It’s Currie Cup semifinals weekend.
After numerous cancelled games, teams going down with Covid, and the playoffs (including next week’s final) being pushed back a week to ensure all the teams are as strong as they can be, it’s nearly time for kick-off.
In Pretoria at 2pm on Saturday, Jake White’s Blue Bulls will take on their neighbours from down the road, the Lions, while at 4.30pm in Cape Town Western Province will entertain the Sharks.
Here The Citizen takes a quick look at the key selections that went down on Thursday.
Bulls and Lions
Exciting fullback David Kriel, wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and centres Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks are back in action for the Bulls, while up front Duane Vermeulen completes a powerful loose-trio that also includes Marco van Staden and Elrigh Louw.
It’s a team full of power and flair and with veteran Morne Steyn running the show at 10, the Lions will have to produce their best game of the competition if they are to topple the Bulls – and they’re certainly capable of that.
Going for the Lions is the fact that coach Cash van Rooyen has picked a settled group of players who’ve clicked in recent weeks.
Elton Jantjies has found an impressive halfback partner in Andre Warner, while centres Burger Odendaal and Wandisile Simelane will keep the Bulls on their toes. Add in wings Stean Pienaar and Courtnall Skosan, as well as exciting fullback Tiaan Swanepoel – with a massive boot thrown in for good measure – and you’ve got a backline that should be taken very seriously.
But it’s up front where the Lions will have to match the Bulls, starting at scrum-time. Veteran Jannie du Plessis is the surprise pick at No 3, but with equally seasoned Willem Alberts behind him at lock, there’s no reason why the Lions shouldn’t match the Bulls in the scrums.
Jaco Kriel, at No 6, needs a big game after a few quiet outings since his return to Joburg.
Bulls: David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (capt), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Erasmus, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Johan Grobbelaar, Jacques van Rooyen, Mornay Smith, Jan Uys, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren
Lions: Tiaan Swanepoel; Stean Pienaar, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal, Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies (captain), André Warner; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel, Marvin Orie, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole. Bench: Jan-Henning Campher, Ruan Dreyer, Carlu Sadie, Reinhard Nothnagel, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Morné van den Berg, Dan Kriel, Francke Horn, Nathan McBeth, EW Viljoen, Ross Cronjé
Western Province and Sharks
The good news for John Dobson and his Western Province team is that Siya Kolisi is back to lead the side after sitting out for a few weeks because of Covid.
Unfortunately, influential loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff has been ruled out in what is a massive blow to the side’s chances of progressing to the final. Ali Vermaak will wear the No 1 jersey.
Salmaan Moerat also returns to the second row, while Johan du Toit (Pieter-Steph’s younger brother) will play blindside flank.
The back division is a settled combination with Damian Willemse continuing at fullback.
As for the Sharks, coach Sean Everitt has had a full and fit squad to pick from meaning Aphelele Fassi will wear the No 15 on his back, while Sikhumbuzo Notshe will be joined in the loose-trio by Dylan Richardson and Henco Venter.
In the only surprise, young JJ van der Mescht has been backed to start ahead of the more seasoned Hyron Andrews at lock, but it is an otherwise settled Sharks outfit.
WP: Damian Willemse, Sergeal Petersen, Dan du Plessis, Rikus Pretorius, Angelo Davids, Tim Swiel, Herschel Jantjies, Juarno Augustus, Johan du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), JD Schickerling, Salmaan Moerat, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Bench (from): Scarra Ntubeni, Leon Lyons, Neethling Fouche, Chris van Zyl, Ernst van Rhyn, Jaco Coetzee, Paul de Wet, Ruhan Nel, Sazi Sandi, Tristan Leyds
Sharks: Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkossi, Lukhanyo Am (capt), Marius Louw, Yaw Penxe, Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Dylan Richardson, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Thomas du Toit, Fezokuhle Mbatha, Ox Nche. Bench: Dan Jooste, Mzamo Majola, Michael Kumbirai, Hyron Andrews, Thembelani Bholi, Jaden Hendrikse, Jeremy Ward, Manie Libbok