Scramble for last two semifinal spots heats up

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Photo: William Brown

#1891 Man: The first-ever referees society in South Africa was established in 1896 under the leadership of Henry Rickon Kemsley of Port Elizabeth who was a referee between 1893 and 1919. The first national referees society of the SA Rugby Football Board (SARFB) , namely the South African Referees Society (SARS), was established in Bloemfontein in 1924 and held its first Annual General Meeting on the 26th March 1925. It only got representation onto the SARFB in 1927 when the International Rugby Board became the law-making body of the rugby world. The South African Coloured Rugby Football Board (SACRFB), the controlling body for black rugby in the country, had a similar structure known as the SA Coloured Referees Society (SACRS) which following its reconstitution as the SA Rugby Union in 1966, became The Referees Association of South Africa (TRASA).

The scramble for the last two semifinal berths in the Absa Currie Cup is expected to heat up significantly this weekend as only two pool rounds remain for the four teams in the running to force their way into the top half on the log standings.

DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions have already booked their semifinal places and will look to stay ahead of the chasing pack for home semifinals. The Cell C Sharks, Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls, meanwhile, all harbour hopes of securing the last two semifinal places as only seven points separate these teams on the log standings.

The weekend’s clashes will be decisive as the Steval Pumas host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Nelspruit and the Cell C Sharks meet the Xerox Golden Lions in Durban on Friday and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs take on log-leaders DHL Western Province in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

In the other match on Saturday, GWK Griquas and the EP Kings will meet in a bottom-of-the-log clash.

The match-up between the Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will be thrilling as the home team boasts a narrow one-point lead over their counterparts on the log, meaning both sides will desperate to distance themselves on the log table. The Nelspruit team’s attack has been superior this season with the side scoring 22 tries to only 17 by the Pretoria side, but they have been closely matched on defence with the Vodacom Blue Bulls conceding 21 tries and the Steval Pumas 20. These factors combined with the intense pressure on the teams to secure semifinal berths could result in an epic encounter. Interestingly the Nelspruit team won only two of the 16 matches between the sides dating back to 1997, but both of these matches were home games for the Pumas. Their last victory was a narrow 22-21 win in 2010.

In Durban the match between the Cell C Sharks and Xerox Golden Lions is expected to be equally entertaining with both teams having their sights set on possible home semifinals. A victory for the Xerox Golden Lions will allow them to remain in a comfortable position for a home semifinal, while a win for the Cell C Sharks would allow them to close in on the Johannesburg team on the log and keep alive their home semifinal hopes. The home team will have to deliver a solid defensive effort, in particular, to shut out the Xerox Golden Lions who have been the best attacking team this season. That said the Cell C Sharks will take comfort from the fact that they boast the best defence in the competition. They will also draw confidence from the fact that they have won the last seven Absa Currie Cup clashes between the sides in Durban. The last time the Johannesburg team beat them at home was in 2007.

DHL Western Province will have their sights on retaining the top position on the log when they meet the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. But they may have to work hard for a victory as the home team is aware that a defeat could dash their semifinal aspirations. With the Cape side in second place on the list of the most tries scored this season and the least tries conceded respectively they will enter the clash as favourites. They will also enter the match with confidence following back-to-back victories against the Steval Pumas and GWK Griquas. Form aside, the Cape side have won the last four match-ups between the sides in the competition dating back to 2012 – two of which were in Bloemfontein – and they will look to continue this dominance.

In Kimberley GWK Griquas and the EP Kings will both have a point to prove as the Kings remain winless in the series, while the home team’s defeat against the Xerox Golden Lions dealt a massive blow to their semifinal hopes. Interestingly the EP Kings have scored four more tries than GWK Griquas this season, but their defence has let them down as they have conceded more than five tries on average per match. The teams have met only four times since 2007 and the Port Elizabeth team won only one of these matches.

Team news

In the Steval Pumas camp coach Jimmy Stonehouse made only one change to his starting team with flyhalf Justin van Staden replacing JC Roos. Coenie van Wyk will replace van Staden on the bench. Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made only two rotational switches to his team with hooker Callie Visagie and scrumhalf Rudy Paige replacing Piet van Zyl and Bongi Mbonambi respectively.

Xerox Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made a handful of changes to his team for their clash against the Cell C Sharks with prop Schalk van der Merwe, hooker Robbie Coetzee and No8 Willie Britz being drafted into the pack. Among the backs star flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff and centre Stokkies Hanekom have also been named in the run-on team. The Cell C Sharks coaches, meanwhile, drafted the most experienced Absa Currie Cup player of all time Jacques Botes, lock Stephan Lewies and prop Thomas du Toit into the starting XV, while Matt Stevens and Fred Zeilinga have recovered from injuries and will start on the bench.

In Bloemfontein Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan was forced to make two changes to his side following injuries to wing Rayno Benjamin and No8 Jean Cook, which has made way for JP du Plessis and Neil Claassen respectively. The only other change was at lock where Werner Lourens replaces Henco Venter. His DHL Western Province counterpart Allister Coetzee made five changes to his starting team which sees Dillyn Leyds replacing the injured Cheslin Kolbe at fullback, while Pat Howard comes in for Springbok Sevens wing Justin Geduld. Manuel Carizza and Rynhardt Elstadt form a new-look lock pairing in the absence of the injured Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn. The other change was at scrumhalf where Nic Groom takes over from Louis Schreuder.

GWK Griquas coach Hawies Fourie made a few changes to his team with Jaco Nepgen moving from flank to lock as cover for the injured Hilton Lobberts, while flank Marnus Schoeman was drafted into the loose trio. The only change in the backline was the inclusion of wing Danie Dames in place of Ederies Arendse, who drops to the bench. EP Kings coach Carlos Spencer also made a few changes to his starting line-up, which includes lock Cameron Lindsay taking over from the injured Daron Nell in the engine room, while Tim Agaba is promoted from the bench to No8. This resulted in a positional switch for Paul Schoeman to flank.

Absa Currie Cup fixtures:

Steval Pumas vs Vodacom Blue Bulls

Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Date: Friday, 3 October
Time: 19h10
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge and Sieg van Staden
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
TV: SS8

Cell C Sharks vs Xerox Golden Lions

Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Date: Friday, 3 October
Time: 19h10
Referee: Pro Legoete
Assistant Referees: Oregopotse Rametsi and Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Jason Jaftha
TV: SS1

Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs DHL Western Province

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Date: Saturday, 4 October
Time: 14h00
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe and Rodney Boneparte
TMO: JJ Wagner
TV: SS1

GWK Griquas vs EP Kings

Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Date: Saturday, 4 October
Time: 14h30
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Ben Crouse and Stephan Geldenhuys

Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs

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