Rats join me in welcoming a new columnist, Benedict Chanakira to our roster of experts. Today he previews the semis for us.
DHL Western Province vs MTN Golden Lions
This weekend the first of the Currie Cup semi-finals sees Western Province take on the Lions. Province is on a streak of thirteen games undefeated since last year. This is a side that has a mixture of youth and experience and managed to integrate their returning Boks well. They continue to improve and are favourites to retain the Currie Cup. They host a Lions side that has had mixed fortunes this season, and have failed to really build on impressive performance especially after they put the Bulls to the sword. A lack of consistency is the major contributing factor to the Lions average season, despite several outstanding game breakers.
A solid forward pack that managed to stand up against a Springbok clad Sharks pack, managing to win away from home continues to highlight the sides’ championship qualities. Jean de Villiers will lead the team from the onset and be part of the most exciting backline in the competition. They have the flair and a resolute defence. Add to that home ground advantage and you have a daunting task for the Lions. The Lions will need to put up a better performance than last week if they seeking an upset. The Lions team that ripped the Blue Bulls must travel to Newlands and we will be hoping to have ourselves a great game. Their last encounter was a draw. What’s next?
I believe Western Province will be too strong for the Lions and will go on to host the Currie Cup final for the first time since 2001 at Newlands Stadium.
Players to watch: Duane Vermeulen (WP) and Derick Minnie (Lions)
Sharks vs Cheetahs
The second semi-final sees the Sharks host the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs have been tagged as the Sharks ‘bogey side’ but can we say they have shrugged that tag off? Like the Lions the Cheetahs have been inconsistent. They had to win against the Blue Bulls to make sure of qualification and they managed to do so easily. Cheetahs centres Johann Sadie and Robert Ebersohn out-playing Springbok centres JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein. Could the visitors’ established centres expose the Sharks centres?
The Sharks rotation policy has surely negated momentum. Will the inclusion of Francois Steyn who hasn’t played since May be a stroke of brilliance or poor move? Considering he was not in the best form last time he was available. The Springbok World cup winner has a lot to prove. The Cheetahs can repeat the heroics of the 2009 season. They have a wild card option in the form of Johan Goosen. The last two semi-final encounters at King Park between the two have been close. There will be no repeat of the Sharks walloping of the Cheetahs in the league phase. The Sharks should edge this match and make use of the home ground advantage. The Sharks superior forward pack should be the difference.
I expect the Sharks to meet Western Province in the final and seek revenge for last seasons’ final defeat; this time at Newlands Stadium.
Players to watch: Battle of the two best Hookers in the world; Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) and Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
*Benedict is a 21 year old IRB Level 2 qualified coach resident in Port Shepstone KZN. He is an avid Sharks and Manchester United (we forgive you) fan… but he loves all sports. Catch him on Twitter at