It will be a decisive weekend for the seven Currie Cup Premier Division teams in the hunt for possible semi-final berths and those in with a chance of earning home-semi-finals as the tournament reaches the penultimate round and the pressure reaches a new level.
A handful of teams will enter their matches in the Currie Cup – brought to you by Nashua and DirectAxis – this weekend knowing that a defeat could deal a killer blow to their hopes of advancing to the play-off stages, while for some of them, bonus-point victories could bolster their home semi-final hopes.
For the Vodacom Blue Bulls, in particular, their clash against Boland in Wellington on Friday will mark their final throw of the dice in the competition for now, as it marks their final pool match. This means they will have to wait until the pool stages concludes next week to know their fate in the competition.
The Currie Cup First Division, meanwhile, will resume next week with the Leopards hosting the Hino Valke in Potchefstroom and Border taking on the Down Touch Griffons in the semi-finals.
Currie Cup Premier Division
In Wellington, Boland will go in search of their third victory of the season when they line up against the Vodacom Blue Bulls. The Western Cape outfit defeated the Pretoria side 35-26 in the Currie Cup Qualifiers, but they will be tested this week as the Vodacom Blue Bulls come off back-to-back victories against Griquas, the Steval Pumas and Xerox Golden Lions. The Pretoria side has won all 10 matches between the sides since 1996, with their scores in seven of these matches being 50 points or more.
Adding spice to the clash, it will mark the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ last pool match. While a bonus-point victory with a big points’ difference could catapult them into second place on the log standings with a chance of securing a home semi-final, a defeat could see them lose out on a semi-final berth completely. Regardless of the outcome, the Blue Bulls will have to wait until the pool rounds conclude next week to know their fate.
The Steval Pumas, meanwhile, will face a challenging task against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Nelspruit, as they attempt to deny the visitors from extending their winning run to seven matches. In turn, the Steval Pumas will be looking for a change of fortunes after suffering six straight defeats.
Interestingly the hosts have had an edge over Toyota Free State Cheetahs recently, with the side winning the Currie Cup Qualifier and both matches in the 2014 Currie Cup Premier Division, while they drew 37-37 in the competition last season. However, given the Free Staters solid form this season, with the team scoring the second highest number of tries and leaking only 13 in six matches, the Steval Pumas will be tested.
The clash between Griquas and DHL Western Province is expected to be thrilling with an eye on the semi-final stages. Griquas are currently in fourth place on the log table with 19 points, only one point ahead of Western Province with two matches remaining. The Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls, however, are above them on the log, meaning a defeat for either team could deal a huge blow to their semi-final hopes. Griquas have won all of their home games so far this season, while they will be determined to bounce back from their first defeat in five matches last weekend.
Boosting their motivation, they will have the support of almost 300 former players who will attend the match as part of the union’s 130-year anniversary celebrations. DHL Western Province, meanwhile, come off a victory against the Steval Pumas, but with three victories in six matches, they will be under pressure to find their form to keep alive hopes of advancing to the semi-final for their eighth successive season.
In Port Elizabeth, the EP Kings will face the sixth-placed Xerox Golden Lions, who find themselves fighting for survival in the competition. The hosts have not won a match this season, and they will throw everything at the Johannesburg side. However, the Xerox Golden Lions are expected to target the clash for a bonus-point victory as the EP Kings have struggled on defence this season.
Should the visitors suffer a defeat, it could dash their semi-final hopes. The teams registered a 35-35 draw in the Currie Cup Qualifiers, but they have won all of their Premier Division matches against the EP Kings dating back to the 1996 season, which should boost their confidence as they look to bounce back from their defeat against log-leaders, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.
- Vodacom Blue Bulls captain and No 8 Hanro Liebenberg and Boland winger Sergio Torrens each scored two of their teams’ four tries when they met in the Currie Cup Qualifier in May.
- Injured Steval Pumas flyhalf Justin van Staden boasts the bragging rights as the only player to have scored points in each of the last four matches between the Nelspruit side and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. He kicked 10 conversions and 11 penalty goals for a total of 53 points.
- Griquas have defeated Western Province only three times in their 32 matches since the 1996 season, but all three of these wins were in Kimberley. They won two of these matches by one point and the other by three points.
- Xerox Golden Lions flanker Kwagga Smith scored four tries in their last two Currie Cup Premier Division matches against the EP Kings. He scored a hat-trick in the repeat of this week’s match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the other try at Emirates Airlines Park.
Media are advised that the Currie Cup Premier Division clash between the EP Kings and Steval Pumas initially scheduled for Sunday, 2 October, in Port Elizabeth has been moved forward to Friday, 30 September at 18h00.
Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:
Friday, 23 September
Boland vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Steval Pumas vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Pro Legoete
Griquas vs DHL Western Province
Venue: Griqua Park, Kimberley
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Saturday, 24 September
EP Kings vs Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni