Final Battles for Currie Cup teams

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Photo: Hennie Homann

#1891 Man: The first rugby ball ever made to South African Bureau of Standards requirements was presented to Dr Danie Craven, the President of the SA Rugby Board in 1983. Having balls made to SABS specification was done after touring sides complained that South African balls did not conform to the standards of the International Rugby Board. It was the first piece of sporting equipment anywhere in the world to be given a National Bureau of Standards certification.

The Absa Currie Cup teams will have one last chance to fight for the remaining home semifinal and semifinal berth in the competition this weekend as the round-robin stages reaches a conclusion.

The Xerox Golden Lions and Cell C Sharks will battle it out for the second home semifinal, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the Steval Pumas will go head-to-head for the last semifinal berth.

The Xerox Golden Lions have a slim advantage over the Cell C Sharks to finish in the top two on the log as they have a two-point cushion over the Durban side, but if they suffer a defeat and the Cell C Sharks win their match they will be displaced on the log.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls, meanwhile, boast a two-point lead over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and a four-point lead over the Steval Pumas in the race for the last semifinal berth. But fortunately for the Pretoria side, they will know exactly what they need to do secure their spot in the top four by the time they take to the field as they play the last match of the weekend.

The EP Kings will meet the Steval Pumas in Port Elizabeth in the only match on Friday, and on Saturday the Xerox Golden Lions take on the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Johannesburg, DHL Western Province host the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town and the Vodacom Blue Bulls go up against GWK Griquas in Pretoria.

In Port Elizabeth the EP Kings will be desperate to register their first victory of the season, but they will face a determined Steval Pumas side hunting a bonus-point victory to keep them in the race for a possible semifinal berth.

The sides have been closely matched on attack this season, with the home team having scored one more try than the Nelspruit outfit, however, the EP Kings will have to defend like demons to keep alive hopes of a victory. The EP Kings have only beaten the Nelspruit side twice in Port Elizabeth since 2007, with their last victory being in the 2012 Absa Currie Cup First Division final.

The Xerox Golden Lions will enter their match against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs with the knowledge that they need a victory to shut out the Cell C Sharks for a home semifinal, while the visitors will be wary of the fact that a defeat will dash their semifinal hopes.

This should set the scene for a thrilling match-up.

The Xerox Golden Lions have been better than their Bloemfontein counterparts on attack and defence this season, and the fact that they have won all their home matches this season will give them a psychological edge. But their Bloemfontein counterparts won two of their four away games and came close to toppling the Cell C Sharks in Durban, which will inspire them at Ellis Park.

The Xerox Golden Lions lost their last home match against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, but they won the four previous games at Ellis Park, which they will draw confidence from.

In Cape Town, log-leaders DHL Western Province have already secured a home semifinal and the top spot on the log, but they will face a determined Cell C Sharks outfit. Interestingly, the Durban side will know whether they could qualify for a home semifinal by the time they take to the field as the Xerox Golden Lions, who have an inside lane for the position, take to the field before them.

Regardless of that, both teams will be looking to continue their winning momentum in the lead-up to the semifinals after winning their last three matches.

This match will mark a repeat of last year’s final, which the Durban side won, and with the Cell C Sharks having won three of their last four matches against their opponents in Cape Town, they will enter the match with confidence.

In Pretoria the Vodacom Blue Bulls are expected to be tested against GWK Griquas who will look to build on their victory against the EP Kings and finish their season on a high. The hosts, meanwhile, will have their sights set on cementing a semifinal berth and building on the winning momentum gained in their last two matches.

The Pretoria side have won their last 10 matches against the Kimberley side at their fortress Loftus Versfeld, which will boost their confidence going into the clash.

Team news

EP Kings coach Carlos Spencer has made a few changes to his team, two of which were injury enforced as props CJ Van der Linde and Charles Marais were ruled out. This resulted in BG Uys and Simon Kerrod being handed starts, along with lock Darron Nell and fullback Scott van Breda. His Steval Pumas counterpart Jimmy Stonehouse made only two changes to his starting team with flank Brian Shabangu and No8 RW Kember replacing the injured Jaco Bouwer and Renaldo Bothma respectively.

Xerox Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann made three changes to his starting XV with flank Derick Minnie starting in a strong loose trio with Springbok Warren Whiteley, while Howard Mnisi will feature in the midfield.

Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan recalled Springboks, lock Lood de Jager, flank Teboho Mohoje and prop Trevor Nyakane following their return from national duty. Bok prop Coenie Oosthuizen, meanwhile, has been withdrawn from the competition as he is a contracted Springbok. The changes in backline saw the inclusion of centre JP du Plessis and wing AJ Coertzen.

In Cape Town DHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee made wholesale changes to his team with prop Oli Kebble, lock Jurie van Vuuren and wings Devon Williams and EW Viljoen earning their first starts for the union. Kurt Coleman will start at flyhalf in what will mark his 50th Absa Currie Cup cap.

Cell C Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson named Springbok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach in the run-on team in his first Absa Currie Cup match this season, while S’bura Sithole will start at centre and Tonderai Chavhanga on the wing. Up front prop Matt Stevens and hooker Monde Hadebe will start in a new-look front row.

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made a number of changes to his team, which sees the return of Springbok wing Bjorn Basson and scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, while Junior Springbok William Small-Smith replaces contracted Bok centre JJ Engelbrecht.

In the pack Bok prop Marcel van der Merwe will start in a new-look front row with hooker Bongi Mbonambi and loosehead prop Morne Mellett.

In the GWK Griquas camp a spate of injuries forced coach Hawies Fourie to make a handful of changes to his team with PJ Vermeulen moving to centre and Jacquin Jansen starting at fullback.

Flyhalf Francois Brummer will lead the side in the absence of injured skipper Wayne Stevens.

Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Fixtures:

EP Kings vs Steval Pumas

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Date: Friday, 10 October
Time: 19h10
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Referees: Christie du Preez and Tahla Ntshakaza
TMO: Jason Jaftha

Xerox Golden Lions vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs

Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Date: Saturday, 11 October
Time: 15h00
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Ben Crouse and Francois de Bruin
TMO: Johan Greeff

DHL Western Province vs Cell C Shark

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Date: Saturday, 11 October
Time: 17h05
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe and Marc van Zyl
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Vodacom Blue Bulls vs GWK Griquas

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Saturday, 11 October
Time: 19h10
Referee: Pro Legoete
Assistant Referee: Quinton Immelman and Sieg van Staden
TMO: Willie Vos

Courtesy of SARU

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