DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks will go head-to-head in a table-topping thriller in the Currie Cup in Cape Town on Saturday, where the winning side will secure a home semi-final and take a step closer to finishing the pool stages in pole position.
The match – which marks the only Currie Cup Premier Division clash this weekend – is expected to be epic as both sides have won all four of their matches this season with bonus points, and need only three more points in their two remaining matches to guarantee home semi-finals in the competition sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services and Nashua.
Defending champions, DHL Western Province, will enter the match as the second-best attacking team, with 27 tries to 17 by the Durbanites, while the teams have been closely matched on defence with the Capetonians conceding 78 points and their counterparts 72, which sets the scene for a cracker.
The fact that the last time the teams met was in the 2017 Currie Cup final, which DHL Western Province won 33-21 in Durban, is expected to spice things up.
Interestingly, the hosts have won four of the last five match-ups between the teams – three of which were in Durban – but they suffered defeats in all but one of their home games against the KwaZulu-Natalians at DHL Newlands since 2013.
DHL Western Province made eight personnel changes to their starting lineup, which features a new front row of Ali Vermaak, Scarra Ntubeni and Michael Kumbirai, while JD Schickerling and Ernst van Rhyn join Juarno Augustus in the loose trio. The changes among the backs see Jano Vermaak, SP Marais and Dillyn Leyds earn starts.
In stark contrast the Cell C Sharks squad shows only two changes, with Jacques Vermeulen taking over from Luke Stringer in the loose trio, while Leolin Zas is drafted onto the bench.
Fans at DHL Newlands will be able to find and tag themselves on an interactive 360o FANCAM image, compliments of DirectAxis Financial Services, which can be shared on social media by registering on directaxis.fancam.com. A virtual Currie Cup trophy will also be hidden on the image, and those who find it stand a chance to win a VIP trip to the Currie Cup final.
Currie Cup First Division
In the Currie Cup First Division – also sponsored by Nashua and DirectAxis – the Leopards, will have their sights set on a home semi-final, while the Boland Cavaliers will give everything in their final pool match to book their place in the top four, as the battle for semi-final places reaches fever pitch.
The Hino Valke will host the winless Eastern Province in the opening match on Friday, where they will target a victory to stay in contention for a place in the top four after stumbling last week.
This will be followed by an intense clash between the SWD Eagles and Boland Cavaliers in George, who will both give everything, as a victory for the hosts could steer them a step closer to a possible home semi-final, while a bonus-point win for Boland will guarantee them a semi-final berth.
The clash in Welkom on Saturday between the Down Touch Griffons and Leopards will mark a repeat of last year’s final, but the situation will be vastly different this time around as a win for the Leopards will guarantee them a home semi-final, while the hosts will be fighting for survival.
Even if the Down Touch Griffons secure bonus-point victories in both their remaining matches, their fate may not be in their control after a disappointing start to the competition.
Currie Cup Round 7 fixture:
Saturday, 29 September:
DHL Western Province v Cell C Sharks
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds and Divan Uys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Currie Cup First Division Round 6 fixtures:
Friday, 28 September:
Hino Valke v Eastern Province
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Mpho Matsaung and local appointment
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Local appointments
Saturday, 29 September:
Down Touch Griffons v Leopards
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Darren Colby and local appointment