ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE scrutinises the key battles in the lead-up to the Currie Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
Vodacom Bulls vs Lions
The Bulls have been the form side in South Africa since rugby’s resumption and will go into the clash with their Jukskei neighbours full of confidence. The two sides last met three weeks ago in Johannesburg where the Bulls came away deserved victors. They’ll be hoping for a repeat this weekend in Pretoria.
Jake White has spoken about making Loftus a ‘fortress’ this season and the Bulls will look to capitalise on their home advantage. White has named a balanced pack with the ever-dynamic Sintu Manjezi partnering Ruan Nortje in the second row, while Lizo Qqoboka returns to add some power at scrum time .
The Lions have grown in stature as the domestic season has progressed and have found their best form in the lead-up to the playoffs. They will hope their talented backline, led by Bok flyhalf Elton Jantjies, can hit their straps on Saturday.
The battle at the breakdown will be key if the men in red are to come away with an upset victory. Lions back-rowers Kriel, Massyn and Tshituka will need to put in a shift to counter the fetching ability of Duane Vermeulen and Marco van Staden.
Bulls – 15 David Kriel, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Francke Horn, 24 Nathan McBeth, 25 EW Viljoen, 26 Ross Cronje.
Western Province vs Sharks
It is set to be a physical encounter between the two coastal teams this Saturday. Sharks lock Ruben van Heerden stated it would be his side’s focus to nullify the Western Province pack when the two sides meet at Newlands.
Province have looked to use their set piece as a weapon and a platform to attack from all season. It is a go-to strength that the Sharks know they will need to match.
Achieving parity or dominance up front would give the Sharks’ backs the opportunity to express themselves against a WP backline that has been disjointed at times this season. The dangerous back three of Fassi, Penxe and Nkosi would relish the chance to attack off quick front-foot possession.
While WP will be buoyed by the return of captain Siya Kolisi, the loss of Steven Kitshoff to Covid-19 protocols could be impactful. Much rests on the shoulders of loosehead Ali Vermaak who will square up against the experienced Thomas du Toit.
The added significance of the match possibly being the last Currie Cup fixture at Newlands will serve as extra motivation for WP.
In what’s likely to be a tight contest, the result could come down to the game management and composure of flyhalves Tim Swiel and Curwin Bosch. Both men have dealt with pressure situations to win games for their provinces in the regular season and may be asked to do so again this weekend.
Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel, 24 Sazi Sandi, 25 Tristan Leyds.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok.