Province’s Bok quartet to raise Currie Cup bar

One lesson the Western Province Currie Cup rugby team would have learnt at Loftus Versfeld last Saturday, must have been their present team was far from formidable and hardly have a championship look about them.


Their 36 – 32 defeat at the hands of the Blue Bulls was their fourth for the season after losses to the Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs (home) earlier this season.


However, failing only four times in 13 matches has nevertheless secured the Newlands-based team a semi-final berth irrespective of what happens in the final round of matches this weekend, when Province host log-leaders the Sharks.


The result of this match will be of academic interest to the Sharks as, regardless of the outcome, they will advance through to the semis for a home fixture.


The second-placed Province, on the other hand, will be looking for a win, with or without a bonus point, to secure a home semi-final. If they were to be held to a draw, they would need one bonus point to nail down the home semi-final.


Defeat or a draw without a bonus point will see Province drop down to an eventual fourth place as the third and fourth-placed sides, Cheetahs and Bulls respectively, should win their remaining matches this weekend and in so doing finish in the same positions on the final log.


Given this scenario, the Sharks are in a position where they could decide what’s the best outcome for them at Newlands on Saturday. If they beat Province the chances are they will host the Bulls, the Currie Cup’s most feared team.


In the past eight seasons (since 2002), the Bulls have played in seven finals and have lost only twice.


For the Sharks, Province might seem like an easier semi-final option as the Newlands team have not reached a final since 2001.


Against this background, the brains trust in the Shark tank may want to avoid a semi-final clash against the Bulls, who have a vastly superior Currie Cup pedigree. It would be easy to ‘manage’ this possibility by doing what the Bulls did in the final round of Super 14 matches a few months ago.


On that occasion the outcome was of no consequence to the Bulls and they fielded a second-string XV which lost 38-10 to the Stormers at Newlands.


Of course, the Sharks will also be mindful of the fact that Province, despite their indifferent second-round form, are capable of taking apart the best teams in the country when they strike their best form.


However much the Province pack have improved this year, they are merely capable of holding their own against the best opposition but still not in a position to dominate with telling effect.


In the backs department, the return of Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers have enhanced their thrust significantly without being able to take the game away from opponents.


This week Province will welcome back Springboks flank Schalk Burger, centre Jacque Fourie, scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and wing Bryan Habana.


Without doubt, they will enhance the dynamics of the team but it remains to be seen if they will be able to impose themselves on a match in such a way the side will take on the look of genuine Currie Cup contenders.


In an unusual sequence of match preparation, Province decided on a rest day on Monday and will resume preparations for the Sharks clash on Tuesday at their training headquarters in Bellville.


Province have made some interesting adjustments to the routine this week and instead of their usual Wednesday team announcement it will happen on Thursday this week. This change of routine may allow Province to establish what team the Sharks will be fielding at Newlands on Saturday before they make their own selections known.


And instead of doing all their training for the week in Bellville, their final training session on Thursday will take place at Newlands.


Both the Sharks and Province’s directors of coaching have a history of employi

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