jonker, 13 Johnathan Francke, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ederies Arendse, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Poerie van Rooyen, 8 Jono van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Wandile Putuma, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Vlooi Kotzé, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Jason Fraser, 20 Renier Botha, 21 André Swarts, 22 Eric Zana.
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 Dave Ribbans, 20 Jurie van Vuuren, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Johnny Kotze.
BOLAND vs BULLS
Coach Nollis Marais has opted not to include prop Trevor Nyakane and scrumhalf Rudy Paige in his matchday squad for the last match of the Blue Bulls' league campaign. Nyakane and Paige have been released by the Boks in order to receive more game time in the Currie Cup. Earlier this week, however, Marais explained that it wouldn't be right to alter the Bulls combination at this stage.
The Bulls need a win in Wellington to book their place in the semi-finals. A bonus-point victory would increase their chances of hosting a playoff at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls forwards should be too strong for their Boland counterparts this Friday. If the visitors are allowed to lay a solid platform at the set pieces and dominate the gainline battle, then the backline will flourish. The inclusion of Bjorn Basson in the starting lineup should improve the Bulls' chances of scoring four or more tries and claiming five log points.
Boland Cavaliers – 15 Adriaan Carelse, 14 Logan Basson, 13 Gerrit van Wyk, 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Zandré Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Keenan Cronje, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Clemen Lewis (c), 1 SP Wessels.
Subs: 16 Francois Esterhuyzen, 17 Enoch Mnyaka, 18 Francois Hanekom, 19 Wayne Wilschut, 20 Hanno Kitshoff, 21 Gerhard Jordaan, 22 Robbie Louw.
Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Jason Jenkins, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Divan Rossouw.
PUMAS vs FREE STATE
The undefeated Free State Cheetahs are on course to finish the league stage in first place and secure a home semi-final. In fact, a win against the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday will see Franco Smith's side taking an unassailable lead at the top ot the table.
To date, the Cheetahs have played the most balanced brand of rugby in the competition. They've topped the try-scoring charts and claimed the four-try bonus point in five of their six matches. They are also the best defensive side in the competition, having only conceded 13 tries.
Smith has opted to make seven changes for this match, most of these due to injuries. The Cheetahs certainly won't be weakened by the return of captain Francois Venter or star winger Sergeal Petersen, who have both recovered from their respective ailments.
The Pumas will battle to keep the Cheetahs in check for 80 minutes this Friday. While they competed well against WP during the initial stages of last week's clash at Newlands, they were outclassed in the decisive final quarter. The Cheetahs may also look to take advantage of a tired Pumas outfit in the last 20 minutes, and claim another bonus-point win.
Pumas – 15 Heinrich Steyl, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 Hoffman Maritz, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 JP Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Renaldo Bothma (c), 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Brian Shabangu, 5 Jannie Stander, 4 Stephan Greef, 3 Louis Albertse, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De Jay Terblanche, 18 Jeremy Jordaan, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Devon Williams, 22 Tyler Fisher.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Armandt Koster, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 William Small-Smith.
EP vs GOLDEN LIONS
The Sharks handed Eastern Province a 53-0 hiding at Kings Park last week. Incredibly, the Sharks managed to put nine tries past EP even though the pitch was waterlogged and not conducive to running rugby.
The Golden Lions will be targeting a similar result when they travel to Port Elizabeth this Saturday. While the Lions currently sit at sixth on the Currie Cup log, they are only two points behind Griquas, and one behind WP. They enjoy an 88-point points difference, which is far superior to either of those two teams. A big win against EP will keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Lions have been boosted by the return of Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx and tighthead Julian Redelinghuys. Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg may feel he has a point to prove after being overlooked by the Bok selectors for the home Tests against Australia and New Zealand. Van Rensburg will play from the bench in this clash.
EP, who have already conceded 42 tries and 270 points in six matches, would do well to remain competitive.
EP Kings – 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Alcino Izaacs, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Brandon Brown, 6 Luke van der Smit, 5 Sebastian Ferreira, 4 David Antonites/Tazz Fuzani, 3 Pieter Stemmet, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Cullen Collopy, 17 Vukile Sofisa, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Vince Jobo, 20 Vian van der Watt, 21 Lungelo Gosa, 22 Johan Greyling.
Golden Lions – 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Jaques Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Antony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith (c), 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 JP du Preez, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Cyle Brink, 20 Ross Cronjé, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Andries Coetzee.
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