Currie Cup

Bulls, Griquas slipping off pace

2013-09-16 09:02
Handre Pollard (Gallo)
Cape Town – They occupied the bottom two spots even before round six was contested at the weekend, so further losses for the Blue Bulls and Griquas have greatly endangered their prospects of making the Currie Cup semi-finals.

The logjam in the hitherto closely-fought tournament just seems to be easing a bit, with those two now noticeably slipping behind main top-four challengers Western Province, the Sharks, Cheetahs and Golden Lions in that order.

There is also mostly only bad news ahead for both teams: bottom-placed Griquas have been struck by a mounting catalogue of injuries – not helpful to the smallest union in the competition – and their next match is away to current leaders and defending champions WP on Friday night (19:10).

Lose that one and the semis become a very tall order for them, as it would take their record to one win from seven starts.

Similarly the Bulls, only one point above them on the table, will only see their knockout-phase hopes fade further if they lose Saturday’s Highveld derby against the Lions in Johannesburg (17:05).

The problem the Bulls have -- apart from an unusual dearth of proven first-class customers in several key positions as they painstakingly rebuild from a player exodus -- is that three of their remaining four league fixtures are away from Loftus which makes any catch-up bid additionally tricky.

Pretoria enthusiasts will have drawn little comfort from their comprehensive home loss to old foes Province on Saturday, even with the visitors reduced to 14 men for the majority of the contest because of Michael Rhodes’s slightly out-of-character stamping folly.

So it is just beginning to look as if the present top four teams are now jockeying for most favourable semis berths at the end of round 10.

The second-placed Sharks are a mere one point adrift of WP, who beat them in Durban in last year’s final, and tackle the mid-table Cheetahs at Kings Park this Saturday (15:00).

If the remaining part of the round-robin race becomes a duel between the coastal foes for top slot and attached rights to a possible home showpiece in late October, the Sharks can take some comfort from the fact that all may be decided in the final fixture – when they have home advantage against Allister Coetzee’s charges.

Both of last year’s finalists have two home and two away matches still ahead of them.

The Golden Lions, presently in fourth, have the most favourable run-in of all in those terms, as three of their four matches are at Ellis Park – can they turn that nice little advantage into a top-two finish?

Remaining four round-robin fixtures for each side:

WP (20 points): Griquas (h), Cheetahs (a), Lions (h), Sharks (a)

Sharks (19 points): Cheetahs (h), Lions (a), Bulls (a), WP (h)

Cheetahs (16 points): Sharks (a), WP (h), Griquas (a), Bulls (h)

Lions (15 points): Bulls (h), Sharks (h), WP (a), Griquas (h)

Bulls (10 points): Lions (a), Griquas (a), Sharks (h), Cheetahs (a)

Griquas (9 points): WP (a), Bulls (h), Cheetahs (h), Lions (a)

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    currie cup  |  rugby

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