A gaze into the Currie Cup crystal ball

Armchair critic Rafiq Wagiet takes a look at this weekend’s Currie Cup fixtures.

EWN Sport's Rafiq Wagiet.

CAPE TOWN - The final round of Currie Cup fixtures takes place this weekend, with an interesting line-up of matches.

Three teams are fighting it out for two remaining semi-final spots, while the two best sides this season do battle for that all important top spot on the log and a chance to host this season's Currie cup final.

At 3pm, the Lions host bottom of the log Griquas, and are obvious favorites to claim maximum points. A win, even without a bonus point, will see the Lions end third on the table.

Outgoing Griquas coach Pote Human will probably be watching Friday's first division final between the Pumas and the Kings as his side prepares to face the winner in a promotion/relegation match next week for a place in next year's premier division.

He's made 12 changes to his side for this game. He's also not playing his one and only returning Bok in Willie le Roux - clearly an indication that he's already focused on ensuring Griquas remain in the Premier division next season.

Score prediction: Lions 35-20 Griquas

The 5pm kick off is an intriguing encounter between the competition's fourth and fifth placed sides, the Cheetahs and the Bulls. Five log points separates Naka Drotske's men from that of Pine Pienaar's, which means the Bulls need to go for broke if they are to live at least a week longer in the competition.

A bonus point win for the Bulls however won't suffice. The Cheetahs have a superior points difference of 22 over the Bulls.

It's a massive ask of the Bulls to turn around a rather dismal season in their final fixture. For the Pretoria-side to qualify for the semi's, they'd need to win with a four-try bonus point, deny the Cheetahs from scoring four of their own and do almost the impossible and ensure their winning margin is by at least 12 points.

I don't see that happening against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. In fact, I don't even see the Bulls winning, and with that the semi-finalists for this season's Currie Cup are confirmed.

Score prediction: Cheetahs 35-28 Bulls

Western Province, the Sharks, the Lions and the Cheetahs will contest this year's Currie Cup semi-finals, but the final standings will only be confirmed after the last game of the weekend, a Bok-laden top of the log clash between Province and their coastal rivals the Sharks.

Province travel to the Shark Tank as the only unbeaten side in the competition, so it's sort of difficult to go against them winning this one. There is however a lot riding on this fixture. A win for either side will see them end top, meaning that if they navigate their way past next week's semi-final, they'll host the final the following week.

The last time these two sides met in Cape Town, the Sharks were outplayed by a classy Province outfit, but this week's a totally different story.

The return of the Springbok players for both sides makes for a real mouthwatering clash.

The Sharks welcome back the Bok front row of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, and Tendai Mtawarira, while uncapped lock Pieter-Steph du Toit also earns a start.

Pat Lambie has been included on the bench, as the talented Fred Zeilinga starts at flyhalf again.

Western Province coach Allister Coetzee also bolstered his team with centre Juan de Jongh, looseforwards Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi, and lock Eben Etzebeth.

Meanwhile, Springbok captain Jean de Villiers gets a break following his heavy workload in the national team. He's been named on a quality bench, which includes the likes of Schalk Burger and Michael Rhodes.

Score prediction: Sharks 19-22 WP