Bulls call on Boks against Cheetahs
September 24, 2009
Morne Steyn returns to the Bulls side this weekend © Getty Images
The Currie Cup is nearing the business end and on Saturday Loftus Versfeld will host one of the biggest games of the season as the Blue Bulls hosts their closest rivals for a semi-final spot, the Cheetahs.
The visitors have been boosted by the return of Springbok openside Heinrich Brussow to the starting XV, but will be without their talismanic blindside Juan Smith after he suffered a knee injury in an accident on his farm. Adriaan Strauss captains the Cheetahs, with Jacques-Louis Potgieter pulling the strings at fly-half.
Their job will be all the more difficult as the home side have called on their Tri-Nations winners, with Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Morne Steyn and Danie Rosssouw all returning to the starting XV. Matfield takes over the captaincy from Dewald Potgieter, who starts in the back-row alongside Spies and Deon Stegmann.
Newlands will also host a vital game in the race for the semis, with Western Province facing the Griquas. After their stunning start the Griquas have had to dig deep in recent weeks, and the case will be no different on Saturday. Luke Watson leads the home side once again, the No.8 enjoying a fine Currie Cup swansong before heading to Bath.
Province have included 19-year-old Australian signing Matt Toomua on the bench, the Brumbies youngster providing surprise backup to Peter Grant at fly-half. Frikkie Welsh and Juan de Jongh continue their burgeoning centre partnership.
The visitors will be on a high after their thrilling 36-31 victory over the Lions last weekend, and boast arguably the player of the tournament in prolific fly-half Naas Olivier.
Both sides are hot on the heels of leaders the Sharks, who will be confident of a bonus-point victory over the struggling Leopards at Kings Park on Friday. Their task has been made all the easier by news that the Leopards travel to Durban shorn of skipper Wilhelm Koch and five other first-team regulars. Fullback Russell Jeacocks, centre Basil de Doncker, fly-half Cecil Dumont, prop Nardus Lombard and scrum-half Michael Bondesio all miss the game, meaning a difficult afternoon for the visitors.
They face a Sharks side featuring a glittering backs division, with Ruan Pienaar returning to domestic duty at scrum-half. The versatile back will be used at No.9 primarily for the remainder of the tournament, and starts this weekend alongside Juan-Martin Hernandez.
The round's other game sees the Lions out to bounce back from failure against the Griquas with a big performance against lowly Boland at Ellis Park . The home side will go in to battle without star scrum-half Jano Vermaak, who has been sidelined for four months with an ankle injury.
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament