The Currie Cup play-off picture is set to become a lot clearer after this weekend’s round of action, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Sharks vs Blue Bulls
With just two more weeks of pool fixtures remaining after this weekend, the domestic competition is heading into the business end.
The Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls will kick off proceedings in Durban on Friday night, although the two teams are in a very different space.
The Bulls find themselves in second spot on the log, but they are only one log point ahead of Western Province, with back-to-back defeats having recently stifled their momentum.
With Springboks Arno Botha and Jan Serfontein back in the Bulls' starting lineup, they’ll be desperate to return to winning ways and take another step towards securing a home semi-final.
For the Sharks, who find themselves in fifth spot on the log and four points behind the Free State Cheetahs, they can ill afford to suffer another loss if they still hope to sneak into the play-offs.
Sharks – 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt (c), 7 Christiaan de Bruin, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Dave McDuling, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Marco Wentzel, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 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 Ruan Steenkamp, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dries Swanepoel.
FS Cheetahs vs Golden Lions
The unbeaten Lions are sitting pretty eight points clear at the summit of the standings, and they have an opportunity to effectively secure top spot and the right to host the final.
Last year’s runners-up have been boosted by the return of Warren Whiteley, but will be wary of an unpredictable Cheetahs side playing at home.
The Cheetahs have edged back into a play-off place and they’ll be desperate to ensure they keep a bit of daylight between them and the Sharks.
FS Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Niell Jordaan, 6 Vincent Jobo, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Freddy Ngoza, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 BG Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 De Wet Kruger, 20 Ryno Benjamin, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Fred Zeilinga.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Steph de Wit, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Mark Pretorius, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Western Province vs Pumas
Province have found some fine form recently and come into the clash on the back of three successive wins.
Hopes of securing a home semi-final has become a very viable possibility in recent weeks, and they’ll be determined to keep up their winning momentum, while keeping a close eye on the earlier games that could influence the standings before kick-off.
WP have been boosted by the return of captain Nizaam Carr, and should prove too strong for the Pumas.
Western Province – Western Province – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Jean Kleyn, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Demetri Catrakilis, 22 Jaco Taute.
Pumas – TBC
EP Kings vs Griquas
In this bottom-of-the-table clash, it’s all about a battle for pride, with these two teams looking to avoid ending the season with the wooden spoon.
Both sides have secured just the solitary win this season, but it’s the Kings who should really fancy themselves to get the edge on their home ground.
EP Kings – TBC
Griquas – 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ntabeni Dukisa, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jonathan Adendorf, 3 Kop van der Westhuizen, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Stephan Kotzé, 18 Stephan Greeff,19 Wendal Wehr, 20 Dylon Frylink, 21 Jonathan Francke, 22 Ederies Arendse.