Currie Cup

Currie Cup upsets could be on the cards

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If the start to the second round of the Currie Cup Premier Division provides the same surprises as the kick-off to the competition two months ago, the fans are in for a feast this weekend.

Western Province then surprised defending champions the Sharks in the first round, Griquas beat neighbours the Free State Cheetahs and the Blue Bulls were a little fortunate to escape defeat after trailing 13-0 against the Lions.
 
Since then, the pecking order has, however, established itself.

The Blue Bulls and Griquas are still up there with the leaders, while the Cheetahs and the Lions are hanging on for dear life to make the play-offs.

Friday night will see a fixture between the Leopards and the Boland Cavaliers in Potchefstroom that will be nothing but a battle of pride at the bottom of the log.

The Leopards are winless after seven matches but they have captain Wilhelm Koch back as well as a number of other stalwarts.

Phillip Lemmer’s return will make them more solid in the scrum, and if they can keep up their concentration and ensure their own lineouts are won, the Boland Cavaliers could again find they simply don’t have it at this level.

On Saturday the Sharks – this time at home – meet Western Province in a top-of-the-table clash.
 
The Sharks and Province won their matches against Griquas and the Lions respectively last weekend but neither side were remotely impressive.

WP couldn’t do better than three tries against a very average Lions side despite having about 80% of the first half possession. Handling, options and lack of penetration let them down.

The Sharks still haven’t mastered the tactical kicking game, although returning halfbacks Juan Martin Hernandez and Rory Kockott could make a difference in this regard and perhaps also create more running space.

Last weekend the Sharks again had to rely on long range breaks after good defense for their tries against a Griquas side that made one wonder how they had survived unbeaten in their first five matches.

The Sharks, at home, simply have more firepower, and the basis for success could lie with their tight five against a WP side that have picked up tremendously in this department but still are not much better than journeymen.
 
A loss for WP could see the Blue Bulls or Griquas, or both, leapfrog them on the log.

The Blue Bulls play a Lions side in Johannesburg on Saturday that do not exactly inspire much confidence. The Lions have scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, a very good loose trio and a number of decent players but they do not possess the knockout punch needed.

In fact, it looks like a rather unsettled side behind the scrum as well, where the Lions have a new centre, a new wing and the exciting Earl Lewis at fullback in place of Earl Rose.

The Lions will show guts and undoubtedly give it their best, but the Blue Bulls are expected to take at least four points from the encounter – and make it very difficult for the Lions to come back into semifinal contention.

Have Griquas run their race after two consecutive defeats following five wins in a row? One wouldn’t think so.

They’re too good a side for that and coach Dawie Theron is a useful motivator who should get them to recover on Saturday against a Free State side conversely on a run of wins after losing their first four.

The Cheetahs look a better outfit now that Jacques-Louis Potgieter is playing a more direct game, but Griquas – if they don’t develop the stutters they had against the Sharks – are good enough all-round to repeat their first-round win.

The battle on the ground, and taking care of the loose ball, will determine the result.

In the First Division the Border Bulldogs, fresh from a first win, are at home on Friday against neighbours the Might Elephants, who should build on a season that looks a little better than the past two or three.

The Griffons are at home to the Valke on Saturday, and the Welkom side should take this one at a canter against a Valke side who remain winless this year after coming down from the Premier Division where they played last year.

Fixtures for the weekend (home sides first):

Friday:

Premier Division:
Leopards v Kavaliers, 7.10pm.

First Division:
Border Bulldogs v Mighty Elephants, 3pm.

Saturday:
Premier Division:
Griquas v Free State Cheetahs, 3pm;
Sharks v WP, 3pm; Lions v Blue Bulls, 5.05pm.

First Division:
Griffons v Valke, 3pm.

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