Lions aim for home semi-final
See pics of former Springbok coach Jake White at Newlands.
Johannesburg - The Golden Lions and Sharks may be in commanding positions on the Currie Cup log, but home semi-final places will be up for grabs when the two sides clash at Ellis Park on Friday.
The coastal side is sitting pretty in first place on the log, but could easily swap places with the third-placed Lions, who trail them by four points.
Lions coach Johann Ackermann said while his team wanted to jump the queue, he believed the Sharks would be motivated to cement their place at the summit on the points table.
"We will have to continue scoring points and preferably winning. We know this competition isn’t easy and we want to stay in the top four," Ackermann said.
"A win on Friday could give us a nudge to advance even higher on the log, but they (the Sharks) would want to hold onto their place, so it is going to be a tough and interesting game."
Both teams are fresh off convincing victories last weekend and could dish up a mouth-watering encounter at Ellis Park.
The Sharks were particularly impressive against the Cheetahs in Durban where they put 50 points past the central-South Africa team.
The victory bore all the hallmarks of a cohesive team playing with confidence in their game plan and coaching staff.
With only three pool rounds remaining the Sharks need only two more log points to claim a semi-final place.
Sharks forwards coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson said his charges were determined to claim a home semi-final berth, but they could not afford to be distracted by their log position.
"We want to have a home semi and if all goes well, a home final, but we've said all along, the process and the performance is what we’re really looking at," MacLeod-Henderson said.
"We played a fantastic game on Saturday, there are still areas we need to improve on. We’ll have to play as well, if not better, this Friday against the Lions if we want to get the right result."
The Lions were equally impressive in their 35-26 victory over the Blue Bulls last weekend where they scored five tries for the victory.
Both teams boast solid forward packs, but the match-ups in the backline could provide for some fireworks.
The battle of the flyhalves and the fullbacks promises to be exciting as both teams possess arguably the in-form players in these positions.
Since his return to Johannesburg from Cape Town, Elton Jantjies has grown in confidence and is close to his old best. His Sharks counterpart Fred Zeilinga has been one of the hottest prospects this season.
At fullback both the Lions’ Marnitz Boshoff and the Sharks’ SP Marais have been on fire this season and could soon be considered for higher honours if they continue on the upwards curve.
15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Andries Coetzee, 13 Deon Helberg, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenberg, 20 Guy Cronjé, 21 Grant Janke, 22 Ruhan Nel
15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Heimar Williams, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Tera Mtembu, 6. Justin Downey, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Peet Marais, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16. Monde Hadebe, 17. Danie Mienie, 18. Edwin Hewitt, 19. Brynard Stander, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Butch James, 22. Jaco van Tonder