Western Province will be aiming to stay in the hunt for a home Currie Cup semi-final when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Friday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Western Province vs Blue Bulls
After this weekend's games there will be just three more rounds of pool action before the play-offs, and with the second-placed Bulls five log points ahead of Province, this could well be a season-defining clash for both teams.
A win for the Bulls would gift them a handy buffer to keep in touch with the log-leading Golden Lions, who have a four-point gap at the top of the log.
However, Western Province will have other ideas, having rebounded with back-to-back wins recently, including last weekend’s impressive effort against the Sharks.
WP coach John Dobson has made just a solitary change as Bongi Mbonambi replaces Scarra Ntubeni at hooker, while the Bulls have opted to start Louis Fouché in a tactical change at flyhalf.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Golden Lions vs Sharks
Just as WP will be looking to prevent the Bulls from pulling away from the chasing pack, the Sharks will be determined to advance their semi-final bid and keep the log-leading Lions at bay despite the fact the odds are stacked against them.
It’s been a disappointing season so far for the men from Durban, with just three wins out six, which sees the fifth-placed Cheetahs breathing down their necks.
In all likelihood, a loss would see the Sharks drop out of the top four, and with challenging matches against the Bulls, Griquas and Cheetahs to come, it could be a long way back from there.
By contrast, the Lions have roared to six wins out of six, but they will realise there is no room for complacency against a Sharks side that has plenty to play for.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 MB Lusaseni, 19 Stephan de Witt, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Sharks – 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 David McDuling, 19 Dan du Preez, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.
Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas
The Cheetahs will have a point to prove after suffering a shock loss to the EP Kings last weekend, which denied them an opportunity to move into a play-off position.
However, it would be hard to see them slipping up for a second successive week, despite the fact Griquas bagged an impressive win over the Pumas last weekend.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Theunis Nieuwoudt, 17 Neil Rautenbach, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Tertius Kruger, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Griquas – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Jacquin Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jaco Nepgen, 3 Stephan Kotzé, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 19 Wendal Wehr, 20 Dylon Frylink, 21 Gouws Prinsloo, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa.
Pumas vs EP Kings
The Pumas’ bright start to the season has faded somewhat recently, and the EP Kings are now just two log points behind them in seventh place.
There is no doubt the Kings would have been incredibly buoyed by their win over the Cheetahs last weekend, and there is a sense that they are beginning to play for each other with a point to prove, but the Pumas should be favoured at home.
Pumas – 15 Hoffman Maritz, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosko Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Giant Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Marné Coetzee, 18 Jannie Stander, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Hennie Skorbinski, 22 Marcello Sampson.
EP Kings – TBC
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images