The momentum of the Currie Cup – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services and Nashua – will change significantly on Saturday as the teams make the switch from qualifying mode to final mode as they take to the field in the Premier Division semi-finals.
The Cell C Sharks will host the Xerox Golden Lions in Durban at 14h30, while defending champions and log-leaders, DHL Western Province, will meet the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town at 17h00. All four teams will field 23-man squads, as opposed to applying rolling substitutions as in the pool stages.
A victory for DHL Western Province will guarantee them a home final at DHL Newlands on Saturday, 27 October, however, should they suffer a defeat, the winner of the Cell C Sharks and Xerox Golden Lions match will host the final.
At Jonsson Kings Park, the Cell C Sharks will be determined to build on their 37-21 victory against the Xerox Golden Lions in a repeat of this match in the pool stages, but they will be wary of underestimating the visitors.
The Durbanites have suffered only one defeat at home against their Gauteng rivals since 2008, and that was in 2015, which should bolster their confidence going into the match. Interestingly, the Xerox Golden Lions have scored 46 more points than the KwaZulu-Natalians in the pool stages, but they conceded 80 more.
The Xerox Golden Lions made only three changes to their team, with Pieter Jansen joining Springboks Warren Whiteley and Aphiwe Dyanti in their starting team.
The Cell C Sharks also made minimal changes to their side with Thomas du Toit and Daniel du Preez starting, while Marius Louw and Robert du Preez are back at centre and flyhalf respectively, which sees Curwin Bosch move to fullback.
In Cape Town every point will count for DHL Western Province who will have their sights set on earning their first home final since 2014 to give themselves the best possible chance to defend their title when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in their second successive match.
The Capetonians powered their way to a comprehensive 34-7 victory last week, which proved to be the final score after the match was cut short due to heavy rain and lighting after the first half.
They will, however, be wary of writing off the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who had to dig deep to earn a semi-final berth and who will have a point to prove after their disappointing display last week.
DHL Western Province have been dominant against their Pretoria rivals in the last four seasons, with nine victories in 12 outings, and although anything can happen in a semi-final, the Pretorians will have their work cut out to create an upset as the hosts have been the best side on attack and defence this season.
Dillyn Leyds and Juarno Agustus have recovered from injury and will start for DHL Western Province, while Dan Kriel and Bongi Mbonambi are back from a rest. Kriel will partner up with Ruhan Nel in the midfield, while Damian Willemse has been named at flyhalf.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls moved Trevor Nyakane to the loosehead position and named Dayan van der Westhuizen as tighthead in changes up front. In the backs, Dylan Sage will make a first start for his new team and Duncan Matthews was named at wing.
Fans at DHL Newlands and Jonsson Kings Park will be able to find and tag themselves on an interactive 360o FANCAM image, compliments of DirectAxis Financial Services, which can be shared on social media by registering on directaxis.fancam.com. A virtual Currie Cup trophy will also be hidden on the image, and those who find it stand a chance to win a VIP trip to the Currie Cup final.
Currie Cup Semi-final fixtures:
Saturday, 20 October
Cell C Sharks v Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs and Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Christie du Preez
Cell C Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Sbu Nkosi, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder (capt), Daniel du Preez, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Hyron Andrews, Gideon Koegelenberg, Thomas du Toit, Akker van der Merwe, Juan Schoeman. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Mzamo Majola, Coenie Oosthuizen, Luke Stringer, Jean-Luc du Preez, Cameron Wright, Leolin Zas, Aphelele Fassi
Xerox Golden Lions: Sylvian Mahuza, Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe, Howard Mnisi, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom (capt), Warren Whiteley, Pikkie de Villiers, James Venter, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Jacobie Adriaanse, Pieter Jansen, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Tiaan van der Merwe, Danie Mienie, Chergin Fillies, Vincent Tshituka, Hacjivah Dayimani, Dillon Smit, Shaun Reynolds, Wandisile Simelane.
DHL Western Province v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge and Paul Mente
TMO: Willie Vos
DHL Western Province: Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan Kriel, SP Marais, Damian Willemse, Herschel Jantjies, Juarno Augustus, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (capt), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Michael Kumbirai, Salmaan Moerat, Jaco Coetzee, Paul de Wet, Josh Stander, JJ Engelbrecht
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Divan Rossouw, Duncan Matthews, Dylan Sage, Johnny Kotze, Jade Stighling, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Marco van Staden, Ruan Steenkamp, Eli Snyman, Hendré Stassen, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Jaco Visagie, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Frans van Wyk, Conrad van Vuuren, Ruan Nortje, Nic de Jager, Embrose Papier, Tinus de Beer, Franco Naude.
Currie Cup First Division
In the Currie Cup First Division – also sponsored by Nashua and DirectAxis Financial Services – the SWD Eagles will battle it out with the Hino Valke for their first title since 2007, while the Kempton Park outfit will hunt their first title ever when they cross paths at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday.
The battles between these sides in the last four seasons have been gripping, with no more than five points determining the winner in their last six matches. Earlier this season SWD pipped the Hino Valke 36-34 in Kempton Park, which sets the scene for a nail-biting final.
A victory for SWD would mark their third successive victory against the Hino Valke, while the men from Kempton Park will go in search of their first victory in George since 2014.
The visitors attack has been their main weapon this season, with their 364 points and 54 tries in seven matches this season making them the top points’ scorers, while SWD boasts the best defensive record, with only 131 points conceded, which will spice things up.
The hosts will have to contain the Hino Valke’s Anrich Richter, Etienne Taljaard and Friedle Olivier, in particular, as Richter’s 88 points has made him the top points’ scorer this season, while his counterparts are the top try scorers with 11 and seven respectively.
However, the Hino Valke will be equally wary of SWD’s Divan Nel, who is in second place on the points scorer’s list with 71 points, and whose 13 penalty goals marks the most this season.
Currie Cup First Division Final:
Friday, 19 October
SWD Eagles v Hino Valke
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Ben Crouse and Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Johan Greeff
SWD Eagles: Leighton Eksteen, Marlo Weich, Tyler Fisher, Vuyo Mbotho, Alshaun Bock, Divan Nel, Johannes Steyn, Wayne Wilschut, Nicolaas Immelman, Hendrik Stander, Wynand Grassmann, Ruben Schoeman, Mzuvukile Sofisa, Jacobus Vermaak, Luxolo Koza. Replacements: Le Roux Baard, Teunis Nieuwoudt, Dewald Dekker, Johannes Janse van Rensburg, Brendon Esterhuizen, Kirsten Heyns, Adri Jacobs.
Hino Valke: Andries Truter, Don Mlondobozi, Lundi Ralarala, Grant Janke, Etienne Taljaard, Errol Jaggers, Anrich Richter, Friedle Olivier, Wihan Jacobs, Sikhumbuzo Mabuza, Jacques Alberts, Shane Kirkwood (capt), Heinrich Roelfse, Marco Klopper, Jacobus Strauss. Replacements: Jan-Frederik Enslin, Andries Schutte, Andrew Volschenk, Martin Sithole, Johan Pretorius, Andrew van Wyk, Coert Cronje.