Currie Cup

WP, Lions: Form sides clash

2014-08-17 13:15
Johan Ackermann (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Newlands, that endangered old sporting shrine, should be an attractive place for the rugby purist next Saturday.

It is then (17:05 kick-off) that the early pace-setters in the Absa Currie Cup - playing a vibrant brand of the game and the only two teams with maximum points after two rounds - run into each other.

Visitors the Golden Lions lead Western Province (10 points apiece) only on a slightly superior for-and-against basis on the table, and having registered 13 tries thus far with four against.

But Province aren’t too far behind in that regard, either: their try ratio after two rounds is almost as impressive at 10-3.

The time-honoured competition, which continually defies the odds in an ever-changing domestic landscape, has enjoyed a rollicking 2014 start in broadest terms, with three sides – the afore-mentioned two plus defending champions the Sharks - having put down particularly threatening markers of their ambitions.

Certainly the most fluid-looking outfits thus far have been the Lions and WP, and they will tackle each other after further crushing, respective victories.

The Lions ran the EP Kings ragged in a 60-19, nine-tries-to-three drubbing at Ellis Park, making light - in trademark courageous fashion - of the significant setback of losing first-choice flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff to long-term injury last week; Jaco van der Walt appeared to fill the gap fairly seamlessly.

They will have another major hole to fill at Newlands, now that dynamic captain Warren Whiteley has been deservedly called up to the Springbok squad for the trip to Salta and rapid return match against Argentina in the Castle Rugby Championship.

But at least they are blessed with pretty decent loose forward depth, still boasting such characters as Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel and Willie Britz, all of whom were active in the try column against the Eastern Cape visitors.

Province, meanwhile, produced a near-carbon copy of what the Lions did to the Blue Bulls (41-13) a week previously by whipping the men from Pretoria 41-17 at unseasonally sunny, warm Newlands and by an especially galling six tries to one.

The old “Province rugby” philosophy is blossoming more and more as the season develops, allowing the likes of captain Juan de Jongh, Cheslin Kolbe and searing new wing sensation Seabelo Senatla to thrive in their most favoured capacities.

There are still a few hiccups at scrum-time, which will no doubt interest the gnarly Lions eight, but another plus from the latest game was how flank Siya Kolisi recaptured his most incisive, muscular form for large parts of it, and dovetailed wonderfully with No 8 Nizaam Carr.

When WP hosted the Lions in the corresponding fixture much later - in round nine - last season, Province won by a comfortable 36-23, but the earlier Ellis Park game was a 31-31 rollercoaster ... perhaps there’ll be more of the same on Saturday.

The Bulls reportedly had a Sunday “soul search” after the Lions walloping; it didn’t seem to have had much impact as they were resoundingly beaten all over again in the south-north derby and appeared disturbingly listless in terms of defensive structure and relish; holes often opened up as if on some bullet-pockmarked road sign in the middle of nowhere.

This major Super Rugby franchise again fielded on Saturday many players of proven capability at that higher level, and no lack of Springbok representation either, so simply should not be losing games by these types of margins: are there some deeper issues swirling in the camp?

The Sharks were pressed harder by the no-frills Pumas than the scoreboard suggests from Kings Park on Friday night, the Mpumalanga side being seriously competitive for two-thirds of the contest until the hosts closed the match out strongly, including notching the bonus-point try in the 78th minute to leave them only one point shy of the two pace-setters.

They will press for a three-from-three record at home again to the Cheetahs in the late game next Saturday.

Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams first):

Friday: Pumas v Griquas, 19:10. Saturday: Blue Bulls v EP Kings, 15:00; Western Province v Golden Lions, 17:05; Sharks v Free State Cheetahs, 19:10.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    golden lions  |  wp  |  currie cup  |  cape town  |  johannesburg  |  rugby

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