The Blue Bulls will need a massive improvement if they're to challenge Western Province at Newlands on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Western Province vs Blue Bulls
There wasn't much in the Bulls' opening performance to suggest that they've learned anything during last year's failed Currie Cup campaign, or their disappointing Super Rugby showing. They made no impression at the breakdown against the Lions and their tackling was poor. Hardly a foundation upon which to build.
This week they travel south to face Western Province, a team on an upward curve. While they were far from perfect against the EP Kings, (they missed an astonishing 25 tackles) they still managed to grab a haul of five log points in Port Elizabeth. Not many sides are going to do that this season.
Frans Ludeke has decided against sweeping changes, instead opting to reinstate Jacques du Plessis on the blindside flank, with Jacques Engelbrecht dropping to the bench. It's a like for like change meaning they will maintain their approach to the breakdown, which is archaic at best.
Province have made only one injury-enforced change, with Stephan Coetzee coming in for the injured Tiaan Liebenberg. Coach Allister Coetzee has chosen instead to pack his bench with Brok Harris, Ruan Botha, Rynhardt Elstadt, Kurt Coleman and Jaco Taute all likely to see some game time from the bench.
BLUE BULLS' STATS THAT MATTER
0 – The number of turnovers won (Rank 8)
9 – The number of knock on's (Rank 2)
13 – The number of points scored (Rank 8)
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Ruan Botha, 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Jaco Taute.
Blue Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Hencus Van Wyk, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel.
Sharks vs Pumas
The defending champion Sharks struggled past Griquas in the opening round and have another 'minnow' this weekend in the shape of the Pumas. An inability to pick up a bonus point here will be viewed as a failure in Durban, especially in lieu of their missed opportunity in Kimberley.
While they weren't helped by their poor discipline which halted any momentum, they only managed a league-low 240 running metres. It was a disappointing return for a talented backline. Flyhalf Fred Zeilinga will have to marshall his outside backs better this weekend, or risk being axed in favour of Patrick Lambie.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse has stuck largely with the side who delivered the goods against the Cheetahs, with the wonderfully named Giant Mtyanda coming in at lock in the only change.
The Sharks will welcome back the aforementioned Patrick Lambie via the bench, while the only change to their starting lineup also comes at lock, where JC Astle will make his first start for the union in place of the injured Stephan Lewies.
SHARKS' STATS THAT MATTER
15 – The number of penalties conceded (Rank 1)
13 – The number of lineouts won on own throw (Rank 1)
240 – The number of metres run (Rank 8)
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 JC Astle, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Johan Meyer, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Hanco Venter, 21 Patrick Lambie, 22 Lionel Cronjé.
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 DeJay Terblanche, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Vincent Koch.
Subs: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Snake Nyoka, 21 JC Roos, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Golden Lions vs EP Kings
The Lions look the team to beat. They were simply sublime in their dismantling of the Bulls, putting the game to bed during a frenzied first 40 minutes. It's interesting to note that they also kicked the most ball out of all the teams last weekend, suggesting that while they look to play rugby, they want to do so in the right areas.
Their opponents this weekend would do well to take note of this. The Kings were guilty at times of trying to play too much rugby against Western Province, most notably when they had to chase the game. Carlos Spencer has highlighted the Lions' loose trio as possible game changers, but he doesn't really have the personnel on the pitch to match them.
The Lions have made just one change to their side, with Jaco van der Walt replacing the injured Marnitz Boshoff, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Carlos Spencer has selected an unchanged team for the visit to Ellis Park, with the only change coming on the bench, where former Sharks lock Steven Sykes looks set to make a welcome return to action.
GOLDEN LIONS' STATS THAT MATTER
27 – The number of kicks from hand (Rank 1)
4 – The number of loose balls collected (Rank 1)
7 – The number of clean breaks (Rank 1)
Golden Lions – 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Lionel Mapoe, 13. Stokkies Hanekom, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Ruan Combrinck, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Ross Cronjé, 8. Warren Whiteley (c), 7. Derick Minnie, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. MB Lusaseni, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Subs: 16. Armand van der Merwe, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Willie Britz, 19. Warwick Tecklenburg, 20. Guy Cronjé, 21. Kwagga Smith, 22. Howard Mnisi.
EP KIngs – 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Tobie Botes, 8 Luke Waton (c), 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Cummins, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutllule, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Albe de Swardt, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa.
Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas
The Cheetahs' new Currie Cup coach Rory Duncan already finds himself under pressure. Perhaps it's unfair to heap his predecessor's shortcomings on a tenure still in its infancy, but the Cheetahs really should be beating the Pumas. They had plenty of ball, made all the running, but were somehow outscored by three tries to two.
Like the Bulls, there has been little change in approach, despite the fact that things clearly aren't working. A loss to Griquas at home and they would already be giving themselves a mountain to climb if they're to make the semi-finals.
Griquas may well have beaten the Sharks were it not for a red card, which has since been overturned. If they can keep 15 men on the field on Saturday, they may well spring a surprise here.
Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan has a fit-again Elgar Watts at his disposal, choosing to throw him straight back into the firing line. Elsewhere, Jean Cook gets the nod at blindside flank, with Neil Claassen dropping to the bench.
Griquas played for 73 minutes with 14 men against the Sharks and coach Hawies Fourie has wisely decided to freshen things up for the trip to Bloemfontein. In the forwards, Ewald van der Westhuizen replaces Maks van Dyk at tighthead prop, while flank RJ Liebenburg will add some mongrel to the pack.
Meanwhile, among the backs, PJ Vermeulen replaces Jonathan Francke, who drops to the bench, while Edries Arendse gets a run at right wing.
FREE STATE CHEETAHS' STATS THAT MATTER
978 – The number of metres run (Rank 1)
119 – The number of carries (Rank 1)
20 – The number of missed tackles (Rank 2)
Free State Cheetahs – 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Kevin Stevens.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Dolph Botha, 18 Neil Claassen, 19 Waltie Vermeulen, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 JP du Plessis.
Griquas – 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Edries Arendse, 13 PJ Vermeulen, 12 Wayne Stevens (c), 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 RJ Liebenberg, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Willem Serfontein, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Maks Van Dyk, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 Burger Schoeman, 20 Abrie Griesel, 21 Marais Schmidt, 22 Jonathan Francke.
Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix