Planet Rugby

Preview: Lions v Western Province

21st October 2011 07:35


lions v wp

Crunch time: WP tackle the Lions

The Golden Lions face a stern test against Western Province in the second Currie Cup semi-final at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Lions' rise to the top of the standings has been spectacular and coach John Mitchell deserves credit for turning the side into title contenders.

They lost 53-9 to the Sharks in Durban last week but Mitchell said that result will have no bearing on this weekend's fixture.

Although the Lions beat WP 42-25 at the same venue two weeks ago the Cape Town-based side have been strengthened by the return of six Springboks from the World Cup.

Among the backs, WP's quartet of Jean de Villers, Gio Aplon, Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie are among the best attackers in South Africa and could prove a handful for the Lions defence that have rarely been tested this year.

And Western Province captain and flank Schalk Burger should also have a huge role to play if he can replicate his Springbok form in this clash.

That the visitors have even reached the semi-finals is a slight surprise as they have been decimated by injuries throughout their 2011 campaign.

Hooker Tiaan Liebenberg believes the return of the team's internationals could prove decisive in their quest to reach their second successive Currie Cup final.

"It gives us massive confidence to have them back in a game like a semi-final," he said.

"I know they are still bummed about what happened at the World Cup, but this is also an opportunity for them to end the season on a high. They slotted in well and brought intensity to team.

"This weekend is going to be massive and we're looking forward to it.

"We played the Lions quite recently and that game gave us a good idea on what we need to work on and improve on this weekend.

"They play brilliant attacking rugby and also have some Boks back, like Butch James, CJ van der Linde and Wikus van Heerden.

"We know where to up our game on Saturday - we worked hard on our scrums this week - and are looking forward to a massive challenge in Joburg."

Players to watch:

For Golden Lions: Although it's been a team effort that has elevated the Lions to the top of the standings, full-back Jaco Taute has been in sublime form throughout the tournament. The 20-year-old is an elusive runner, who will be a threat on attack when he joins his back-line and from broken play.

For Western Province: Jaque Fourie's return to the run-on side will give the men in blue and white stripes a significant boost on attack. He's not rated as one of the best centres in the world for nothing and will be highly motivated to do well against his former province. If his inside backs can create space for him, he will wreak havoc.

Recent results (2011):

August 19: Western Province won 28-26 in Cape Town
October 8: Lions won 42-25 in Johannesburg

Prediction: The Lions might be at home but the return of Western Province's internationals should give them the edge in a close contest. WP by three!

The teams:

Golden Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar/Jaco Kriel, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.

Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JC Kritzinger
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Tertius Daniller, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Conrad Jantjes.

Date: Saturday, October 22
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Cobus Wessels
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee

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Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
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Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
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Eastern Province Kings vs Pumas19:10
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1Western Province834
2Golden Lions830