Rugby Champs time … Time for the top 3 sides in the world to battle it out with the 10th best side on the IRB rankings! A look at all the Currie Cup and Rugby Champs teams, times, refs and predictions!
Slightly more tricky on the pink ticket front my friends … You need both Friday and Saturday night off, and that is going to cost you I am afraid. Just make sure it’s not at 12h00 on Saturday, though, because that is when Ewen’s new look Aussies, with a flyhalf in the mix this time, take on the injury plagued All Blacks in Sydney. A provincial fixture at 19h00 on a Saturday is ridiculous at the best of times, but when it comes after a Bok Test, you simply have to wonder what those in the so called know, are smoking? Good luck getting pink for that … To be honest, I actually don’t think we deserve it. And after a long day seated next to your coolerbox, perhaps it is best to catch it on PVR while the family are at Church on Sunday in any case …
Friday 16 August
17:05 Sharks vs Lions, Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant Referees: Stuart Berry, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
Both teams off narrow losses, at home nogal, and obviously desperate to get their campaigns back on track. In the main changes to the teams, Lions coach Johan Ackermann opted for Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies at pivot, with Marnitz Boshoff moving to fullback, while Kings back SP Marais gets his first start for the Sharks following his move to Durban. It will be interesting to see if the Sharks have managed to improve their scrum … Botes was a machine last week, and expect Deysel to spend a fair amount of time running at the revolving door that is now situated at flayhalf for the Lions.
My prediction: Sharks by 5
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 SP Marais, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Butch James, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Bench: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruin, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Bench: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Crysander Botha.
19:10 Blue Bulls vs Griquas, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Sindile Mayende, Attie Buitendag
TMO: Johan Greeff
A battle between the 2 sides that best came to grips with the new scrum call last week, with Griquas tighthead Lourens Adriaanse man handling the Sharks, and the Bulls, long belittled for their inability to scrum, turned into scrummaging power houses who made mincemeat of the WP pack at Newlands. Not the best time to lose your first choice tighthead, and while Werner Kruger is a Springbok, he has not scummed well in a long time. The Bulls will miss Frik Kirsten. Expect it to be a physical affair, and given the vast experience the Kimberly team boasts, the Bulls will face a tough test. Griquas will be missing key players in lock Ligtoring Landman and flank Marnus Schoeman due to injury, while the Pretoria team have granted big bustling hooker Willie Wepener permission to take up a contract at the Lions, meaning Callie Visagie gets a start at hooker. The Blue Bulls will be hoping to build on the encouraging form in the second half that earned them a draw against Western Province last week, while Griquas will be on a high following their win against the Sharks in Durban last week. It will be tight …
My prediction: Bulls by 7
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Morné Mellett.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Bench: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen.
Saturday 17 August
12:05 Australia vs New Zealand, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (SA), Lourens van der Merwe (SA)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (SA)
What a way to start the rugby Championship! The third best side in the world, according to the IRB rankings, hosting the best. New coach for the Aussies, but perhaps more importantly, new flyhalf! Matt Toomua will make his debut for Australia (the talented 23-year-old made a particularly brief appearance for Australia in an uncapped midweek clash against the Cardiff Blues in 2009), while Quade Cooper, who many thought might new coach Ewen Mckenzie’s go to man, is on the bench. There are five uncapped players in the matchday 23, with fellow uncapped Brumbies Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani all earning spots on the bench. Interestingly, the other big call from McKenzie is the dropping of loosehead prop Benn Robinson from the squad, instead going for James Slipper. Robinson looks to be purpose built for these new scrum calls. On the other side of the field, one never ever sees a poor All Black side, especially with Richie McCaw donning the white armband. But with Dan Carter out injured and the relative inexperience of locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano, the Aussies might fancy an upset. And even at home, it would be an upset. Out of the 146 times these sides have played each other, Australia have lost 99 of them, with the average score being 19-13 to the All Blacks. I would not put money on the upset, though.
My prediction: All Blacks by 5
Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Bench: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Bench: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.
17:00 South Africa vs Argentina, FNB Stadium, Soweto
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), John Lacey (Ireland)
Television match official: Eric Gauzins (France)
Both Samoa and Scotland find themselves above Argentina in the IRB rankings, while Italy are only two places below the 10th placed new boys to the rugby Championship. So having despatched all three of these sides in the June quadrangular, and finding themselves second only to the All Blacks on the rankings, the Boks should take the game against the Pumas at the FNB stadium on Saturday at a canter … But this game is not played on the IRB rankings website … The Boks have two scrumhalves and an 8th man, albeit super talented, who have not played competitive rugby for a very long time, and have a backup tighthead prop who is a looshead, even though teams are now allowed full front rows on the bench in a 23 man squad, and even though said loosehead prop has not cut it at tighthead for his province. This against a side famous for the Bajada scrum that might well flourish again under the new call. In the absence of regular captain Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe, who has not recovered from a calf injury – a big blow for the visitors, Felipe Contepomi will captain Argentina in his Rugby Championship debut along with tighthead prop Matías Díaz and flanker Pablo Matera, both of whom played this year’s Junior World Championship. Bajada or not though, it is messy on the stats front for the Pumas, having never beaten the Boks in 15 attempts. They have drawn one game, with the average score being 39-19 to the Boks. Unless it really does go pear shaped for the Boks come scrum time, expect Morne Steyn to play for the corners, Ruan Pienaar to put the ball high into the sky for Bjorn Basson and Bryan Habana to chase, and the industrial Bok defence to strangle the life out of the visitors.
My prediction: Boks by 9
South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Fourie du Preez, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
Argentina – 15 Juan Martín Hernández, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Matías Díaz, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Juan Figallo.
Bench: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Julio Farías Cabello, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Fernández, 23 Horacio Agulla.
19:15 Western Province vs Free State, Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Marc van Zyl
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
If the weather plays it’s part, which is looking unlikely at this stage, this game could be entertaining as both teams have the players and skills to play a fantastic brand of running rugby. And unlike in Super Rugby, WP seem more inclined to spin the ball a bit in the Currie Cup. But with wet conditions expected in Cape Town, the teams could find themselves playing a territorial game, which would see the relatively inexperienced pair of Gary van Aswegen and Elgar Watts going head to head. And after losing their comfortable lead against the Bulls last week, the home team will be particularly wary of the Cheetahs’ ability to dominate territory and possession, which created headaches for the Lions in the first half last week. On the flip side, the Cheetahs will have their guard up on defence as WP created several try-scoring chances last week, but battled to round many of them off – something they will clearly be looking to improve on this week. Something else that will need some improving is their scrum, which got taken to task by the Bulls last week. Hard-running Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, known to be a good scrummager, has been named on the bench following a long injury layoff, and could aid their cause. I see the home side being just that bit more desperate.
My prediction: WP by 2
Western Province: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Pat Howard, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Michael Rhodes, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Rohan Kitshoff, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Ryan Nell
Free State: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Bench: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Piet Lindeque.