Currie Cup

Everyone’s chasing Griquas in Currie Cup

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With only two matches each to go in the first round of the Currie Cup , the teams are lining up to keep up with log-leaders Griquas – and also not to lag behind in a position where they will not be able to catch up again.

In Kimberley, the clash between Griquas and the Blue Bulls on Saturday is an intriguing prospect. Unlikely to take command in the competition, Griquas are riding the wave with five wins from five outings – and included in that are all the others sides but last year’s two Currie Cup  finalists Blue Bulls and the Sharks.

The Blue Bulls have close to what is their best side of the competition on the field this weekend. The return of Dewald Potgieter and, since last week, also Deon Stegmann, gives them a more authoritative look up front.

It is in the scrum, however, that this match could be decided. The Bulls have been rather disappointing in this facet so far, despite a good front row consisting of Springbok Gurthro Steenkamp at loosehead and two near-Boks in hooker and captain Derick Kuun and tighthead Werner Kruger.

Aggression in the tight-loose will be Griquas’ other weapon, and the Blue Bulls will have to be prepared to fight fire with fire. Discipline will also be important, as will accurate tactical kicking from halfbacks Ruan Brummer and Francois Hougaard.

The reason for both these provisos is Griquas fullback Riaan Viljoen who earlier this year almost single-handedly won a Cup final against the Blue Bulls and repeated his kicking feat last weekend against Western province with two enormous drops and a long-range penalty.

The Lions have a non-negotiable win against the Sharks in Johannesburg as a target on Saturday. This is a home game, and if they can put one over the Sharks they will not only keep their must-win at home on track but also give the Sharks what will be a blow to their away-win targets.

With the visitors as strong as they can hope to be during the Tri-Nations with the return of Springboks prop Deon Carstens and the release of Australasia tour Boks Odwa Ndungane and Ryan Kankowski for provincial duty, the pressure is squarely on the home side.

The Lions pack, under supervision of 1995 Rugby World Cup winning props Balie Swart and Marius Hurter have been working hard on their scrum – and Swart, a former scrummaging coach with the Sharks, undoubtedly had some information to share on his former charges with the Lions front row of JC Janse van Rensburg, Hans van Dyk and Gert Muller.

The battle for the ruck ball between Sharks flank Jacques Botes and Cobus Grobbelaar, the driving play of Willem Alberts as a contrast to the free-running play of Sharks No 8 Ryan Kankowski and two sides that love to take the ball wide promise some exciting stuff, where Lions scrumhalf Jano Vermaak could be the difference between winning and losing for the two sides.

In Potchefstroom the Leopards are under pressure to win their first match in the competition when the face a flu-ridden but confident Free State Cheetahs side.

The Free State team had to make changes to their unchanged side that beat the Blue Bulls last weekend, but should nevertheless keep on their winning way against a team that have struggled to take the step up from the First Division.

Free State could however find that it isn’t just for pitching up. They play on Friday night, and Potchefstroom has never been an easy hunting ground for visitors and will be even less so under floodlights in a cold winter.

Free State simply have to win. That is their only way to try and make up the leeway on the log after four consecutive defeats before their win over the Blue Bulls, and it is also important in that it will help them to move away from the relegation zone.

In Wellington Western Province are clear-cut favourites against a Boland Cavaliers side that has only a win against the Leopards to its credit. However, there have been signs that the Cavaliers can, if they hit their straps, surprise one of the big ones.

WP are still unsure about their style of play, they still lack the confidence of a top side, and if their pack can’t exert the control they’re capable of, this result could be an unlikely surprise.

“It is important to get the full house of points against the (so-called) smaller unions. But it is going to be a challenge for us in Wellington,” said WP coach Allister Coetzee, “but going to Wellington has been a banana peel all these years for us.

“We cannot go there and take them lightly. It doesn’t matter how many players are injured in that Boland side.

Whoever puts on that Boland jersey will come out and show us that they are ready.”

Fixtures (home teams first):

Friday:
Leopards v Free State Cheetahs, 7.10pm

Saturday:

Griquas v Blue Bulls, 3pm;
Boland Cavaliers v Western Province, 3pm;
Lions v Sharks, 5.05pm.

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