Planet Rugby

Preview: Currie Cup, Round Eleven

17th September 2010 05:31

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Lions v Blue Bulls CC 2010

Jukskei derby: The Lions visit Loftus to take on the Blue Bulls

Just four rounds remain in the Currie Cup and the race for last-four spots heats up this week with six teams still vying for a place in the play-offs.

Friday's fixtures see Griquas hosting a hapless Leopards outfit in Kimberley, while the Pumas entertain a now back-on-form Western Province.

Both ties will be seen as foregone conclusions, however, while the Leopards are unlikely to trouble Griquas, the Pumas have proved a formidable force on home soil and could provide Allister Coetzee's men with a stern test.

The highlight of the weekend's action will come on Saturday with two mouth-watering encounters as the top-of-the-table Sharks welcome an in-form Cheetahs side and an out-of-sorts Blue Bulls team host a Lions side who are unbeaten in their last five games.

Fixtures:

Friday, 17 September

Griquas vs Leopards
Pumas vs Western Province

Saturday, 18 September

Sharks vs Cheetahs
Blue Bulls vs Lions

Standings:

1 Sharks 41
2 Western Province 33
3 Cheetahs 32
4 Lions 30
5 Blue Bulls 29
6 Griquas 25
7 Pumas 17
8 Leopards 5

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Previews:

Griquas v Leopards

Griquas will be eager to recapture their winning form against a Leopards side who have failed to win this season and face an uphill battle to remain in South Africa's elite competition.

Dawie Theron's men, who are currently in sixth place on the standings, have suffered back-to-back losses against the Sharks and the Lions and a bonus-point win is crucial if they want to keep their hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.

Theron has made three changes to his side as scrum-half Sarel Pretorius and hooker Ryno Barnes return to the starting XV in place of Marnus Hugo and Simon Westraad, while Burger Schoeman comes in for Davon Raubenheimer.

Leopards coach Chaka Willemse, whose job is on the line following his side's failure to make an impact in the competition, has made four changes to his team. Tiaan Dorfling replaces Theo van Wyk (injured), Christo van Niekerk comes in for Wilhelm Koch (injured) and Gavin Williamson's suspension gifts Marthinus van der Westhuizen a start at hooker.

Willemse has also opted to rest Jovan Bowles and Cornelius Rautenbach is set to be handed the number thirteen jersey.

Prediction: Despite a poor run of form, Griquas should run out comfortable winners by at least 20 points, picking up the four-try bonus point in the process.

The teams:

Griquas:15 Riaan Viljoen; 14 Rocco Jansen, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Bjorn Basson; 10 Naas Olivier (c), 9 Sarel Pretorius; 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Cecil Kemp, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Jean Botha, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Jean Stemmet, 22 Rudi Vogt Human.

Leopards: 15 Danie Dames, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 Cornelius Rautenbach, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Dumisani Matyeshana, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Riaan Swanepoel (c), 7 Reginald Kember, 6 Christo van Niekerk, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Anthonie Gronum, 3 Barend van der Walt, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Bennie Uys.
Replacements: 16 JC Oberholzer, 17 Johan Coetzee, 18 Edrich Linde, 19 Victor Joubert, 20 Charlie King, 21 Cecil Dumond, 22 Jovan Bowles.

Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Kick-off:19:00 (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Jason Jaftha

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Pumas v Western Province

Western Province will try to make up ground on Currie Cup leaders the Sharks when they travel to the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

Allister Coetzee is confident that his side have turned the corner after they got back to winning ways with a 59-17 victory over the Leopards following a run of three consecutive defeats and he has made five changes to his side that did the business at Newlands last week.

In the backline Conrad Jantjes moves to full-back with Conrad Hoffmann dropping to the bench, JJ Engelbrecht takes over on the right wing, while fly-half Willem de Waal returns to the starting line-up for the injured Lionel Cronje.

Up front, Wicus Blaauw comes in at loosehead for JD Moller and Pieter Louw replaces Nick Koster on the flank.

The Pumas will be hoping to rekindle some Nelspruit magic as their first visit to the Mbombela Stadium produced a shock 22-21 victory over the Blue Bulls.

The hosts though will have it all to do as they've been decimated by injuries, which has forced coach Jimmy Stonehouse to make eight changes.

Conrad Marais replaces Braam Pretorious at right wing, Shaun Venter and Ricardo Croy takes over from Tiaan Marx and Aswhin Scott in midfield, while Hendrik van der Nest takes over from Tian Meyer at scrum-half.

There are also four changes in the pack with the most noteworthy seeing captain Hannes Franklin dropping to the bench and Torsten van Jaarsveld taking over at hooker.

Prediction: It's a tough ask for the Pumas to beat Western Province with so many first-team players out injured. The visitors should win by at least 15 points.

The teams:

Pumas: 15 Johan Jackson, 14 Conrad Marais, 13 Shaun Venter, 12 Ricardo Croy, 11 Allister Kettledas, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Hendrik van der Nest, 8 Christo le Roux, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Andries Kruger, 4 Eduan van der Walt, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ronnie Uys.
Replacements:16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Dawie Steyn, 18 De-Jay Terblanche, 19 Willem Jacob Serfontein, 20 Juan Visser, 21 Ashwin Scott, 22 Vainon Willis

Western Province:15 Conrad Jantjes , 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 Anton van Zyl (c), 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements:16 Hanyani Shimange, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Paul Bosch

Venue: Puma Stadium, Witbank
Kick-off:19:10 (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees

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Sharks vs Cheetahs

The Sharks, who will 'go pink' on Saturday as part of their Cancer awareness programme, looked unstoppable until they came up against the Blue Bulls.

However, their confidence should once again be sky high after their convincing victory against the Pumas. They will also be bolstered by two key players who have regained full fitness.

Coach John Plumtree is able to recall Louis Ludik and the ever-impressive Keegan Daniel. Ludik's return to full-back means captain Stefan Terblanche returns to centre while Jacques Boets drops to the bench for Daniel.

In recent weeks the Cheetahs have eked out results against the Blue Bulls, Griquas and Western Province and they would give anything to add the scalp of the Durban side to the list.

Recent history suggests they just might be the team to end the Sharks' unbeaten run at the ABSA Stadium as they've won four out of their last six games in Durban, including last year's semi-final.

Should the Free State side come away with victory at the 'Shark Tank' then it will not only give them some breathing space as either the Lions or Bulls will lose ground on this weekend, but it will throw the race for top spot wide open.

Coach Naka Drotske has in recent weeks had the luxury of fielding unchanged teams, but his hand has been forced as Waltie Vermeulen will be out of action for at least a fortnight after injuring an eye socket during their victory over the Bulls. David de Villiers, on loan from the Griffons, will take over from him at lock.

Prediction:This is a tough one to call as the Cheetahs are a bit of a bogey side for the Sharks and they have an excellent record at home. The Durban team though are unbeaten in their backyard and will just hang onto that record by edging it by less than five points.

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Patric Cilliers
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17, Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andre Pretorius, 22 Riaan Swanepoel

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Louis Strydom, 9 Tewis De Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip Van der Walt, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements:16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 WP Nel, 18 Izak vd Westhuizen, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tertius Carse, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Corne Uys.

Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Kick-off:15:00 (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Pro Legoete

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Blue Bulls vs Lions

The Blue Bulls' form in the Currie Cup makes for interesting reading. They've won five and lost five and secured back-to-back victories only once this year. This is how their form book reads: lost, won, lost, won, lost, won, won, lost, lost, won.

Judging by the statistics they are due a win as it is at fortress Loftus where they've been on the losing side on only one occasion - against the Cheetahs - this year.

It's a Jukskei derby they really can't afford to lose as the gap to fourth place could potentially widen to six points should the Lions pick up five points and deny the hosts any bonus points.

The Bulls will be unchanged on Saturday as Flip van der Merwe, Dean Greyling, Jaco Pretorius and Jaco van der Westhuyzen have all shaken off niggles.

Their Gauteng rivals, the Lions, are the form team of the competition with impressive victories over Western Province and the Cheetahs in recent weeks.

Coach John Mitchell has opted to recall the fit-again Doppies la Grange and he'll replace Burton Frances at inside centre while George Earle will partner Franco van der Merwe in the second row with Johan Snyman moving to the bench.

Veteran Wikus van Heerden's returns to the bench after a lengthy period on the sidelines with a broken arm.

Prediction: The Bulls need to end their yo-yo form as they can't afford any more hiccups. They'll end the Lions' run of consecutive defeats with 10-point win at home.

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Derick Kuün, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements:16, Gary Botha, 17, Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Jaco Engels, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Okkie Kruger, 21 Dustin Jinka, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.

Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (capt.), 4 George Earle, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Wayne Swart, 18 Johan Snyman, 19 Wikus van Heerden, 20 JP Joubert, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Marius Delport.

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off:17:05 (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert

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