Preview: Blue Bulls v Western Province

Date published: October 14 2016

The Blue Bulls will be out to break their poor semi-final record against Western Province in recent seasons when they clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Western Province will have their sights set on their fifth consecutive final berth in what will mark the third straight Currie Cup semi-final encounter between the two rivals. The Capetonians won the last two semi-finals 23-18 and 31-23 respectively.
Despite that fact the home side will be favourites come Saturday. They've had a more convincing season to date and have done well at home. Province, on the other hand, have been very inconsistent throughout the competition and at one stage looked like they might miss out on the play-offs. 

But they pulled it together and now find themselves in yet another semi-final. They have the players to pull of a win at Loftus but the Bulls smashed them the last time they met in Pretoria.

Team news: Paige will make his first start for the Blue Bulls replacing Piet van Zyl, who is out injured. In the other change to the back-line, a fit-again flyer Travis Ismaiel returns in place of Bjorn Basson. 

Arno Botha will start at number eight and takes over the captaincy from Hanro Liebenberg, who will move to the bench.

Jannes Kirsten is also promoted to the starting team at flank after he came off the bench against Boland in Wellington. Jaco Visagie and Bandise Maku are also rotated again, with Visagie starting and Maku dropping to the bench.

Western Province have made six changes to their starting XV for Saturday's Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria.

The Springbok duo of centre Juan de Jongh and hooker Bongi Mbonambi both return from national duty, for what will be a replay of last year’s semi-final, which Western Province won 23-18 at the same venue.

De Jongh starts at outside centre alongside the fit-again Huw Jones in midfield. There are two other changes to the back-line as Dewaldt Duvenage returns from a hamstring injury to take his place at scrum-half, whilst Werner Kok starts on the right wing, with Scott van Breda on the replacements bench.

The only changes to the forward pack come in the front row as Mbonambi lines up next to experienced loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg.

There are also some changes to the replacements with JD Schickerling making his return from a shoulder injury and Stefan Willemse providing loose forward cover.

The last time these teams met: The Blue Bulls smashed Province 45-26 at Loftus in their Currie Cup opener after blowing them away in the first half with a dominant performance.

Prediction: It should be a tight game but nothing is guaranteed in play-offs. The Blue Bulls have the upper hand in momentum and form and will draw will plenty of support from their home fans, but WP have won at Loftus before so they shouldn't be fazed too much. Blue Bulls to break WP's semi-final run and book their place in the final. Blue Bulls by 7-10.

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson)/Nic de Jager 

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Johnny Kotze, 23 Scott van Breda

Date: Saturday, 15 October 2016
Time: 18:00 (16:00 GMT) 
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Shaun Veldsman