WP look for first bonus point
Cape Town - Unbeaten Western Province will fancy their chances of defeating the Golden Lions at Newlands in Saturday's Currie Clash, but they will be heavily committed to raking in a bonus point with a view to finishing the regular season at the top of the standings.
With two rounds of fixtures left, Province were the only side in the six-team competition which had failed to record a bonus point this season.
As a result, they were presently level-pegging with the Sharks, the log-leaders, who had up picked four bonus points, two of which were for losing twice by seven or less points.
A bonus-point win against the Lions could rocket the Capetonians to the top of the standings, and ensure them a home final should they win their semi-final match.
Next week, they were away to the Sharks and, on present form, they were unlikely to score four against the ever-improving Sharks.
The national team call-up for lock Franco van der Merwe and the injury-enforced absence of flyhalf Elton Jantjies would blunt the Lions' strike ability. Their run-on side showed several backline changes, including a new midfield pairing.
The Lions were the only side so far to have scored in excess of 30 tries this season, but they have also conceded the most. On the other hand, Province had a mere 18 five-pointers, but had conceded the least number of tries.
“When we review our games afterwards, we see the opportunities we left out there, and often it is three or four tries," fullback Gio Aplon said.
"It has been rather frustrating for us as we do well to create tries, but other teams are better at finishing off their limited opportunities.
“We know we can' just play attacking rugby for 20 or 30 minutes. We need to do so for 80, and try to produce a complete performance.
"On Saturday, we are playing for a home semi-final but, despite that, we would not want to go into our shells and just play percentage rugby. With so much on the line, we want to go out and play to our full potential.”
Golden Lions mentor Johan Ackermann felt his untried combination would offer new options, both on attack and in defence.
"We (the Lions) have to be patient," said Ackermann.
"We acknowledge there are aspects we have to improve on and we will continue working on it.
"We let slip a big chance last week against the Sharks. If we had won, we could have put pressure on the Sharks and Western Province and possibly even slipped into second place on the log."
The third-placed Lions were handsomely placed to reach the semis as they were four points clear of the Free State Cheetahs. Next week, they host Griquas in a match which represents their final chance to nail a semi-final berth.