All Currie Cup matches will impact on semis

Every Premier Division Currie Cup match this weekend will have a bearing on qualification for the semi-finals – and with only two sides, the Leopards and Boland Cavaliers, out of the running for the play-offs there will be some tough and tense battles.

To say it’s make or break for the Blue Bulls in their match against the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday is perhaps a little over the top, but the fact is that the Pretoria side can hardly afford a third consecutive defeat.

Outplayed against Western Province last weekend, the Blue Bulls have to turn things around or risk losing their fourth spot on the log.

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has indicated that they would be targeting the Sharks scrum, where Patric Cilliers has been passed fit and will be at tighthead with Springbok Deon Carstens on the other side and Craig Burden at hooker.

Whether former World Cup prop Balie Swart has done enough during the week to make the Blue Bulls control the scrums remains to be seen.

It would not surprise if the Blue Bulls target Argentina flyhalf Martin Juan Hernandez, who has not really convinced since his arrival in South Africa. This time he’ll have Rory Kockott on his inside, which could deflect a lot of pressure from him.

The Sharks will try and play the percentages as Western Province did against the Blue Bulls, but for that the Sharks need dominance up front.

They will have to improve substantially on their performance against the Lions three weeks ago when they were lucky to escape because of the Lions’ poor finishing and options.

Ludeke will also implore his charges to keep the possession secure. The Sharks remain artists in long-distance turnover tries, and Blue Bulls fetcher Deon Stegmann’s task it will be to keep them from winning the possession on the ground. And for that, the strong scrum so dearly wanted by Ludeke, will help immeasurably.

In Bloemfontein the Free State Cheetahs will on Saturday want to continue their run of five wins after they started disastrously with four defeats. They are real contenders for a semi-final berth – and Western Province will know they’ve been in a game against a team that scrums well, supports well and now also have the confidence to take on the best.

The Free State will, however, have to use their opportunities better than they did against the Lions, where the two sides scored one try apiece despite double the amount of possession going the Free State’s way.

The tight five of the Free State hold the key to this match – as do a Western Province backline which did not completely convince against the Blue Bulls and will have to step up to the plate to ensure a win and virtually confirm a play-off berth.

The Leopards have at last settled into the harsher rhythm of the Premier Division – and the Lions will have to be very, very wary of their neighbours at Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday night.

A loss will most likely spell the end for the Lions against a Leopards side enjoying its rugby and also their recent good performances which include a 34-33 loss to Griquas last weekend.

Six changes to the Lions side will not help the home side’s cause and they will have to watch the interplay and free-running approach of the Leopards if they want to retain an interest in the competition. Leopards coach Chaka Willemse has indicated that they will try and keep the Lions behind the advantage line and keep them from gaining any momentum.

In Wellington on Saturday Griquas could take a step closer to the semi-finals when they play the Boland Cavaliers, now with the helping hand of former Super 12 coach Chester Williams on their rudder.

But even a great coach can improve a side only so much. Poor form, injuries and a lack of confidence will not make Williams’ task an easy one, and the one week he’s been with them certainly isn’t enough. Griquas, on the other hand, are

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