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Currrie Cup crunch time looms as teams vie for semifinal spots

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Currie Cup - Sports Leo

Every match will be vital in the Currie Cup this weekend as two teams play their penultimate pool games, while the other four sides enter the second half of the competition.

Western Province and the Pumas will meet in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Sharks and Free State Cheetahs battle it out in Durban, and the Golden Lions and Blue Bulls line up in the Jukskei derby in Johannesburg.

Log-leaders,Griquas, have a bye.

Western Province and the Pumas will enter their Currie Cup match at Newlands equally determined to register a victory as both sides currently find themselves on seven log points with an only win to their name.

The Capetonians, however, have played three matches, while the Pumas have played four, meaning a defeat for the men from Mpumalanga will in all likelihood deal the killer blow to their semifinal aspirations.

Western Province have a good track record against the Pumas, suffering only one defeat since 2000, but the visitors showed against the Sharks that they can be a force to be reckoned with under pressure.

The home side will be boosted by the return of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi at flank, a move that resulted in JD Schickerling moving to lock, with Salmaan Moerat set to make an impact in the second half. Wilco Louw also returns to the starting line-up.

In the backline, Justin Phillips is at scrumhalf, with Sergeal Petersen making his first start of the season on the wing.

Loose forward Nama Xaba could debut from the bench, with prop Neethling Fouche getting his first opportunity of the campaign and flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis back among the replacements.

The Pumas were forced into a change in their backline following their solid, but a surprising win over the Sharks last weekend. Alwayno Visagie replaces the injured Henko Marais at centre, with Ruwellyn Isbell taking the vacant slot left by Visagie.

The Sharks will also enter their match against the Free State Cheetahs with their backs against the wall after one win in three outings, which will set the scene for a thrilling battle.

The Free Staters suffered a narrow two-point defeat last week, which marked their first of the season, and they will be determined to bounce back and remain on the top-end of the standings with a chance of earning a possible home semi-final as the pool stages near a close.

The Sharks, meanwhile, know that only a victory could possibly save their campaign with two matches remaining after this round.

Interestingly, the Sharks have won the last four matches between the sides, two of which were in Durban, but this will have no significance when they take to the field.

Their coach, Sean Everitt, has made four changes to his team – two each among the forwards and backs.

Mzamo Majola comes in for Juan Schoeman at loosehead prop, while Luke Stringer makes way for Jacques Vermeulen on the side of the scrum.

Among the backs, Aphelele Fassi takes over the fullback jersey from Rhyno Smith while Sanele Nohamba will start at scrumhalf with Cameron Wright playing off the bench.

Young Evan Roos is named on the bench, with the former SA Schools player from a year ago expected to make waves when he takes to the field for his debut.

For the Bloemfontein side, Clayton Blommetjies will be making his return to Currie Cup, replacing the injured Darren Adonis, while Carel-Jan Coetzee will be starting on the wing. Louis Fouché replaces the injured Tian Schoeman at flyhalf.

Junior Pokomela is the number six flank with Abongile Nonkontwana at number seven, replacing the injured Marnus van der Merwe. JP du Preez (lock) and Charles Marais (loosehead prop) will be in the starting line-up with Walt Steenkamp and Ox Nche playing off the bench.

The Gauteng derby has all the ingredients for a mouth-watering encounter, with the Golden Lions going in search of their fourth successive victory, which would catapult them to the top of the standings, while the Blue Bulls have to win their last two matches with bonus points to keep alive their hopes of possibly sneaking in the top four.

The Johannesburg side have won five of the last six matches between the teams, but the team from Pretoria will have all the motivation they need to create an upset.

Blue Bulls coach, Pote Human, was forced into five changes in his pack and named in a new captain in Ivan van Zyl.

The scrumhalf will lead the team for the first time and flanker, Fred Eksteen, will make his Blue Bulls and Currie Cup debut. Van Zyl takes the armband of injured Ruan Steenkamp, with Eksteen donning the six jersey.

Dayan van der Westhuizen and Johan Grobbelaar were both elevated into the starting team for injured Simphiwe Matanzima, while Grobbelaar swops places with Jaco Visagie, who reverts to the bench.

Wian Vosloo moves into the starting team as well to replace injured Marco van Staden. In a fifth change to the pack, Andries Ferreira will start at lock.

Human left the backline intact, bar the Van Zyl swop with Embrose Papier, who will play off the bench.

Golden Lions coach, Ivan van Rooyen, made three changes to the starting XV that beat the Free State Cheetahs 24-22 in Bloemfontein last Friday. In the backline, Eddie Fouche replaces Jan-Louis la Grange at inside centre.

Upfront, Len Massyn takes over the No 7 jersey from Vincent Tshituka and Reinhard Nothnagel comes in at lock for Wilhelm van der Sluys.

Currie Cup Premier Division Round 5 fixtures:

Friday:

Western Province v Pumas

Kick-off: 15h00

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: AJ Jacobs

Assistant Referees: Paul Mente and Aimee Barrett-Theron

TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans

Saturday:

Sharks v Free State Cheetahs

Kick-off: 3 pm

Venue: Jonsson King Park, Durban

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge

Assistant Referees: Colby Griffin and Archie Sehlako

TMO: Christie du Preez

Golden Lions v Blue Bulls

Kick-off: 5.15pm

Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni

Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius and Jaco Kotze

TMO: Pro Legoete –

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