2012 Currie Cup Semi-Finals PreviewAuthor: Shaun | Filed under: Currie Cup, Match Previews
2012 Currie Cup round robin action wrapped up last weekend with a few twists and turnarounds – none bigger than the turnaround needed by the Bulls after trailing 16-6 to the Lions and looking slightly unconvincing at the same time…. but, after the dust settled, it was mission accomplished! The Sharks, Blue Bulls, Golden Lions and Western Province are the chosen 4 who will battle to the death this weekend – 2 will advance and 2 will fall! (Like sissy little girls) Grab the ammunition, let’s go to war!
SHARKS vs BLUE BULLS
Last week, a meager crowd showed up at Kings Park to witness what turned out to be a mere formality but this weekend, the crowd will be anything but meager and it will by no means be any sort of formality. In fact, you may as well take the formal out of formality and replace it with brutal. Make no mistake about it, the Currie Cup represents bragging rights amongst both the players involved and the late nightbar discussions of which there are always plenty. Sharks vs Bulls, let’s take a closer look…
The Banana Boys have not really been the talk of the town during the tournament but coincidentally, when Mr Red Bull himself (irony much?) was shown the door after a mere 50 minutes of Springbok duty – the Sharks season seemed to gain a bit of an edge. Keegan Daniel carried on playing like the Super Rugby season never ended and his relentless approach played a clear role in the late success of the Durban outfit – he rewarded both Fantasy managers and his real manager with assists, tries and the odd yellow card….. But don’t discount what he brings to the table – endless energy, serious inspiration, a never-say-die attitude (of which the coastal outfit has been short of in years gone by) and on the odd occasion, some poor judgement…. but it’s rugby, show us a player who doesn’t have a DUI on their rugby record. Someone else up front who deserves mention; the home side wrecking ball – Jean Deysel. After a season of injury plagued nonsense, the naturalized KZN man has been punching holes in opposition defense, snapping necks and cashing cheques – we say; good for him! He has been on a bit of a solo mission for the season but come this weekend, he has backup in someone who probably has to walk sideways through the doorframe…. Willem Alberts is back in the black & white this weekend and he’ll be looking to convert as many of the Bulls defenders into rugby pitch inspectors as is humanly freakishly possible. As always, the Currie Cup is an opportunity for new players to stake a claim – enter Cobus Reinach! At the start of the season, he was just that new guy on the team sheet but oh how the times have changed – once the toast of the town, Charl “Slow Motion” McLeod has found himself carrying more water bottles than he’s used to, but then again, healthy competition is not a bad thing. Further down the line (the backline that is), the Sharks have been horribly short of a midfield combination in recent years whose interests don’t include backgammon and the daily crossword puzzle and the fans are grateful that those days appear to be a thing of the past. Tim Whitehead and Paul “Mustachio” Jordaan have not been monsters in the Fantasy gold division but have certainly been a crucial link in adding to the Fantasy worth of the outside Black & White machine and it shows. Odwa “Steady Eddie” Ndungane might not be featuring anymore in the CC 2012, but he’s right up there amongst the top point scorers and it has a lot to do with the low riders in the 12 & 13 jerseys. But let’s not digress any further, come Saturday the most influential man on the park this weekend for the hometown boys is KZN’s own Wunderkind – Pat Lambie. The KZN prodigy was like a ghost in the Midlands mist last weekend and collected a healthy bag of points for both the home team and Fantasy managers alikeand to sum it up, Plum will be hoping for more of the same at 16:30 on Saturday.
Last Saturday, Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar was counting his lucky stars and thanking his talented Springbok players!! (Double exclamation mark for that one) Plain and simple, he can consider himself fortunate that he has a plethora of players at his disposal that could probably do a better job of running the team than he could. The Blue Bulls have presented a united front during the course of the week, but in reality, PP himself lost out on semi-final qualification last year and snuck in this year by virtue of returning Springboks up against a team that made no qualms about resting their top players for the playoff round. But to be honest, the Lions could have fielded their full strength team and the result would likely have been much the same (albeit a slightly closer scoreline!). However, something that was obvious last weekend is that the Bulls still depend very much on Mr Accuracy himself, Morne Steyn. Back to his best like he hadn’t missed a beat, Steyn kept the Pretoria union in touch with the Lions and ensured that the match never got away from the visitors but in doing so, they have exposed their game plan and simultaneously, their one possible weakness – expect that number 10 channel to be an exceptionally busy defensive area on Saturday. The Bulls have named an unchanged match day 22 for Saturday which will count in their favour but it has also spelled out their exact intention – they will not make the mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight. It is going to be all out up front warfare! Jacques Potgieter, Arno Botha, Dewald Potgieter and CJ “Mal” Stander will be collecting serious yards on Saturday and should probably stock up on Futurelife and anger management because it’s going to get heated at collision time. The Bulls will also look to dominate at the lineout – Wilhelm Steenkamp and Juandre Kruger are a formidable duo but questions will be asked about Mr Kruger; he has played rugby non-stop since February which could either be a good thing or a bad thing – only time will tell! But there has definitely been someone in the Bulls lineup who has been instrumental in their success – sneakily stealing his points like a Grade 8 stealing food in the boarding establishment is non-other than Jano “I’m Not Related To Sarel” Vermaak! The Bulls number 9 has sharp delivery and a sharp eye – the visitors will need an ace or two on Saturday and he surely fits the profile. Ace number 2 in that lineup – Bjorn “Hammertime” Basson – you can’t touch that! (Our attempt at humour is often poor) The Bulls flyer was a try machine (pronounced “mak-hine” for those of us dealing with early morning traffic & 5FM at the same time) during the SR season and has dotted down once from 2 outings thus far – the man has gas and always seems to be there on the end waiting for the opportunity to finish….. and boy can he! The Bulls have muscle in all the right places and it’s merely a question of whether it will work in unison or whether it’ll turn out to be one of those embarrassing moments in the gym where all the weights end up sliding off of one side of the bench press bar……
Playoff rugby.Currie Cup Semi-final.Bulls vs Sharks. Need we say more? Tighter than some of the talent that will hit the beach in the coming months, the result will not be decided before the game or at half time or after 60 minutes – these matches tend to go the whole 9 yards and joe public would be fooling himself to think anything other than that. The Bulls claim that integrating their Springboks earlier will allow for a more settled team and the Sharks will argue that they don’t need to rock the boat to win the race – who knows?! SHARKS by virtue of being objective!
Fantasy Managers Note
Um, we’re fresh out on this one – the time has come to load your team with one or the other. While some might be swayed by logic, others will not be swayed by virtue of loyalty. On that note – go big or go home!!
GOLDEN LIONS vs WESTERN PROVINCE
A few weeks back, the South African rugby loving public almost committed suicide after watching one of the most infuriating matches to grace the 2012 Currie Cup calendar – Western Province vs Golden Lions at Newlands! Prior to that snore / wrist slitting festival, Province were arguably turning into the form team of the tournament but after witnessing that spectacle – the majority of the public refrained from drinking meths on a Sunday. And what do we have here, the shoe is on the other foot and the Lions will be hosting the Mountain Men in the City of Gold – Egoli vs Table Mountain, time to dissect!
Province were on the rise; Demetri “Kings” Catracornflakes was like a hangover combined with an angry boss on a Monday morning for opposition defence! He found holes in any lame excuse of a defensive pattern and opposition teams found themselves fumbling like a poor sod in a cubicle farm after not using the correct cover sheet for his/her TPS report! But, it’s not like he was master & commander – Marcel “Murder on the Dancefloor” Brache has been taking names and kicking ass all season in the midfield and there is a stark sense of irony seeing as an injury to Province stalwart, Jean “Oupa” De Villiers, has paved the way for the young barn”STORMER” to make an impact on the Currie Cup stage (and the Lions defenders) come this weekend. But like load shedding during a Springbok match, the men from the land of the long grey cloud (over Claremont) decided that they should focus on anything other than securing a home semi-final…. well done, it seems to have paid off. Province had a slight implosion and ultimately paid the price – they will not be playing at home this weekend and will likely have taken additional “out-of-home” insurance for their visit to the Gangsters Paradise. However, for the visitors, that insurance comes in the formidable frame of a 20 year old that would have been better placed in the battle for middle earth! Eben Etzebeth has made no qualms about rolling up his sleeves for this weekend; the new enforcer is on the block and he wears a blue & white jersey on Saturdays – Lions defenders, take note.Oupa might be out, but that shouldn’t make too much of a difference – Deon “Don’t Mess Wif Me” Fourie has been leading the team all season and has been handed his regular armband in the absence of the ageing centre. He doesn’t back down and it will be a spectacle – captain vs captain in the front row! Not much has changed for the visitors since the return of their Springboks and that could count in their favour – we mentioned earlier in the season that the Province Currie Cup team was performing better than the Super Rugby team and it looks like the combinations have settled; with the added experience, it could result in that magical combination of 11 secret herbs & spices. Province also have a bit of an X-Factor up their sleeve – “Flying” Bryan Habana is on the park for the 2nd week in a row after Springbok duty! While he has had his detractors in the last 18 months, the Blue Bulls import has found the form that had previously excelled him to the upper echelons of world rugby – probably because he is playing less like a soccer player and more like a rugby player. Province are a bit of an unknown at the moment; they have the firepower, the have the finesse, they have the grunt…. but do they have the BMT?
2011 Currie Cup Champions! Cup holders, the Golden Lions, will be running out onto what should really be a packed stadium on Saturday (come on Lions fan – do the right thing, make a Facebook group!). In what will really be a bit of a bittersweet swansong, the Lions will be playing in front of a home crowd for the last time fora bit of an extended period (unless results go their way). The international stage is watching and the Lions still have the slight opportunity to make 2012 a successful year. Actually, damn that, they have an excellent opportunity! Province will be in the Lions backyard and after being relegated to SR history until 2014, the Lions still have a point to prove! The most important player for the home union come Saturday still has the WORST haircut in sports history (behind Merve Hughes by virtue of the afore mentioned orrible mustache!), Elton Jantjies will be starting at 10 on Saturday and the Lions will be hoping that he brings his kicking record with him! Jaco “No-Nonsense” Taute will be lining up in the midfield for the home union and if the Brache & De Jongh though that this would be another day at the office, then they’ve got another thing coming. The Lions wild child deservedly got the Bok call up and will deservedly leave some lasting impressions on the opposition defence on Saturday! However, in other (possibly inspirational) news this week, Cobus “Baywatch” Grobelaar has announced his decision to retire from rugby and to be honest, it was a bit surprising. Unknown personal issues aside, the man with better hair that Elton has not shown any signs of ageing when it comes to fronting in the forward department and by no means is he over the hill. Let’s hope it’s merely a case of pride in terms of not wanting to represent another union and that the Baywatch reconsiders…. Nonetheless, if this is his curtain call, expect nothing less than a situation similar to that of 300. After chilling in the stands last weekend, the Lions will have captain JC Janse Van Rensburg back for the match and his efforts have not been unnoticed, he may be the captain but he is also a damn good front rower and Province should underestimate his leadership and front row skill! (Do front rowers actually possess skill? Legitimate question) But besides El Capeetaan, lets add our final punch to this heavyweight brawl – sometimes brilliant and sometimes forgettable, the Lions have moved their defensive linebacker to the bench and it could prove to be a master stroke. Butch “Arms Are For Tackling?” James is by no means a sub-standard player. However, he does have sub-standard temperament and his introduction to the game on Saturday could be decisive or disasterous….
Desperate men, desperate times. Province have been eyeing silverware for what is now an exceptionally long period, they have the means – but do they have the will. The Lions are equally as motivated – victims of a shoddy political ploy (not that any attempt at a political ploy is better than shoddy), the home union are looking to stamp their name all over the bad decisions of SARU and what better opportunity than this. Parting shot; opportunity vs temperament could be the decisive factor here and with that in mind…..PROVINCE to snatch the match on the basis of being a slightly bigger bully!
Fantasy Managers Note
As with the other semi-final, you’re not faced with a decisive / easy decision – pick your team and go big or go home!