The Sharks and Golden Lions can take signficant strides towards securing their place in the Currie Cup playoffs should they emerge victorious from big derby games this weekend, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
BLUE BULLS vs GOLDEN LIONS
As the Premier Division heads into the second half of the league stage, the Lions are set to face another stern test of their championship credentials when they tackle the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night.
The defending champs have secured resounding wins over the Pumas and Boland this season, but sandwiched in between that was a shock loss to Griquas.
A lot more is now likely to learned when they come up against a well-settled Bulls side that has shown glimpses of their potential this season.
Currently, just a single log point separates the Lions and Bulls in fourth and fifth place respectively in the standings, with coach Johan Ackermann reintroducing top Super Rugby players such as Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Courtnall Skosan for this encounter.
A win for the Lions could open up some breathing room between the top four teams and the chasing pack, but a Bulls side that shows minimal changes will be desperate to secure a home win that would reignite their playoff hopes.
Blue Bulls – 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha (c), 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 André Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Jacques Nel.
WESTERN PROVINCE vs SHARKS
The Sharks have established themselves as title contenders after an unbeaten start to the season that has seen them open up a handy five-point lead at the top of the standings.
In particular, their encouraging win over the Bulls last weekend would have provided the Durban-based side with a timely confidence boost as they now get set to take on their coastal foes at Newlands on Saturday.
Province endured a difficult start to the season after suffering losses to the Bulls and Cheetahs, and desperately need a positive result at home in order to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
Both sides have made minimal personnel changes this week, and while it should be a closely fought affair, the Sharks will be fully aware that they can virtually secure a playoff place with a fifth successive win of the season.
Western Province – 5 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Jurie van Vuuren, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 EW Viljoen.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Rhyno Smith.
FS CHEETAHS vs EP KINGS
Along with the Sharks, there’s no doubt that the unbeaten Cheetahs look like another side that could well compete for top honours this season.
A strong Cheetahs team that has benefited from minimal disruptions in Super Rugby should be expected to clinch a comfortable bonus-point win on Saturday afternoon, and the pressure will then shift on to the Sharks to restore their lead at the top of the table.
This will be the Kings’ third game within a week after they played a postponed midweek fixture against Griquas, with coach Barend Pieterse having been forced to carefully manage an already limited squad.
FS Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Michael van der Spuy.
EP Kings – 15 Johann Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Johan Greyling, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan De Bruin, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 Sebastian Ferreira, 4 Dylan Pieterse, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Hannes Huishame, 19 Brandon Brown, 20 Vian van der Walt, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Ganfried May.
BOLAND CAVALIERS vs PUMAS
This encounter kicks off the weekend proceedings on Friday afternoon, with the two lowly placed sides set to battle it out for bragging rights.
The Pumas remain winless this season, but did show some improvement against Griquas recently, while Boland have picked up just a solitary win over the EP Kings.
First-time tackling has let both sides down at different times this season, and considering it’s the type of encounter that’s sure to be filled with running rugby, the team that fronts up best on defence is likely to come away with a much-needed winning result.
Boland Cavaliers – 15 Adriaan Carelse, 14 Gerrit van Wyk, 13 Christopher Bosch, 12 Ryan Nel (c), 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Theuns Kotzé, 9 Marnus Hudo, 8 Zandré Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Clemen Lewis, 1 SP Wessels.
Subs: 16 Francois Esterhuizen, 17 Enoch Mnyaka, 18 Hanno Kitshoff, 19 Wayne Wilschut, 20 Kenan Cronjé, 21 Gerhard Jordaan, 22 Robbie Louw.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Tyler Fisher, 12 Leighton van Wyk, 11 JP Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Emile Temperman, 8 Renaldo Bothma (c), 7 Nardus van der Walt, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jannie Stander, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Frank Herne, 1 De-Jay Terblanché.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Wiehan Hay, 19 Lambert Groenewald, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Marlou van Niekerk, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell.
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