Bulls: Easy ride out of peril?
Dewald Potgieter (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Defending champions the Golden Lions are likely to be the most “chilled” outfit on a closing weekend of Currie Cup round-robin activity which will otherwise be mostly tension-filled for the remaining five teams.
That is because, unless Griquas manage to upset a Springboks-infused Sharks side in Durban on Friday night, Johan Ackermann’s charges will enter their Highveld derby clash with the Blue Bulls in Johannesburg the next evening knowing that second place on the log is their assured finish, regardless of what happens at Coca-Cola Park.
Should the admirably tenacious but not exactly star-laden visitors from Kimberley pull it off at Mr Price Kings Park, the Lions will suddenly have something significant to play for - the opportunity to seize top spot from the Sharks and potentially set up a second successive home final should they make it past the semis.
But don’t count on it: Griquas tend to be at their giant-killing best when playing a few stones’ throws from the Big Hole and have only won once away from home this season.
So if the Lions, as expected, have little at stake on Saturday, it ought to only aid the Bulls’ quest to win and move off the dreaded bottom spot on the table.
Coach Ackermann has already hinted that he may do some “rotation” if the game becomes a largely meaningless exercise for them.
Less affected by Bok call-ups than most other sides, the Lions have fielded reasonably settled combinations for the bulk of the Currie Cup campaign and been plugging away solidly for nine weeks, so any opportunity to give a break - or only partial game involvement? - to core players like JC Janse van Rensburg and Franco van der Merwe should be gratefully grabbed.
Whether he decides to rest regular first-teamers or not the Lions may, consciously or subconsciously, lack fullest urgency against the Bulls, which plays nicely into the hands of opponents with not only the opportunity to avoid a promotion/relegation scrap but also climb enough places by winning to sneak a semi.The likeliest scenarios for the three matches are as follows:Sharks v Griquas, Durban, Friday 19:10:
Sharks win, and clinch top place, with four-try bonus point not even necessary. Griquas probably end fifth (no semi but, importantly, also no need for promotion/relegation matches against EP Kings.WP v Cheetahs, Cape Town, Saturday 17:05:
Especially boosted by returning Boks, Province prove too strong for Free Staters and condemn them, in turn, to probable finish in sixth and spectre of having to meet Kings.Lions v Blue Bulls, Johannesburg, 19:10:
Significantly stiffened by Boks to give them more of a “Super Rugby” look once more, Bulls see off opponents who have little and stake and one eye on home semi a week later. If all three results pan out as suggested, Sharks host Bulls in one semi-final; Lions entertain WP in the other.
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