The Free State Cheetahs can maintain an impressive start to their Currie Cup campaign with another win over Western Province on Friday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
WESTERN PROVINCE vs FREE STATE CHEETAHS
The Cheetahs went into last weekend’s clash with the Blue Bulls as underdogs, with the Pretoria-based side having sent out an early statement of intent by hammering Province 45-25 in the opening round.
However, the Cheetahs didn’t read into that script and produced a dominant all-round performance, with the forwards and backs combining to great effect on their way to an impressive 43-20 bonus-point win.
The Cheetahs started their season with a comfortable 44-16 win over Boland, and another good win over WP on Friday could see them emerge as the early competition front-runners.
Despite the fact that the Cheetahs will come into the clash without injured captain Francois Venter, they still boast a dangerous backline, and talented pack (although coach Franco Smith has interestingly opted for an all-new front row).
Meanwhile, in response to Province’s humbling at the hands of the Bulls in week one, coach John Dobson has made seven changes to his side after last weekend’s bye, most notably elevating Bok squad member Sikhumbuzo Notshe straight into the starting lineup.
Western Province – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Cheslin Kolbe.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Michael van der Spuy.
GRIQUAS vs GOLDEN LIONS
In their opening match of the season last weekend, the Lions emphatically illustrated the fact that they will remain strong contenders to defend their domestic crown despite coming into the competition without a host of Boks.
The Lions looked typically impressive with ball in hand as they scored 10 tries on their way to a resounding 68-26 win over the Pumas, and should be confident of backing that up with another over a Griquas side that slipped to a disappointing defeat in their opening match.
The Lions have made three changes to their side, with star winger Courtnall Skosan most notably returning to boost the backline, but they will also be wary of a Griquas team that can never be taken lightly on their home turf.
Griquas – 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 RJ Liebenberg, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 4 Sias Koen, 3 Stephan Kotzé, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Mzwanele Zito, 19 Stephan Vermeulen, 20 Renier Botha, 21 André Swart, 22 Eric Zana.
Golden Lions – 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi (c), 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Ruaan Lerm, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Jacques Nel.
BOLAND vs SHARKS
The Sharks have made an encouraging start to this season with bonus-point wins over the Pumas and Griquas, setting them on their way nicely, and they should be backed to make it three wins from three when they clash with Boland on Friday.
The Durban-based side have been clearly afforded the freedom to express themselves this season and a young backline – with talented Inny Radebe at flyhalf – certainly has the potential to dish up some excitement.
Their pack also laid a firm foundation with a strong performance at scrum time against Griquas last weekend, and they’ll again be looking to set a solid platform against a Boland side that shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, the Sharks should again target a bonus-point win that would represent a full house of log points from their first three matches this season.
Boland – 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Sergio Torrens, 13 Christopher Bosch, 12 Ryan Nell, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Adriaan Carelse, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Zandré Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Hanno Kitshoff, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Francois Esterhuyzen, 1 Stephanus Wessels.
Subs: 16 Clemen Lewis, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Francois Hanekom, 19 Joubert Horn, 20 Kenan Cronjé, 21 Jovelian de Koker, 22 Theuns Kotzé.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Heimar Williams, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 JC Astle, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Hanco Venter, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 Garth April.
BLUE BULLS vs EP KINGS
After last weekend’s disappointing defeat to the Cheetahs, the Bulls will be desperate to put that result behind them by emphatically overcoming the battling EP Kings in Pretoria on Friday.
They shouldn’t have too much trouble in doing just that at Loftus, with RG Snyman returning from injury to also boost the Bulls up front, while fleet-footed Duncan Matthews comes in at fullback.
The Kings succumbed to a 28-10 defeat in their opening match of the season last weekend, and will simply be looking to remain competitive for as long as possible against the Bulls on Saturday.
Blue Bulls – 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Etienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboko.
Subs: 16 Edgar Maruthlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Irne Herbst, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Joshua Stander.
EP Kings – 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Burton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Sebastian Ferreira, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 David Antonites, 4 Tazz Fuzani, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 15 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 19 Luke van der Smit, 20 Jacques Fick, 21 Minenhle Mthethwa, 22 Lungelo Goza.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Imaqes