Pressure builds in Absa Currie Cup

Sep 11 • General News • 1807 Views • Comments Off on Pressure builds in Absa Currie Cup

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Photo: Anton Geyser

#1891 Man – The 1982 Currie Cup season saw the resurgence of Western Province under the guidance of Dawie Snyman. During the season they played 17 matches, of which they won 16 and only lost one. In the run-up to the final they scored 75 tries and conceded only 15. The final played at Newlands against Northern Transvaal, saw the Western Province side feature three brothers namely Willie, Carel and Michael Du Plessis. Western Province won the match 24-7 and this kick-started five years of Currie Cup dominance for the team, which last won the title outright in 1966.

The pressure on the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division teams will rise significantly this weekend as the scramble for semifinal places intensifies and the reality sets in for the lower-placed teams that they need to register victories to keep alive their semifinal hopes.

While DHL Western Province and the Steval Pumas will be looking to maintain their winning momentum to remain in pole position for home semifinals, the Xerox Golden Lions, Cell C Sharks, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Vodacom Blue Bulls will look to develop consistency in their performances as they are all still in the hunt for semifinal places.

The EP Kings and GWK Griquas, meanwhile, have their backs against the wall after disappointing starts to the season and have only mathematical chances of sneaking into the top four.

The EP Kings host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Friday in the opening match of the weekend, and on Saturday the Toyota Free State Cheetahs meet the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein, GWK Griquas take on the Steval Pumas in Kimberley and the Xerox Golden Lions battle it out with log-leaders DHL Western Province in Johannesburg.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls will enter their clash against the EP Kings as favourites after registering two victories in their last three matches despite a slow start to the season. With the EP Kings failing to win a match so far and the team conceding on average more than five tries per game, the Pretoria team may also see this clash as a possible opportunity to secure a bonus point. They will, however, be careful to write off the Kings as they put up a good fight when the sides met in Pretoria – the Kings went down by a narrow 30-25 margin in that encounter.

The clash between the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks is expected to be thrilling as both teams come off defeats and are desperate to build winning momentum ahead of the playoff stages. The Sharks, in particular, have hit a bad patch after going down to the Steval Pumas and GWK Griquas in the last two weeks and will place immense pressure on themselves to bounce back. Interestingly the last match between the teams was dominated by tactical kicking and penalties, and with both teams feeling the pressure this clash could follow a similar pattern.

In Kimberley GWK Griquas will have to work hard to stop the Steval Pumas, who will be hunting their fourth successive victory. However, they will use their last-gasp victory against the Cell C Sharks last week as inspiration to claim their next big scalp and keep alive their faint semifinal hopes. Interestingly, history favours the hosts as they have won five of their last six matches between the sides in Kimberley. In terms of form, the Steval Pumas have scored only four more tries than the GWK Griquas this season, but the hosts’ defence has let them down, which is an area they will focus on going into this clash.

The Xerox Golden Lions face an equally tough task in Johannesburg against log-leaders DHL Western Province, who have yet to be beaten this season. While the Cape side will be looking to maintain or possibly extend their lead on the log table with the hope of remaining in pole position for a possible home semifinal and final, the Xerox Golden Lions will be determined to bounce back from their defeat against the Vodacom Blue Bulls as they also have their eyes set on a possible home semifinal. Should the Johannesburg side succeed in this quest, it could open the door the other teams to have a shot at taking over the top spot on the log in the next few weeks. While the teams may place little significance on history, the hosts, in particular, will be mindful of the fact that the Cape side has won only one of their last 10 Absa Currie Cup matches at Ellis Park.

Team news

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has named Springbok wings Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson, centre JJ Engelbrecht and scrumhalf Piet van Zyl in his starting team to face the EP Kings as he looks to boost the firepower in the team. His Port Elizabeth counterpart Carlos Spencer, meanwhile, made five changes to his starting team which includes naming former Springbok prop CJ van der Linde, flank Devon Oosthuizen and flyhalf Gary van Aswegen in the run-on team in an attempt to sway their fortunes in the competition.

Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan reshuffled his backline with only scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius and centre Francois Venter remaining in the same positions. Among the changes were Rayno Benjamin moving to fullback with rookie Maphutha Dolo starting on the wing, while Joubert Engelbrecht and Willie du Plessis were welcomed back at centre and flyhalf respectively. In Durban Cell C Sharks coach Brad McLeod-Henderson made several changes to his team with lock Marco Wentzel and prop Dale Chadwick starting, and among the backs Tim Swiel will start at fullback while S’bura Sithole moves to centre alongside SA Under-21 centre Andre Esterhuizen.

GWK Griquas coach Hawies Fourie pinned his faith in the match-22 that defeated the Sharks, while there were only two personnel changes to the Steval Pumas starting team with fullback Coenie van Wyk reclaiming his place while scrumhalf Reynier van Rooyen takes over from Dylon Frylinck who is nursing a knee injury.

In Johannesburg Xerox Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann made a few changes to his backline with Lionel Mapoe and Stokkies Hanekom joining forces in the midfield, while scrumhalf Ricky Schroeder replaces the injured Ross Cronje. There were also a few changes to the pack with the most significant being Springbok Sevens star Kwagga Smith earning a start at flank. His DHL Western Province counterpart Allister Coetzee, meanwhile, made two changes to his team with Springbok prop Pat Cilliers starting at tighthead and flyhalf Kurt Coleman being handed a start. Scrumhalf Godlen Masimla has been named on the bench and could make his Absa Currie Cup debut if he takes to the field. Hooker Scarra Ntubeni has also been included on the bench.

Absa Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:

EP Kings vs Vodacom Blue Bulls

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Date: Friday, 12 September
Kickoff: 19h10
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman and Marc van Zyl
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs Cell C Sharks

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Date: Saturday, 13 September
Kickoff: 15h00
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Gerrie de Bruin and Jaco Kotze
TMO: JJ Wagner

GWK Griquas vs Steval Pumas

Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Date: Saturday, 13 September
Kickoff: 15h00
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden and Francois de Bruin
TMO: Deon van Blommestein

Xerox Golden Lions vs DHL Western Province

Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Date: Saturday, 13 September
Kickoff: 17h05
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius and Cobus Wessels
TMO: Willie Vos

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