It’s Currie Cup semifinals time, starting with the Bulls hosting the Lions at Loftus Versfeld at 2pm, followed by Western Province entertaining the Sharks at Newlands from 4.30pm.
In our preview of the two games, The Citizen‘s rugby writers pin their colours to the mast, saying who they believe will come out on top in Pretoria and Cape Town and book a place in next week’s grand final.
SEMIFINAL 1: Bulls v Lions
Why the Bulls will win (Ken Borland)
The Bulls have been the team that has been the most successful in showing the ability to adapt during games. While their strength has been built around a formidable, brutally physical pack, they have other strings to their bow in the strong kicking game of halfbacks Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl and the potent counter-attacking ability of their backline, sparked by Sevens stars Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks and Kurt-Lee Arendse.
What that means is if the Lions get parity or even a little dominance up front, the Bulls still have other weapons at their disposal. They can play the territory game and/or they can trust their defence to create counter-attacking opportunities for their exciting backs.
There is little doubt the Bulls will have to weather a big forward onslaught from the Lions, but once they have absorbed that pressure, one can expect the home side to pull away in the second half.
The potential game-changer
Captain Duane Vermeulen, man of the match in the 2019 World Cup final, is the obvious go-to man for the Bulls if they need inspiration. The sheer power and physicality of the eighthman will be a vital factor in the battle of the gainline, while he also has the skills of an openside flank when it comes to the breakdown, crucial in breaking the momentum of the Lions.
And do not underestimate the hunger of the veteran Springbok to win the Currie Cup – he has sacrificed plenty to be the Bulls’ talisman and the focal point of their resurgence.
SEMIFINAL 2: WP v Sharks
Why Western Province will win (Rudolph Jacobs)
Province will be driven by the hunger and desire to ensure they give Newlands a proper farewell.
While the emotional experience will be big, the Province pack of forwards are regarded as the strongest in the competition and they will use their expected dominance there to apply scoreboard pressure and ensure they play the game on their terms.
Province have learned valuable lessons from earlier defeats to the Bulls and the Lions and since they brought in Tim Swiel at flyhalf and moved Damian Willemse to fullback their tactical kicking game has also improved greatly.
Province will also be boosted by the return of their national skipper Siya Kolisi and the team would have navigated the obvious loss of Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff.
While the kicking boot of Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch is a threat, Province are likely to dominate possession and lay the foundation with a superb driving mall.
The potential game-changer?
Province and Bok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies has proven to be somebody who can change the course of a game through his individual brilliance.
While he hasn’t experienced the best of form lately he has shown that he has big match temperament, evident by his debut Springbok try in Wellington in 2018 when he helped to secure a 16-16 draw for the Boks.