The Armchair Critic talks Currie Cup
Week seven of the Currie Cup gets underway on Friday night with a top versus bottom of the log clash at a cold and wet Newlands Stadium. Western Province lead the standings by a solitary point over the Sharks and head into this game against Griquas as obvious favourites to remain table toppers and the only unbeaten side so far this season. Last week's excellent win over the Bulls, their first win at Loftus in seven years, has given the Capetonians so much confidence and belief that they can once again go all the way to the final again this year.
Lock De Kock Steenkamp will again lead the WP side in the absence of injured skipper Deon Fourie, with Coach Allister Coetzee making just two changes. Rohan Kitshoff will start in the number six jersey as Coetzee opts for a fetcher in his loose trio in the absence of Michael Rhodes, who has been suspended for one match for stamping against the Bulls. With terrible conditions forecast over the cape peninsula over the next 48 hours, this game is bound to be determined by a forwards battle. That means Steven Kitshoff's role will be pivotal, much like Deon Fourie's each week. Kurt Coleman retains his place at flyhalf, while Demetri Catrakilis finds himself in a WP match 22 for the first time since last year's Currie Cup final in Durban.
The confidence in the Province camp shows in Coetzee's selection, naming two debutants on the bench in loosies Rayn Smid and Josh Katzen, along with youngsters, Gerbrandt Grobler at lock and Michael Willemse at hooker. It's a very inexperienced bench, but this is the perfect game to unleash the next lot of talent the Cape has to offer.
It's not going to get more difficult for Griquas than this encounter at Newlands. They've been training in approximately 30 degree heat in Kimberley all week on a hard surface. Conditions could could not be any more different in Cape Town. They have to adapt very quickly or else it's going to be a long night at Newlands. Griquas are also plagued by injuries to key players, with forward Carel Greeff ruled out for the next couple of weeks with a broken hand, as well as fullback PJ Vermeulen and lock Victor Kruger out with broken ankles.
It's therefore a no-brainer that Province should win this one and who knows, maybe with a four try bonus point? After all it is expected to snow on Table mountain this weekend…
Prediction: WP 25-10 Griquas
The Sharks will look to consolidate their second place position on the log, with a win over the Cheetahs at Kings Park. The Sharks along with WP have been the two most consistent teams this season. It will be difficult to call this one against the Sharks, even though the Cheetahs have been solid as well.
The Sharks are sticking to their rotation policy by making changes to the side that snuck past Griquas last week. Tera Mtembu starts on the side of the scrum, in a new look loose trio. Springbok Marcell Coetzee is back on the other flank, with Keegan Daniel moving back to number eight. Jean Deysel, who's been a machine this season, gets a deserved rest along with Jacques Botes. At flyhalf, Fred Zelinga returns, with Butch James moving to the bench.
The Cheetahs have looked great with Elgar Watts at pivot and his battle against Zeilinga will an interesting one. The latter being a good tactical kicker against a relatively exciting Watts. The game could well come down to who kicks better off the tee.
Prediction: Sharks 21-17 Cheetahs
It's the Jukskei derby at Ellis Park and only a hardened Blue Bulls fan will back Pine Pienaar and his men to win this one. The Lions have played such exciting rugby this season, albeit mostly in the second half. The Lions appear to play the best rugby when chasing the game, but I don't see that being the case this week. They should see this one off comfortably, as the Bulls have looked dire this season, showing almost nothing to get excited about.
Handre Pollard at flyhalf for the Bulls has looked mediocre so far, while Elton Jantjies runs the show at the Lions, looking more and more impressive each week. Yes, the Lions have only won two from six, but their all round play has been solid and on attack they are by far the most potent in the competition. The Lions should take this one and will probably bag a four try bonus point along the way to push them into third on the table.
Prediction: Lions 35 -20 Bulls