Teams will be out to finish the first half of the Currie Cup regular season strong this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Who finishes top of the table at the halfway stage of the competition will be determined on Friday when the pacesetting Pumas and Cheetahs – both on 25 points – run out on their home turfs.
The Cheetahs square off against the Sharks while the Pumas, who’re in pole position on points’ difference, play host to Western Province.
The Bulls and the Lions battle it out in the Jukskei derby on Saturday and the action concludes when Griquas collide with the Griffons on Sunday.
Cheetahs v Sharks
Friday, 21 April – 14:30
The Sharks have been hit and miss so far this season, following up a good win like the triumph over the Pumas with a loss like the 24-20 defeat to the Bulls last weekend. Starting slow cost them dearly against the men from Pretoria and it wasn’t the first time they’ve struggled to get a foothold in a game.
The Cheetahs, in contrast, have been super consistent. Their 26-17 win over Western Province last weekend highlighted the trust they have in their game plan and patience to stick to the process. It might be testy initially but the Free Staters should eventually pull clear and prevail with room to spare.
Pumas v Western Province
Friday, 21 April – 16:30
The Pumas showed both their mental make-up and class in their 64-6 trouncing of the Griffons to bounce back from the previous week’s upset defeat in Durban.
Western Province still aren’t clicking as well as they’d like. They controlled last weekend’s clash against the Cheetahs for three quarters before coming unstuck and will need nothing less than an 80-minute performance to spring an upset in Nelspruit.
The Capetonians have won two of their three games on the road but they’ll come up short here against a more clinical and polished Pumas outfit.
Bulls v Lions
Sunday, 22 April – 16:30
The Bulls showed what they’re capable of to stun the Sharks last weekend and make it two wins in a row. Jake White got his selections spot on by fielding an experienced core group of players like Nizaam Carr, Zak Burger, Morne Steyn, and Lionel Mapoe to guide the younger talent, and will surely stick to that recipe.
Coming off a heart-breaking last-gasp loss to Griquas, the Lions will battle and ultimately be unable to match the balance of the Bulls, which will see the hosts overtake their neighbours on the log.
Griquas v Griffons
Sunday, 23 April – 14:00
Griquas will be on a high after their buzzer-beating 25-18 win in Johannesburg last weekend and that should shield them from complacency against the last-placed Griffons.
After taking two steps forward with a historic win over the Bulls and a promising performance in defeat against Western Province, the Griffons took three steps back in their 58-point mauling by the Cheetahs.
They’ll have to up their energy and intensity but even that won’t be enough for them to come away from Kimberley with a win as Griquas will steamroll them up front en route to a commanding win.