Preview: Currie Cup, Round Seven

Date published: September 19 2014

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The jockeying for positions on the Currie Cup table continues on Saturday as the tournament's play-offs draw ever closer.

The jockeying for positions on the Currie Cup table continues on Saturday as the tournament's play-offs draw ever closer.

The weekend's biggest encounter takes place in Pretoria where two of South Africa's traditional heavyweights, the Blue Bulls and the Sharks face off.

Both sides are yet to peak, and will do everything in their power to secure victory. Saturday's action kicks off with table-toppers, Western Province – who lost their unbeaten record against the Golden Lions last weekend – hosting Griquas.

The final match of the round takes place in Port Elizabeth where the Free State Cheetahs will want to return to the victory trail against the tournament's bottom-placed team, the Eastern Province Kings who are the only side who are still winless.

Only four pool rounds remain including this weekend's clashes and only 10 points separate Western Province and the Blue Bulls, who are in sixth place while all eight teams still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

Saturday, 20 September– Kick-off: Local (GMT)
Western Province v Griquas – 15h00 (13h00)
Blue Bulls v Sharks – 17h05 (15h05)
Eastern Province Kings v Free State Cheetahs – 19h10 (17h10)

Standings:
1. Western Province 24
2. Golden Lions 20
3. Pumas 19
4. Sharks 16
5. Free State Cheetahs 14
6. Blue Bulls 13
7. Griquas 11
8. Eastern Province Kings 1


Previews:

Western Province v Griquas
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

Western Province's unbeaten run came to an end when they lost to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend and they will want to make a statement by bouncing back in style in this fixture.

That will not be an easy feat, however, as Griquas are on a two-match winning streak after victories over the Sharks and Pumas.

In those triumphs, Griquas' forwards impressed with the way they dominated their opponents up front and WP coach Allister Coetzee has prepared for the men from Kimberley's physical onslaught by naming five forwards and just two backs as his replacements.

Coetzee said Saturday's game was an ideal opportunity to see how his team can benefit from the change to the split on his bench and he is particularly excited by the return of tighthead prop Oliver Kebble who was sidelined through injury in recent weeks.

“We will be able to see how it goes against a forward-orientated team like Griquas,” he explained.

“It is also a nice chance for us to get Oli Kebble back into the mix and into a playing role.”

After last weekend's loss Coetzee hinted at a change in style from his charges.

“We understand what is required of us this week and we will look to keep it structured,” he added.

“Last week, against the Golden Lions, we lacked composure.

“We want to make sure we control the pace and the set pieces. We also know that they were carded in a few games which they could have won and we know they are capable of beating any side in the Currie Cup.”

Despite the superb performances of his forwards, Griquas coach Hawies Fourie believes his backs also deserve credit for their recent resurgence.

“We've had some setbacks with regards to injuries, but that is the nature of the game,” he said.

“We need to shake it off and focus on our game against Western Province.

“Our back line has come together very nicely. They are gelling as a unit and we are going to need that consistency. We have Gouws Prinsloo at full-back. Everyone is aware of his kicking abilities.”

Prediction: The home side will return to their winning ways in comprehensive fashion. WP to win by 15 points!

The teams:

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Justin Geduld, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Rohan Kitshoff, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman.

Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer (capt), 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Ruaan Lerm, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Janro van Niekerk, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Abrie Griesel, 21 Dean Grant, 22 Danie Dames.

Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Marc van Zyl
TMO: Shaun Veldsman


Blue Bulls v Sharks
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

After winning their last two matches, the Blue Bulls will fancy their chances against the Sharks, who have their backs to the wall as they last won a game in Round Three.

This clash is expected to be hard-fought given the determination in both camps to find their rhythm in the competition with an eye on securing semi-final places.

Adding spice to the match, a place in the top four on the log could be at stake, as the Durban-based side has only a narrow two-point lead over the sixth-placed Blue Bulls.

The defending champions lost to the Pumas and Griquas before registering a draw against the Cheetahs last weekend. The Bulls, after a slow start, are finding their feet again and are on a high after beating the Golden Lions and EP Kings in recent weeks.

Their coach Frans Ludeke knows the importance of this fixture but knows that beating the Sharks will not be an easy task.

“We are now in a critical phase of the competition,” he said.

“It is already clear to all that you need to be at your very best every weekend if you want to make the final four, so we really don't have any other option. The Sharks are well-balanced and have massive strike power at the back.”

Ludeke believes it is still too early to look at play-off permutations.

“We can only run our own race week after week and that will ultimately determine our fate,” he added.

“If we keep on winning and get the right result in the remaining weeks, I am sure we will be in the top four, but we cannot afford to look past this weekend's match.”

Sharks captain Tera Mtembu admitted earlier this week that they were desperate for a win after their recent lean run but the men from Durban's assistant coach Sean Everitt believes they can turn the corner.

“The Bulls away this weekend is a massive clash for us and we are going to have to be on top of our game if we want to win this one,” he told the Sharks website.

“But we have to look at the way the Bulls play as an opportunity rather than a threat. They do kick the ball a lot and if we can get into the same sort of attacking mode we had against Free State on the weekend, it could go

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