Every match will be vital in the Currie Cup – sponsored by DirextAxis Financial Services – this weekend as two teams play their penultimate pool games, while the other four sides enter the second half of the competition.
DHL Western Province and the Phakisa Pumas will meet in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Free State Cheetahs battle it out in Durban, and the Xerox Golden Lions and Vodacom Blue Bulls line up in the Jukskei derby in Johannesburg.
Log-leaders, Tafel Lager Griquas, have a bye.
In the Currie Cup First Division – also sponsored by DirextAxis Financial Services – the scramble for the three remaining semi-final spots will reach boiling point as the teams take to the field with one goal in mind – to win at all costs with an eye on reaching the top four.
With six teams in the race for the three positions, the second-placed Valke are facing their toughest challenge yet this season when they take on the in-form Jaguares XV, who have already booked their semi-final berth.
Defending champions, the SWD Eagles, host the EP Elephants in George on Friday, while the Leopards take on Boland in Potchefstroom.
The Down Touch Griffons meet the Border Bulldogs in Welkom on Saturday and the Valke and log-leaders, the Jaguares XV, will meet in Brakpan at the same time.
Every match vital in Currie Cup Premier Division
DHL Western Province and the Phakisa Pumas will enter their Currie Cup match at DHL Newlands equally determined to register a victory as both sides currently find themselves on seven log points with only win to their name.
The Capetonians, however, have played three matches, while the Phakisa Pumas have played four, meaning a defeat for the men from Mpumalanga will in all likehood deal the killer blow to their semi-final aspirations.
DHL Western Province have a good track record against the Phakisa Pumas, suffering only one defeat since 2000, but the visitors showed against the Cell C Sharks that they can be a force to be reckoned with under pressure.
The home side will be boosted by the return of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi at flank, a move that resulted in JD Schickerling moving to lock, with Salmaan Moerat set to make an impact in the second half. Wilco Louw also returns to the starting line-up.
In the backline Justin Phillips is at scrumhalf, with Sergeal Petersen making his first start of the season on the wing.
Loose forward Nama Xaba could debut from the bench, with prop Neethling Fouche getting his first opportunity of the campaign and flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis back among the replacements.
The Phakisa Pumas were forced into a change in their backline following their solid, but surprising win over the Cell C Sharks last weekend. Alwayno Visagie replaces the injured Henko Marais at centre, with Ruwellyn Isbell taking the vacant slot left by Visagie.
The Cell C Sharks will also enter their match against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs with their backs against the wall after one win in three outings, which will set the scene for a thrilling battle.
The Free Staters suffered a narrow two-point defeat last week, which marked their first of the season, and they will be determined to bounce back and remain on the top-end of the standings with a chance of earning a possible home semi-final as the pool stages nears a close.
The Cell C Sharks, meanwhile, know that only a victory could possibly save their campaign with two matches remaining after this round.
Interestingly, the Cell C Sharks have won the last four matches between the sides, two of which were in Durban, but this will have no significance when they take to the field.
Their coach, Sean Everitt, has made four changes to his team – two each among the forwards and backs.
Mzamo Majola comes in for Juan Schoeman at loosehead prop, while Luke Stringer makes way for Jacques Vermeulen on the side of the scrum.
Among the backs, Aphelele Fassi takes over the fullback jersey from Rhyno Smith while Sanele Nohamba will start at scrumhalf with Cameron Wright playing off the bench.
Young Evan Roos is named on the bench, with the former SA Schools player from a year ago expected to make waves when he takes to the field for his debut.
For the Bloemfontein side, Clayton Blommetjies will be making his return to Currie Cup, replacing the injured Darren Adonis, while Carel-Jan Coetzee will be starting on wing. Louis Fouché replaces the injured Tian Schoeman at flyhalf.
Junior Pokomela is the number six flank with Abongile Nonkontwana at number seven, replacing the injured Marnus van der Merwe. JP du Preez (lock) and Charles Marais (loosehead prop) will be in the starting line-up with Walt Steenkamp and Ox Nche playing off the bench.
The Gauteng derby has all the ingredients for a mouth-watering encounter, with the Xerox Golden Lions going in search of their fourth successive victory, which would catapult them to the top of the standings, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls have to win their last two matches with bonus points to keep alive their hopes of possibly sneaking in the top four.
The Jozi side have won five of the last six matches between the teams, but the team from Pretoria will have all the motivation they need to create an upset.
Vodacom Blue Bulls coach, Pote Human, was forced into five changes in his pack and named in a new captain in Ivan van Zyl.
The scrumhalf will lead the team for the first time and UP-Tuks flanker, Fred Eksteen, will make his Vodacom Blue Bulls and Currie Cup debut. Van Zyl takes the armband of injured Ruan Steenkamp, with Eksteen donning the six jersey.
Dayan van der Westhuizen and Johan Grobbelaar were both elevated into the starting team for injured Simphiwe Matanzima, while Grobbelaar swops places with Jaco Visagie, who reverts to the bench.
Wian Vosloo moves into the starting team as well to replace injured Marco van Staden. In a fifth change to the pack, Andries Ferreira will start at lock.
Human left the backline intact, bar the Van Zyl swop with Embrose Papier, who will play off the bench.
Xerox Golden Lions coach, Ivan van Rooyen, made three changes to the starting XV that beat the Free State Cheetahs 24-22 in Bloemfontein last Friday. In the backline, Eddie Fouche replaces Jan-Louis la Grange at inside centre.
Up front, Len Massyn takes over the No 7 jersey from Vincent Tshituka and Reinhard Nothnagel comes in at lock for Wilhelm van der Sluys.
Currie Cup Premier Division Round 5 fixtures:
Friday, 9 August:
DHL Western Province v Phakisa Pumas
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Paul Mente and Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans
DHL Western Province – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Edwill van der Merwe.
Phakisa Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Ryan Nell (c), 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblance, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell, 23 Morgan Naude.
Saturday, 10 August
Cell C Sharks v Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Venue: Jonsson King Park, Durban
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Colby Griffin and Archie Sehlako
TMO: Christie du Preez
Cell C Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Rhyno Smith
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Carel-Jan Coetzee, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Sitno Manjesi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1. Charles Marais. Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dian Badenhorst / Tapiwa Mafura, 22 Ruan Pienaar.
Xerox Golden Lions v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius and Jaco Kotze
TMO: Pro Legoete
Xerox Golden Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (c), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Len Massyn, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Vincent Tshituka, 21 James Venter, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Duncan Matthews.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl (c), 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Fred Eksteen, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Dayan van der Westhuizen. Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Madot Mabokela, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Jean Droste, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Stedman Gans.
Semi-final scramble on in Currie Cup First Division
The top-of-the-table clash between the Valke and Jaguares XV is expected to be a cracker with both sides in good form this season, although the East Randers’ depth will be tested with a number of their players in action in an international tournament in Australia.
The Argentineans have been in superb form on attack and defence, which has seen them win all their matches with bonus points to book a berth in the semi-finals.
The Valke, however, are also unbeaten after three victories and two draws, and with the prospect of cementing their place in the semi-finals with a victory dangling in front of them, they are expected to give everything on the field.
Defensively, these two teams are the best in the competition, but with the Jaguares XV boasting 319 points in their five matches, the clash will serve as a true test for the Valke’s defence.
The clash between the SWD Eagles and EP Elephants – who are only one log point apart on the standings – is expected to be hard-fought given the fact that while a victory could place them in a good position to possibly finish the pool stage as one of the semi-finalists next week, a defeat could dash their hopes completely.
Eastern Province have been superior on attack and defence this season, although SWD will consider themselves unlucky after earning one win and two draws in their five outings, which will inspire them.
Boland and the Leopards are in a similar situation, with the men from the Winelands holding a narrow one-point lead on the table going into the round. With Boland having scored 29 points more than their opponents in their five matches, they may enter the game with a mental edge, but the Leopards boast a slightly better defence, which they will want to build on in the hope of earning their third win of the season.
Interestingly, the Leopards emerged victorious in all of the matches between the sides dating back to 2013, but they will be wary of the fact that this will have no significance on match-day.
The Down Touch Griffons will enter their match against the Border Bulldogs as favourites after suffering only one defeat in the competition so far, while the men from East London have yet to win a match. The hosts’ form aside, the fact that a victory may just be enough to allow the Free Staters to book a semi-final berth this weekend, is sure to inspire them even more.
Border, however, will have to tighten up their defence, in particular, to keep alive hopes of a victory after conceding 220 points in their last five matches
Currie Cup First Division Round 6 Fixtures:
Friday, 9 August:
SWD Eagles v EP Elephants
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Egon Seconds
Saturday, 10 August:
Leopards v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Olen Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Valke v Jaguares XV
Venue: Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Down Touch Griffons v Border Bulldogs
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Quinton Immelman