Absa Currie Cup Semi-finals Preview

PUBLISHED: July 20, 2011

This is it. Eight teams worked hard during the 2011 season to reach this stage, but only four – the MTN Golden Lions, The Sharks, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and DHL Western Province – have qualified for the Absa Currie Cup semi-finals.

In the first semi-final The Sharks host the Toyota FS Cheetahs in Durban. This game kicks off at 14:30, after which the MTN Golden Lions, who topped the log, take on DHL WP at 17:00 in Johannesburg.

The Absa U21 and U19 A-Division semi-finals also take place this weekend.

The Blue Bulls U21s will host their Golden Lions counterparts at Loftus Versfeld and in the other U21 semi-final, Western Province host the Sharks in Cape Town.

In the Absa Under-19 semi-finals, the Blue Bulls will take on Free State in Pretoria, with the Golden Lions taking second position on the log for a semi-final against Western Province at Coca-Cola Park.

The Sharks vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs

It’s been 11 years since The Sharks last beat the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in an Absa Currie Cup semi-final and even though these two sides met only twice in knock-out matches since, it’s probably a record the KwaZulu-Natalians would like to put an end to when they host their fifth consecutive semi-final this weekend against the Cheetahs in Durban.

Looking at the semi-final history between the teams from Durban and Bloemfontein, The Sharks actually “lead” by 4-3 since they first met in such a game way back in 1984.

On that day Natal, as they were known back then, advanced to their first ever Absa Currie Cup final when they beat Free State by 26-15 in Durban. The Sharks were also victorious in 1996 (35-20), 1999 (45-8) and 2000 (29-15), with all these games being played at Mr Price Kings Park in Durban.

Free State won by 40-22 in 1997 in Durban, by 30-14 in 2006 in Bloemfontein and again by 23-21 in 2009 in Durban.

It’s the game from two seasons ago that would have Sharks coach John Plumtree sweating a little bit, as well as his team’s last match against the Cheetahs, when the team from Bloemfontein won easily by 53-32 at their home ground.

“We will need to play really well to beat this Cheetahs side, it’s not a given if we just turn up and the players understand that because of the history between the two teams,” said Plumtree, who lead The Sharks to the Absa Currie Cup crown in 2008 and 2010.

“(But) the pool stages are over and we know exactly what we need to do and we have an opportunity to contest the final again. We have had a proud history in this competition over the last four years and we want to be there to contest the final this year.

“We know we can if we play well enough. The players are very excited about the opportunity. We need to focus on what we need to do to get there.”

Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske, who lifted the Absa Currie Cup as a player (2005), team manager (shared in 2006) and coach (2007), said Saturday’s game will be a massive challenge for his young team, especially as The Sharks have been bolstered by no less than seven returning RWC Boks in Pat Lambie, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Willem Alberts, Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to get a young player to believe he can win against these players, so our biggest challenge this week has been to get our players to realise that it has happened before and it can happen again,” said Drotske.

“We will focus on defence, the breakdowns and playing from turned over possession and can’t afford to play for anything less than 80 minutes. Also, we have to ensure we close down their space and make our one on one tackles.”

The Sharks vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 22 October
Kick-off: 14:30
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Referees: Pro Legoete, Marc van Zyl
TMO: JC Fortuin


The Sharks: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Marius Joubert, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffman, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Jean Deysel / Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Marcell Coetzee, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Toyota FS Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Philip van der Walt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe. Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Johan Wessels, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Nico Scheepers.

MTN Golden Lions vs DHL Western Province

The MTN Golden Lions lost both their previous Absa Currie Cup semi-finals against DHL Western Province.

Saturday will be the Golden Lions’ first semi-final since 2008 and the first one they host since 1999. In their only two previous Absa Currie Cup semi-finals against WP, the team from Cape Town have won both – in 1997 (38-18) and 2000 (43-22), at DHL Newlands.

Since their last Absa Currie Cup title, in 1999, the Golden Lions have only won two out of seven semi-finals, while WP, since their last crown in 2001, have a similar strike rate, with one semi-final victory and four defeats.

However, last season’s runners-up, WP, will want to keep their semi-final winning record intact when they travel to Coca-Cola Park this weekend, even though they lost their last six Absa Currie Cup encounters in Johannesburg.

History is irrelevant said MTN Golden Lions coach John Mitchell, especially referring to his team’s big defeat last weekend against The Sharks in Durban. The team from Johannesburg, who also had a good victory over the Lions earlier this month, do realise the importance of this weekend’s semi-final, though.

“It is not just another game, it is more important than that. I guess you can fall in the trap in professional rugby as seeing it as just another game,” said Mitchell, who included both his current Springboks, CJ van der Linde (loosehead prop) and Butch James (reserve back) in the Lions’ 22.

“It is not that for us. There is a bit of excitement around but it is important that we control and manage that situation. Excitement is good, it is a good part of preparation, but we have been focussing on training as we want to play – it’s been our build-up so far.”

DHL WP coach Allister Coetzee has included six Rugby World Cup Springboks for Saturday in Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon, but five of them are backs and the Golden Lions’ pack could test WP this weekend.

According to Tiaan Liebenberg, who captained WP for most of the season until the Boks returned, it’s great to have their international stars back.

“It gives us massive confidence to have them back in a game like a semi-final. I know they are still bummed about what happened at the World Cup, but this is also an opportunity for them to end the season on a high. They slotted in well and brought intensity to team,” said Liebenberg.

“This weekend is going to be massive and we’re looking forward to it. We played the Lions quite recently and that game gave us a good idea on what we need to work on and improve on this weekend. They play brilliant attacking rugby and also have some Boks back, like Butch James, CJ van der Linde and Wikus van Heerden.

“We know where to up our game on Saturday – we worked hard on our scrums this week – and are looking forward to a massive challenge in Joburg.”

MTN Golden Lions vs DHL Western Province
Date: Saturday, 22 October
Kick-off: 17:00
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Stuart Berry, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee


MTN Golden Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Josh Strauss (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ van der Linde. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar / Jaco Kriel, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.

DHL Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JC Kritzinger. Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Tertius Daniller, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Conrad Jantjes.

Age-group rugby

Absa Under-19 A Division Semi-finals

Blue Bulls vs Free State
Friday, 21 October, 15:00
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Mlungiseli Mdashe, Dilbert November

Golden Lions vs Western Province
Saturday, 22 October, 15:00
Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Archie Sehlako
Assistant referees: Gerrie de Bruin, Dilbert November

Absa Under-21 A Division Semi-finals

Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions
Friday, 21 October, 17:00
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Lusanda Jam
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Linston Manuels

Western Province vs Sharks
Friday, 21 October, 18:00
Florida Park, Ravensmead
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Johan Greeff

Absa Under-19 promotion/relegation

South Western Districts vs Griffons
Saturday, 22 October, 15:00
Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Fumanekile Yamile

Absa Under-21 promotion/relegation

Valke vs Border
Friday, 21 October, 17:00
Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Gerrie de Bruin, Rasta Rasivhenge

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