Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following this past weekend’s Currie Cup semi-finals:
1. Bosch a kick, drop threat for WP
Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch could be a thorn in WP’s side in Saturday’s final.
Bosch’s all-round game management and his kicking proved vital in their 37-27 defeat of the Blue Bulls.
Bosch was flawless form the tee, slotting six from six attempts at goal, while his second half drop goal provided a knockout blow to the visitors from Pretoria.
There aren’t many flyhalves around in the modern game with similar drop kicking prowess and a player like Bosch is exactly what is needed in the pressure cooker of a Cup final.
2. Lions’ front row plan backfires
Golden Lions coach Swys de Bruin’s pre-game front row plan appeared to backfire in their loss to Western Province at Newlands.
When he announced his team on Thursday, De Bruin included Springboks Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer to start but changed his mind shortly before kick-off, opting to play the duo off the bench.
WP dominated at scrum time and De Bruin replaced his entire front row as early as the 33rd minute.
However, by then WP had already established their dominance up front and were high on confidence.
Tighthead prop Dreyer, who De Bruin admitted was injury plagued, and hooker Marx did not assert themselves as well as the Lions would have hoped.
The visitors also struggled at lineout time and it was their frailties in these departments that proved their undoing.
From the home side’s perspective, Springbok tighthead Wilco Louw was phenomenal.
3. WP peaking at the right time?
Western Province’s topsy-turvy season left their supporters frustrated for large parts.
The Capetonians let slip handy advantages on a few occasions during the season - against Griquas, Pumas and Golden Lions they led by 10 points in the second period only to end on the losing side.
However, they appear to be peaking at just the right time.
They convincingly beat the Sharks in Durban 31-20 - a game they knew they had to win in order to gain home ground advantage in the playoffs - before upsetting a Lions outfit buoyed by the return of several Springboks.
The Lions were the bookies’ favourites to win at Newlands and the Sharks will likely be tipped to win this weekend.
WP will however relish the underdogs tag...
4. Semi-finals debate
Before the semi-finals there were some scribes calling for the Currie Cup semi-finals to be scrapped.
Their reasoning was that the format "rewards mediocrity" as it allowed teams who struggled throughout the competition to remain in with a shot at winning the title.
The Golden Lions and Blue Bulls were rooted at the bottom of the standings for large parts, but sneaked into the playoffs courtesy of late wins.
The Lions had won six and lost six, while the Bulls won only five games, compared to seven losses.
Did these two teams really deserve to have a shot at winning the title?
Having a seven team competition means only three teams miss out on the semi-finals and one can therefore understand calls for the top two teams to automatically qualify for the final.
That’s the way the Currie Cup was contested for several years during the old amateur era, when the competition often only featured six teams in the top flight.
The down side to not having semi-finals would take away the excitement factor, as well as hurt some unions financially.
It’s fair to say that the Currie Cup did not harbour much interest until semi-finals week and we also saw by far the best crowds of the season this past weekend.
Perhaps SA Rugby should look at a scenario where the team finishing atop the standings automatically qualifies for the final, with the second and third placed sides contesting a playoff game.
5. WP not too shabby at No 10
It wouldn’t be right heaping praise on the Sharks’ Curwin Bosch without mentioning his likely counterpart in Saturday’s final.
Western Province flyhalf Robert du Preez was instrumental in his side’s win over the Lions.
Like Bosch, Du Preez was impressive off the tee, with his tactical play and enterprise with ball in hand equally impressive.
At 97kg, Du Preez is a physical presence at flyhalf, with his willingness to receive the ball close to the advantage line no doubt a great asset for the Cape side.
His battle with Bosch will be an intriguing one on Saturday, especially given that the duo will be competing for the same jersey in Durban next year...