Western Province will face a stern test when they begin their Currie Cup campaign against Free State in Bloemfontein on Sunday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Golden Lions vs Griquas
After defeats in round one, the Golden Lions and Griquas will square off at Ellis Park in what will be a curtain-raiser for the Super Rugby semi-final between the Lions and Hurricanes.
Last week the Lions were involved in a game against the Pumas that produced 79 points, while Griquas fell short in a 96-point epic at home against the Blue Bulls. Fair to say, defence was not high on either of these teams’ priority list. Should they continue with that approach, it’ll be difficult to predict which one of the two will bounce back with a victory.
The Lions have been boosted by the return of influential backs Jaco van der Walt, Anthony Volmink and Jacques Nel to the starting lineup. The trio’s inclusion and home-ground advantage make the Lions slight favourites, but Griquas still have a very good shot of winning.
Golden Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ryan Kankowski (c), 7 Robert Kruger, 6 James Venter, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Justin Ackerman, 2 Pieter Jansen 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Bradley Thain, 21 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 22 Stokkies Hanekom.
Griquas – 15 Eric Zana, 14 AJ Coertzen (c), 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren, 4 FP Pelser, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Marius Fourie, 1 Liam Hendricks.
Subs: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Mzwanele Zito, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Renier Botha, 21 Andre Swarts, 22 Johnathan Francke.
Sharks vs Pumas
The understrength Sharks suffered a 47-12 defeat in the opening match of the tournament last week, while the Pumas claimed an enthralling 43-36 bonus-point win over the Golden Lions.
Based on those results, the Pumas would be favourites for this game, but a lot has changed over the past few days.
The Sharks were knocked out of Super Rugby last weekend, thus freeing up all the union's top players for Currie Cup duty. And knowing they need nothing less than a victory to get their campaign up and running, coach Robert du Preez wasted little time in selecting a full-strength lineup.
Du Preez has thrust eight Super Rugby regulars – Thomas du Toit, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Dyk, Sibusiso Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am – into the run-on XV.
It is a Sharks team that could spell a lot of trouble for the Pumas, but it isn't all doom and gloom for the men from Nelspruit. Master fetcher Chris Cloete is back on the bench for the visitors following a stint at the Kings and can turn the breakdown battle in the Pumas’ favour. It will be interesting to see how the Sharks handle the pressure in the event of such a disruption.
Sharks – 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 S’busiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Tyler Paul, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Inny Radebe.
Pumas – 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Hennie Skorbinski (c), 11 JP Lewis, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jeremy Jordaan, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Kwezi Mona.
Subs: 16 Frank Herne, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Jannie Stander, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Devon Williams.
Free State Cheetahs vs Western Province
This encounter will be the biggest match-up of round two.
The defending champion Cheetahs sent out an early statement of intent by thrashing the Sharks 47-12 and another commanding performance would further enhance their title credentials under new coach Rory Duncan.
Western Province are coming off a bye week and will be playing their first match. But they are a team full of confidence following WP’s success in the Provincial Rugby Challenge and won’t be lacking motivation.
Duncan has named former Kings duo Makazole Mapimpi and Malcolm Jaer in his match 23, with the former on the left wing and the latter on the bench. Flank Oupa Mohoje has returned from injury to complete the back row alongside Uzair Cassiem and Niel Jordaan.
WP coach John Dobson has stuck with many of his Rugby Challenge players for this contest, but added Super Rugby experience in the form of fullback SP Marais, wing Seabelo Senatla, centre Dan Kriel, No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, flank Kobus van Dyk and front rowers Wilco Louw, Ramone Samuels and Ali Vermaak. Lock Chris van Zyl will captain the side.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Speckman, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niel Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Ox Nche, 17 Reinach Venter, 18 Rynier Bernado, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Ryno Benjamin, 22 Malcolm Jaer.
Western Province – 15 SP Marais, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Michael Hazner, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Steph de Wit, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Brandon Thomson.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images