Eighteen Springboks straight back into Currie Cup action

Eighteen Springboks that were part of the record-breaking Tri-Nations victory over Australia will feature in one way or another this weekend as the Currie Cup semifinal race nears fever-pitch.

Only Adi Jacobs (Sharks), Jongi Nokwe (FS Cheetahs), Butch James and Percy Montgomery (Western Province) are not in action this weekend as national attention turns firmly onto the Currie Cup.

Jacobs is being rested after a bruising Tri-Nations campaign, Nokwe picked up an ankle injury whilst scoring his fourth try against the Wallabies, James does not play domestically in South Africa at the moment and Montgomery has a stomach ailment.

The rest, however, are all available, with Western Province slotting all their first-choice players straight back into the mix; giving them no fewer than 11 Springboks in their starting line-up.

But, even with the wealth of players at their disposal, WP coach Allister Coetzee is not even contemplating certain victory against the defending champions, the Free State Cheetahs, when the two teams meet at Vodacom Park on Saturday at 3pm.

“It might look good on paper, but we all know that games are not won on paper,” said Coetzee after announcing the WP team on Wednesday.

“This team hasn’t played together as a combination for some time now; it’s not just a case of pitching up and winning.”

Making WP’s challenge that much tougher is the fact that the FS Cheetahs have not lost a Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein since 2006 – when they went down 24-12 to the Blue Bulls on August 5.

Plus, the Cheetahs have also been boosted by the return of skipper Juan Smith and hooker Adriaan Strauss to their playing ranks. “That home record is something we pride ourselves on and it’s an honour the players intend on protecting for as long as possible,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske told SARugby this week.

“Teams like WP and the Bulls are always hard to beat away from home and we certainly owe them something after losing away to them during the first round of fixtures,” added the man who was recently crowned as the Currie Cup Coach of the Month for August.

The mass Bok injection into the Currie Cup does not end with the Cheetahs-WP match, with the top-of-the-table Sharks v Blue Bulls clash in Durban on Saturday (kick-off 5.05pm) also looking like a proverbial ‘Who’s Who of Springbok rugby’.

The Sharks can once again consider the likes of Odwa Ndungane, Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis for selection, but also making a welcome return to the side is skipper Johann Muller, who has been injured for some time.

The Bulls, meanwhile, have fit-again IRB World Player of the Year Bryan Habana back in the mix, along with current Bok captain Victor Matfield, hardman Danie Rossouw, No.8 Pierre Spies and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

With first place on the log up for grabs once again, neither side will be lacking in motivation – but the Sharks will feel they owe the Bulls one after their 35-14 loss at Loftus earlier in the season.

“It is definitely make or break in terms of securing home finals and semi-finals,” said Sharks centre Brad Barritt on Sharks Rugby.

“We really need to win the games heading up to the semis, for us, the aim is to win every game from hereon in, if we can do that, we would have achieved our target. Looking at these two weeks, it’s two big teams, big rugby days, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

With all the talk of returning Springbok players this weekend, the Lions continue to go about their business without any current Boks in their selection equation.

After a poor start to the 2008 Absa Currie Cup season, which saw them lose two successive matches, the Lion’s got their season back on track with a 35-23 home win over the Valke in early July.

They have produced some impressive results since then – includi

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