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Currie Cup preview: Round Eight

28th September 2012 07:18

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Don Armand WP v Lions CC 2012

First vs third: Lions take on WP

There's plenty of interest in this year's Currie Cup as all six teams can still qualify for the semi-finals with only three rounds of league matches left.

With the Springboks hosting the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship clash in Pretoria on Saturday, it means that there will be a Friday night game for the first time since Round Four.

That clash is between the Sharks, who are in second spot in the standings, and the fifth-placed Blue Bulls in Durban.

Due to the Test at Loftus Versfeld - which starts at 17:00 SA time (15:00 GMT) - it also means that both Saturday matches will kick-off at the same time (14:00, 12:00 GMT).

The Lions have opened up a slight gap at the top of the table but face a tough assignment against third-placed Western Province in the weekend's marquee fixture.

At the same time, Griquas will try return to winning ways when they do battle with the tournament's bottom-placed team, the Free State Cheetahs.

Currie Cup betting odds...

Fixtures:

Friday, 28 September
Sharks v Blue Bulls
Saturday, 29 SeptemberWestern Province v Golden Lions
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas

Standings:
1. Golden Lions 24
2. Sharks 21
3. Western Province 20
4. Griquas 15
5. Blue Bulls 13
6. Free State Cheetahs 12


Previews:

Sharks v Blue Bulls
Kings Park Stadium, Durban

The Sharks are eager to return to the victory trail, after their defeat to the Lions last week.

However, last year's finalists face a difficult task against a rejuvenated Blue Bulls side who are on a high afer claiming a deserved victory against the Cheetahs last week.

The corresponding match between these two sides earlier this season was a high-scoring affair with the Blue Bulls eventually triumphing 42-31 in Pretoria.

After that result, however, the Bulls lost their next three matches and were in serious danger of facing relegation until they registered that win over the Cheetahs last week.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford expects the Bulls to enter this clash high on confidence, despite their lowly position in the standings.

"It's always difficult against the Bulls," he said. "They're a tough team and I think that win for them on the weekend was huge.

"They responded well to the pressure they were under to win it. I heard their coach (Pine Pienaar) say it was a final for them.

"They backed themselves and they got it."

The Sharks suffered a setback earlier this week when speedster Lwazi Mvovo and hooker Craig Burden were recalled to the Springbok squad. But despite losing those players they can still call on the experience of captain and number eight Keegan Daniel as well as Meyer Bosman - who will play at fly-half in this match.

The Bulls impressed in their win over the Cheetahs and their key player is fly-half Louis Fouchè, who is a doubtful starter due to injury. Fouchè is the tournament's leading points-scorer with 102 points and if he is declared fit the visitors' chance of victory will be boosted.

Prediction: The Sharks seldom play poorly in Durban and should be too strong for the Bulls, who have struggled to build momentum this season. Sharks to win by 10 points.

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Lubalalo Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 S'bura Sithole.

Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Louis Fouchè/Lionel Cronjè, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bongo Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Lionel Cronjè/Willie du Plessis, 22 Ulrich Beyers.

Kick-off:19:00 (18:10 BST, 17:10 GMT)
Referee: Mark Lawrence

Western Province v Golden Lions
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

With fly-half Elton Jantjies and utility back Jaco Taute on Springbok duty this weekend, Western Province will fancy their chances of claiming a win against the table-toppers.

The Lions, however, will be keen to extend their three-match winning streak after recent victories over the Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs and Sharks.

WP coach Allister Coetzee deserves credit for making his team a competitive unit despite several setbacks throughout their campaign. Injuries, Springbok call-ups and even poor discipline by his troops has forced Coetzee to chop and change his side on a weekly basis.

But despite that, Coetzee has reason to smile as he has also unearthed some raw talent who have impressed throughout the campaign.

Players like midfield duo Marcel Brache and JP du Plessis have been at the forefront of WP's revival and if the Lions want to be successful they will have to keep these two players in check.

The Lions will rely heavily on former Springbok Butch James to launch attacks. Another player who could prove a handful for the home side's defenders is Lions centre Lionel Mapoe whose attacking skills has torn several defences to shred this year.

Prediction:This clash is difficult to call but being without Jantjies and Taute could lead to the Lions' downfall.WP to win by six points!

The teams:

Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Pat Howard.

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 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 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Deon van Rensburg, 22 James Kamana.

Kick-off:14:00 (13:00 BST, 12:00 GMT)
Referee: Marius Jonker


Free State Cheetahs v Griquas
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

These teams are locked in a battle with the Blue Bulls for the final play-off berth so an exciting clash can be expected as both teams go in search of victory.

Griquas have punched above their weight since the start of the tournament and will be eager to exact revenge on their neighbours who beat them 29-16 in Kimberley in the corresponding match earlier this season.

Pote Human's charges suffered a 45-21 loss to WP in Cape Town last week, which was their first defeat since going down to the Cheetahs in Round Three.

The Cheetahs have several exciting attacking players in their starting XV. Captain Robert Ebersohn and SA U20 stalwart Raymond Rhule combined well in the midfield against the Bulls last week.

It was the first time that they played together as a centre pairing and they will be looking to continue where they left off last week. Rhule, in particular, has been impressive with ball in hand and if Griquas give him too much space they will pay dearly.

Amongst the forwards, the battle for the loose ball between Springbok loose forward Heinrich Brussouw and Griquas flank Marnus Schoeman could have a huge bearing on the outcome of this match.

Prediction:This will be the closest match of the round but we think the Cheetahs will sneak in by three points!

The teams:

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Raymond Rhule, 12 Robert Ebersohn (c), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcell van der Merwe.
Replacements:
16 AJ le Roux, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Andries Strauss.

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (c), 1 Janro van Niekerk.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 JP Nel.

Kick-off:14:00 (13:00 BST, 12:00 GMT)
Referee: Jason Jaftha

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Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
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Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
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Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
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Saturday , September 13
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
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Overall 2014
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PosTeamPPts
1Western Province624
2Golden Lions620
3Pumas619
4Sharks616
5Cheetahs614