Preview: Currie Cup, Round Three

Date published: August 22 2014

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Round three's Currie Cup action continues on Saturday with matches being played in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.

Round three's Currie Cup action continues on Saturday with matches being played in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.

Although it's still early in the competition, most attention will be focused on the top-of-the-table clash between Western Province and the Golden Lions at Newlands.

These two sides are amongst three sides with unbeaten records, but unlike the Sharks – who are the other side yet to taste defeat – they won both their opening two matches by securing try-scoring bonus-points while the Durban-based union failed to do that in their first match.

Saturday's action kicks off at Loftus Versfeld where the Blue Bulls host fellow basement dwellers, the Eastern Province Kings. The final match is between the Sharks and Free State Cheetahs at Kings Park.

Fixtures:

Saturday, 23 August– Kick-off: Local (GMT)
Blue Bulls v Eastern Province Kings – 15h00 (13h00)
Western Province v Golden Lions – 17h05 (15h05)
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas – 19h10 (17h10)

Standings:
1. Golden Lions 10
2. Western Province 10
3. Sharks 9
4. Free State Cheetahs 6
5. Pumas 4
6. Griquas 3
7. Blue Bulls 0
8. Eastern Province Kings 0


Previews:

Blue Bulls v Eastern Province Kings
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Both these sides head into this clash desperate to break their ducks in the points standings. As expected, the Kings are battling against the big boys in the Premier Division while pressure is building on Bulls coach Frans Ludeke after his side's poor performances in their defeats to the Golden Lions and Western Province in their opening matches.

Although these sides are at the bottom of the table, they have contrasting styles. The Bulls are renowned for their forward orientated style of play while the Kings have shown that they are willing to run the ball from all areas of the park.

Ludeke has made seven changes to his starting team with Jesse Kriel, William Small-Smith, Tony Jantjies, Rudi Paige, Bongi Mbonambi all making their first appearances in the starting XV this season for the men from Pretoria.

Bulls captain Deon Stegmann is expecting a good effort from the new starters.

“They will bring their own energy and enthusiasm, which is important for the team,” he said.

“The Kings will try to get us off our game and run us off our feet, so it will be important for us to keep our composure, use the ball better and to defend very well. I am confident that we can do that.”

Although the Bulls are in the midst of a slump, the visitors know that teams seldom come away from Loftus Versfeld victorious.

The Kings suffered a humiliating 60-19 defeat to the Lions last weekend and the Port Elizabeth-based side's coach Carlos Spencer expects a much improved effort from his troops.

“We have spoken all week about the need for urgency and commitment, which is something we lacked in abundance against the Lions,” said Spencer.

“We know the Bulls have their backs to the wall and will come out firing, and if we don't match that aggression, we will come second.”

Prediction:Homeground advantage and a superior pack help the Bulls to secure their first win of the season. Bulls to win by seven points!

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Wiaan Liebenburg, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.

EP Kings: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Luke Watson (capt), 7 Paul Schoeman, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Steven Sykes, 4 Darron Nell, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Mike van Vuuren, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Steven Cummins, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Jaco Grobler, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Siyanda Grey.

Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cobus Wessels
Television match official: Johan Greeff


Western Province v Golden Lions
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

The tournament's pacesetters have impressed in their opening fixtures but barring a draw, one of these sides will lose their unbeaten record.

WP will fancy their chances of being victorious, however. While the Lions are above them by virtue of a superior points difference, the men from the Cape have developed an air of invincibality when playing at Newlands.

Before their loss in last year's final, to the Sharks, the men from the Cape last tasted defeat at their home venue on September 29 2012 when the Lions secured a 22-9 victory.

Since that defeat to the Johannesburg-based outfit, WP have remained unbeaten in all their subsequent league matches at their home venue, including last weekend's victory against the Blue Bulls.

Despite that result – and their opening win over the Kings – WP's coach Allistair Coetzee expects a tough examination from their visitors.

This weekend is going to be a different test for us altogether,” said Coetzee.

“The Lions will challenge us much wider – on attack – and they will test our defence and breakdown too.

“They represent a big test for us as they're not scared to have a go with ball in hand, even from their own goalline.

“I'd say they're the overall favourites in the Absa Currie Cup. They're the pace-setters, they have a good set-piece and, like I said, they're not scared to attack from anywhere.

“I'd like to see us become a bit more consistent… especially if you want to become the tournament pace-setters, so you can't have any so-called 'soft' moments in your game.”

While WP will fancy their chances, after their triumph over the Bulls, the Lions are also brimming with confidence after scoring nine tries in their clash against the Kings.

The Lions are a dynamic side who back themselves on attack and who possess skilful players in various positions. Despite their emphatic win over the Kings, coach Johan Ackermann has altered his back row with Willie Britz taking over from regular skipper Warren Whiteley – who is on Springbok duty – at number eight and Warwick Tecklenburg coming in for Jaco Kriel on the side of the scrum.

“Willie has been waiting for an opportunity for a long time and he is definitely our second eighthman,” said Ackermann.

“We are also happy that Warren has been given the chance with the Springboks.

“We said we wanted to rotate some of the players from the second week and Warwick will rotate with Jaco.

“I know Jaco is in great form but we wanted to do this to ensure we have fresh players

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