Foward battles to dominate Currie Cup

The unpredictability of the opening rounds of the Currie Cup has kept pundits guessing, with five away-wins in nine matches.

But despite the unpredictability of the scores, one factor which has been consistent is the South African tradition of closely fought forward battles.

This weekend will be no different with the packs set to take centre stage as the teams look to gain momentum in the competition.

The Golden Lions meet Western Province at Ellis Park in the opening match of the weekend on Friday, and on Saturday the Free State Cheetahs take on Griquas in Bloemfontein and The Sharks face the Blue Bulls in Durban.

Golden Lions vs Western Province

The clash in Johannesburg is expected to be thrilling as Western Province look to maintain their unbeaten run, while the Golden Lions will be determined to build on their morale-boosting 62-23 victory against the Blue Bulls.

Given Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies’ familiarity with the structures at Western Province following his stint with the Stormers during the Super Rugby season, it was no surprise that Lions coach Johan Ackermann named him at pivot.

But Allister Coetzee also bolstered his starting team with hard-running hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who escaped sanctions after being found guilty of striking a player with his arm.

With both teams fielding physical packs, the forwards will be expected to lay a solid foundation for the exciting backs to make their presence felt. This will pave the way for a clash featuring a balance of tactical play and running rugby.

Match Officials
Referee
: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Sieg van Staden
TMO: Willie Roos

Teams

Golden Lions: Marnitz Boshoff; Deon Helberg, Robert De Bruyn, Dylan Des Fountain, Anthony Volmink; Elton Jantjies, Guy Cronje; Lambert Groenewald, Derick Minnie (capt), Warwick Tecklenburg; Franco van der Merwe, Willie Britz; Ruan Dreyer, Willie Wepener, CJ van der Linde.

Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen, Hugo Kloppers, JJ Breedt, Jaco Kriel, Tian Meyer, Andries Coetzee.

Western Province: Gio Aplon; Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom; Nizaam Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt, Deon Fourie (capt); De Kock Steenkamp, Michael Rhodes; Pat Cilliers, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris, Gerbrandt Grobler, Rohan Kitshoff, Louis Schreuder, Tim Swiel, Michael van der Spuy.

Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas

The forward battle in Bloemfontein will also be decisive as both teams pride themselves on their physicality in the scrums and at the breakdowns.

Interestingly Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske opted for live-wire Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane at loosehead after switching the player to the other side of the scrum last week.

With Griquas thin on locks as Ligtoring Landman, Jaco Nepgen and Jonathan Adendorf are all the sidelines, and Griquas coach Pote Human forced to draft in club player Patrick O’Brien to fill the void on the bench, the home team will in all likelihood target the set piece to gain an edge.

The clash, however, should offer a lot more than a brutal forward battle as both teams have backs who offer impressive tactical kicking and attacking skills.

Griquas, in particular, will have to show more innovation on attack to secure a victory, as penalties conceded or mistakes at crucial times have resulted in the side scoring only three tries in their first three matches.

Their defence, however, has been impressive, which means the likes of Raymond Rhule, Robert Ebersohn and Elgar Watts will have to show some magic on attack to cross the tryline.

Match Officials
Referee
: Craig Joubert
Assi

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