Defending champions the Golden Lions host Western Province in Saturday's second semi-final at Johannesburg's Coca-Cola Park.
Defending champions the Golden Lions host Western Province in Saturday's late semi-final at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg.
These two sides had contrasting fortunes in the final round of the league fixtures last weekend.
The Golden Lions lost 50-29 to the Blue Bulls in Johannesburg, while Western Province condemned the Free State Cheetahs to bottom place on the table after beating them 36-15 in Cape Town.
The men in blue and white hoops were boosted by the return of seven Springboks to their starting line-up for the clash with the Cheetahs, but suffered a major setback when captain Jean de Villiers, lock Andries Bekker and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg were ruled out of the tournament through injuries.
WP coach Allister Coetzee highlighted added pressures that comes with play-off matches and believes discipline will be a key factor against the Lions.
“We'll have to play better than we played against the Cheetahs,” he said.
“The players did a review of the Cheetahs game and we saw that we could improve in some areas, especially when it comes to decision-making as there were a few situations when we did not capitalise fully.
“You need to take those opportunities in play-off matches – that's important, as is your discipline.
“Our discipline against the Cheetahs was outstanding, we conceded seven penalties only, which is very good – if you remember correctly, we conceded seven kickable ones the last time we played the Lions in Johannesburg.
“We'll also be looking at ways to counter the Lions' ability to contest line-outs with great success,” added Coetzee,
“They are the champions and this week a few players who did not play against the Bulls are returning from injury and they'll be even stronger come this Saturday.”
The Lions have had more ups than downs in 2012. After losing their Super Rugby status to the Kings coupled with the ongoing legal battle between the union and its head coach John Mitchell, the men from Johannesburg have been more determined to hold onto their crown.
Despite last weekend's loss to the Blue Bulls, Lions caretaker coach Johan Ackermann is confident his side can pull off the win against Province but emphased that they are not underestimating their opponents.
“You just have to look at the team-sheet and you know that they are a good side,” he said.
“They've got a bunch of individuals that can break a game open, so we as a team have to look after them.
“They will be physical because that's an area where they probably think they can attack us… we are well prepared and the guys are excited.
“The good thing for us is that we know we can beat them.
“We've beaten them this year in the Currie Cup and we beat them last year so we are confident that we can, but we are not thinking that it's going to come easily.”
Players to watch:
For Golden Lions: Western Province will have to keep an eye on the home side's fly-half Elton Jantjies. The 22-year-old has a keen eye for the gap and brilliant distribution skills which can cause havoc once he brings his outside backs into play. Jantjies' accurate goal-kicking has proved to be a thorn in WP's side in previous encounters and they will have to be extra cautious not to concede penalties within striking distance.
For Western Province: 20-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth has added responsibility on his shoulders after regular second row partner Andries Bekker was ruled out for the rest of the season through injury. Etzebeth's physicality is one of his main attributes so expect him to take the battle to his opponents and for the rest of his team-mates, especially up front, to follow his lead.
Head-to-head: The midfield battle between Jaco Taute and Juan de Jongh should be one of the highlights of this encounter. Taute is one of the most exciting attacking players in the country while De Jongh is no slouch himself with ball in hand. The WP man, though, is better on defence as he seldom misses a tackle. Both players will also see this as a chance to impress Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer as they are the frontrunners for the outside centre berth for the Boks' upcoming tour to Europe.
Previous results (2012):
September 29: Golden Lions won 22-9 in Cape Town
August 25: Golden Lions won 26-23 in Johannesburg
Prediction: Home ground advantage and the loss of WP's internationals should give the Lions the edge in this encounter. Lions by five!
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach/Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde/Pat Cilliers, 18 Hendrik Roodt, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Deon Helberg.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Damian de Allende, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Marius Jonker