Western Province primed for derby clash
August 11, 2010
Zane Kirchner starts at fullback for the Bulls against Western Province this weekend © Getty Images
It has been a while since Western Province's domestic form outgunned that of the Blue Bulls but as they go into this weekend's eagerly anticipated North-South derby it's Allister Coetzee's men, with five wins out of five, who sit atop the Currie Cup log.
WP emphatically buried their Kimberley ghosts as they dispatched Griquas 50-3 last week, with the help of a number of their Springboks. Their big names have now left the squad to join the national team in camp, meaning that Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and Francois Louw depart with Tim Whitehead, Fabien Juries and Nick Koster at present favourites to replace them.
For the Bulls Zane Kirchner is back at fullback after he was released from the Springbok squad due to the return of Francois Steyn. Kirchner replaces Jaco van der Westhuyzen in one of seven changes from the side that defeated the Leopards last weekend. Gary Botha returns as captain after being rested last weekend and replaces Chiliboy Ralepelle, who is on Springbok duty, as is Flip van der Merwe, who will be replaced by Wilhelm Steenkamp at lock.
Stalwart John Mametsa also reclaims his left wing berth at the expense of Hayden Groepes. Dean Greyling, who recovered from a neck strain, is back at loose-head in place of Jaco Engels, while Werner Kruger, who was also rested against the Leopards, replaces Bees Roux.
"This is the best team for us for this game," Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke said. "We expect the forward battle to be a fierce one, especially amongst the tight five. We therefore opted to pick two front rows in an effort to stay with the pace with fresh legs."
John Mitchell's Golden Lions will be looking to end a run of four consecutive defeats against the Cheetahs in Johannesburg. After a good first half performance they fell away badly against the Sharks in Durban last week. Mitchell has called in talented youngster Edgar Marutlulle at hooker after the 22-year-old impressed during the Varsity Cup and has also been forced to draft tight-head Ross Geldenhuys and flanker Renaldo Bothma into his pack.
For the Cheetahs, Waltie Vermeulen replaces injured lock Barend Pieterse who has taken a knock to his ankle. CJ van der Linde is away with the Springboks so his place on the bench is taken by Kobus Calldo and Phillip van der Walt also moves onto the bench following Vermeulen's elevation to the starting XV.
The Cheetahs will also be boosted by the news that star wing Lionel Mapoe, who's been in a legal dispute with the union since wanting to depart for the Sharks, has been ordered to remain in Bloemfontein. Drotske says that he expects Mapoe to report to the training immediately.
The Sharks have on paper an easier tie against the Leopards at the Royal Bafokeng but the home side gave the Bulls an almighty scare last week so John Plumtree's men won't be taking them lightly. The visitors have lost Jean Deysel for the season due to a knee injury and a number of players to the Springbok camp as well. The Sharks are currently second on the log, three points adrift of Western Province, while the Leopards are bottom without a win yet in the competition.
The Leopards have made one change with flank Christo van Niekerk coming in for Danie Crous. Scrum-half Michael Bondesio, who had an excellent game against the Bulls, is struggling with a groin injury and locks Anthonie Gronum and Brad Mockford are also doubts, with a decision on their participation to be taken closer to the match.
Griquas host the Pumas on Friday evening in Kimberley and are hopeful of returning to winning ways at home after beating that Sharks and the Lions earlier on in the season. The Pumas have only won once so far this season, beating the Leopards, and currently sit seventh on the log.
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures