The burning desire to stay in the running for semi-final berths will be a key driving force in the Currie Cup Premier Division this weekend, while SWD and the Hino Valke will battle it out for the last semi-final spot as the pool phase in the First Division comes to a close.
In a thrilling climax to the Currie Cup – brought to you by DirectAxis and Nashua – eight of the nine Premier Division teams still have at least a mathematical chance of advancing to the semi-finals, although this number is expected to be reduced following the weekend’s matches. In the First Division, meanwhile, the fourth semi-finalist will be confirmed by Saturday evening.
Currie Cup Premier Division:
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will be hunting their sixth successive victory in the Currie Cup when they host the Xerox Golden Lions in Bloemfontein on Thursday evening. In turn, the visitors will look to build on their 58-32 victory against DHL Western Province and possibly play their way into the top four on the log table.Outside of the Currie Cup Qualifiers, which the Free Staters won 29-15 earlier this year, the Xerox Golden Lions have been dominant against their Bloemfontein counterparts in the competition in the last two seasons. The teams met in last year’s semi-final, which the Gauteng side won 43-33, while they also won the two previous matches between the sides convincingly.
Interestingly, the Xerox Golden Lions have scored 33 tries in their five matches this season to only 27 by Toyota Free State Cheetahs, but they have conceded five more tries than the opposition, meaning it could be a thrilling clash.
In Pretoria the Vodacom Blue Bulls will be looking to build on their convincing victories against the Steval Pumas and Xerox Golden Lions when they meet Griquas on Friday, but they will face tough competition as the Kimberley side come off four back-to-back victories.
Griquas pipped the Vodacom Blue Bulls 39-38 in the Currie Cup Qualifiers, but the men from Pretoria have won the last five match-ups between them in the Premier Division. The last time Griquas defeated the Vodacom Blue Bulls was back in 2012.
Fuelling both team’s motivation to win, the victorious side will finish this round in the top four on the log, which is invaluable given the fact that there are only two pool matches remaining following the weekend’s matches – with the Vodacom Blue Bulls sitting out one of these rounds.
The Cell C Sharks will target their clash against the EP Kings in Durban to return to winning ways and remain ahead of the chasing pack for a home semi-final following defeats against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and DHL Western Province.
The Port Elizabeth side have yet to win a match this season, while the last time the defeated the Cell C Sharks was in 1999. The visitors, however, have suffered defeats of eight points or less in their last three matches against the Durbanites, which will motivate them going into the clash.
DHL Western Province will enter their clash against the Steval Pumas in Cape Town under immense pressure to register a convincing victory to remain in the race for a semi-final berth following a disappointing start to the competition with only two victories in five matches.
The 2015 runners-up are currently in sixth position on the log with three matches remaining and will be fighting for survival in the next few weeks. History favours the Capetonians who have won all their matches against the Nelspruit side dating back to the 2000 season.
However, with the Steval Pumas still hunting their first win in the competition and the side facing the prospect of having to win all their remaining matches with bonus points to keep alive their faint hopes of a semi-final berth, they will give everything.
Currie Cup First Division:
In East London, Border will be searching for their first Currie Cup victory against SWD since 2011 when the sides meet at the BCM Stadium on Friday evening. With three victories in their four pool matches up to now and the trailing Down Touch Griffons having completed the pool stages of their campaign, Border are assured of second place on the log and a home semi-final next week.
However, they will rely on this match to build winning momentum going into the playoffs. SWD, meanwhile, will secure the last semi-final spot up for grabs if they register a victory, but a defeat could mark the end of their season, which will spice up the clash.
The match between the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias and Hino Valke in Windhoek could be a nail-biter. For the hosts it will mark their last shot at securing their maiden Currie Cup victory, while the Valke could find themselves fighting for a semi-final berth should SWD go down against Border on Friday.
The Hino Valke will enter the match with confidence after defeating the Namibians by 66-5 and 45-7 in the Currie Cup Qualifiers and the Vodacom Cup last season respectively, while their attack and defence has been more effective than that of their hosts this season.
· The Xerox Golden Lions scored 163 points in their last three Currie Cup Premier Division matches against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, with a total of 20 tries. Five of these tries were scored by Springbok flanker Jaco Kriel, who touched down in all three encounters.
· Accurate goal-kicking has been an important source of points for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in their last four clashes against Griquas, including the Currie Cup Qualifier. The Pretoria side kicked 17 conversions and nine penalties, accounting for 61 of their 166 points.
· The Cell C Sharks have earned bonus-point victories in three of their last four matches against the EP Kings, while the Port Elizabeth side has only scored four tries or more once in these matches.
· Steval Pumas flyhalf Justin van Staden was one of the key point-scorers for his team in their last three matches between the sides. He scored one try, three penalty goals and six conversions for a total of 26 points.
· SWD have scored 31 points or more in all of their Currie Cup matches against Border since the 2012 season.
· The Hino Valke have scored more than seven tries in each of their last two matches against the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias, while they have secured bonus points for tries in three of their four matches so far in the Currie Cup. The Welwitschias, meanwhile, have also shown their attacking prowess by scoring more than 23 points in three of their four matches in the competition.
Note: All the fixtures for the Currie Cup are available online, simply follow these links – Premier Division / First Division. Please note that these fixtures are subject to change.
Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:
Thursday, 15 September
Toyota Free State Cheetahs v Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Friday, 16 September
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Griquas
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Saturday, 17 September
Cell C Sharks v EP Kings
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
DHL Western Province v Steval Pumas
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (FR)
Currie Cup First Division fixtures:
Friday, 16 September
Border v SWD
Venue: BCM Stadium, East London
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Saturday, 17 September
Windhoek Draught Welwitschias v Hino Valke
Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Referee: Rodney Boneparte