Bulls the team to avoid
With Western Province having succumbed to the Blue Bulls in Pretoria, the Sharks are now guaranteed first place on the log no matter the result at Newlands this weekend.
It puts them in the enviable position of being able to rest a few key players in the build up to the semi final and potential final, but also in the muddy waters of potentially trying to manipulate a result that would secure them the easiest semi final in Durban.
With the Cheetahs having ended the Lions fairytale run in Bloemfontein on Saturday, all of the Cheetahs, Bulls and WP are in with shout of a home semi final with just the single league fixture to come.
The Cheetahs and Bulls (both on 42 log points, the Cheetahs above the Bulls because of a superior points difference) are both likely to get five points from their remaining games against the Leopards and Griquas respectively, though, meaning that the Cape side, currently on 44 log points, have their destiny in their own hands …
Beat the Sharks and it’s a home semi final most likely against the Cheetahs. Lose to the Sharks and it’s more than likely a rematch a week later, but this time in Durban.
For the Sharks, a loss against WP this weekend would likely see them hosting the Blue Bulls in a semi final. Bolstered by the likes of Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Wynand Olivier and Morne Steyn, they are surely the side you most want to avoid in the chase for Currie Cup silverware.
Sure Province will see the return of Schalk Burger, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana, but they all bring selection posers of their own for Allister Coetzee. To my mind, Francois Louw is not an out and out fetcher , so does he play without a real fetcher like Pieter Louw?. With Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh starting to form a very good centre pairing, who does he drop? Conrad Jantjes, Gio Aplon and JJ Engelbrecht have all been in fine form, while Habana was not exactly setting the world on fire prior to his rest …
So while my initial thought was that John Plumtree might use this weekend to rest a few big names and thus avoid having to play WP in the semi finals, I rather think he will be going all out for a win in order to avoid having to play the Bulls. And with WP needing a win in order to play their semi final at home, I think we are in for something quite juicy at Newlands to round off the league phase of the Absa Currie Cup …
Of course the Cheetahs and Bulls could go and lose their final games and, if the Lions pulverise the Pumas, the Bulls might not even make the semi finals!Top five teams and their remaining matches:
Sharks, 52 points: WP (a)
WP, 44 points: Sharks (h)
Cheetahs, 42 points: Leopards (a)
Blue Bulls, 42 points: Griquas (a)
Lions, 37 points: Pumas (h)The weekend’s results:
Pumas 31 – 61 Griquas
Cheetahs 43 – 37 Lions
Blue Bulls 36 – 32 WP
Sharks 63 – 6 LeopardsThe 20 contracted Springboks
Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Ricky Januarie, Tendai Mtawarira, Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Danie Rossouw, John Smit, Juan Smith, Morné Steyn and Pierre Spies.
Tank is a former WP prop, now editor of Sport24 and author of the Front Row Grunt blog.Disclaimer:
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