Preview: Blue Bulls v Western Province

Date published: October 15 2015

With Rugby World Cup action only resuming on Saturday, all roads lead to Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday when the Blue Bulls host Western Province in their Currie Cup semi-final.

These sides are the tournament's most successful teams and apart from fighting for a semi-final place, this weekend's clash will be the deciding duel after they met twice during the regular season – with both teams registering home victories. 

The Bulls halted a slide of four consecutive losses against the men from the Cape with a 47-29 win in Pretoria on August 22 before WP gained revenge with a 29-14 victory at Newlands on September 18.

Matches between these two sides are usually thrilling affairs and the record of previous matches shows that there's very litte to choose between the sides.

Overall and counting back to 1996 though, the Blue Bulls have a marginal lead over WP with 19 wins, 17 losses and 2 draws from the 38 matches between these heavyweights of the South African provincial game.

Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais has diverted from the usual 10-man brand of rugby which has become synonomous with Blue Bulls teams of years gone by introducing a new expansive style of play.

With a solid set of forwards, potent attackers like Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel and Jamba Ulengo out wide and an experienced inside back like Springbok scrum-half Francois Hougaard directing play, Marais believes his side can go on to reach the final and win it.

“This is what we trained for, to put ourselves in a position where we can win the Currie Cup,” he said.

“A semi-final is a difficult match. You play to win and survive, but it does not mean a trophy yet. You have to go and do it all over again a week later. 

"But, if you lose, your season is over. We are determined not for that to happen to us.” 

Blue Bulls captain, Lappies Labuschagne feels his side have proven that they are good enough to beat WP.

“We have won one match each in our clashes this year, but I believe we got enough out of those matches to feel that we can win," he explained.

"They are a very dangerous side and have some of the best runners in the country in their team. 

"That said, we also carry some big guns in our team and that is why we are able to host this match in front of our fans. We will leave nothing out there, that is a guarantee.”

Meanwhile, WP lock Ruan Botha believes the forward battle will determine the result.

"It’s always a big challenge going up against the Bulls," he said.

'It’s all about the eight on the field and the guys coming out. 

"You have to man up to each guy in front of you. 

"We’re not putting them on a pedestal and we’re not saying that we’re the best as well, but on any day it’s the pack that’s willing to work that is going to make the difference at the breakdown and lineouts and moving bodies."

Prediction: This should be a close affair as the sides are evenly matched. But with the match being played in Pretoria, the Bulls will edge it by three points!

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 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. 
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 William Small-Smith.

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Huw Jones.

Date: Friday, October 16
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Pro Legoete
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, tbc
Television match official: Christie du Preez