DEFENDING champions the MTN Golden Lions will be looking to record a hat-trick of Absa Currie Cup Premier Division victories over DHL Western Province this season when the two sides meet in one of the competition's semi-finals in Johannesburg on Saturday (kick-off 19h00).
In the first semi-final, the Sharks will be hoping for a repeat of their 13-12 win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Durban three weeks ago when the two sides clash at Mr Price Kings Park (kick-off 16h30).
Sharks coach John Plumtree has elected to bench several returning frontline Springboks including Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts, while Pat Lambie enjoys a second consecutive match at flyhalf and flanker Jean Deysel wins his 50th cap starting in the number-seven jersey.
Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar has retained the same match 22 that beat the Lions last weekend, which means that Bok utility back Francois Hougaard will once again play off the bench while his half-back partner in the green and gold and last week's man of the match, Morné Steyn, will run out in the number-ten jersey.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann has rung the changes, the most significant being the return of flyhalf Elton Jantjies in place of the benched Butch James, and five changes to the forward pack including the displacement of Boks CJ van der Linde and Pat Cilliers by JC Janse van Rensburg and Jacobie Adriaanse.
WP coach Allister Coetzee must do without the services of a trio of injured Springboks in Jean de Villiers, Andries Bekker and Tiaan Liebenberg – with the latter two ruled out for the rest of the season – but can nevertheless call upon Bok flyer Gio Aplon, who takes over from Joe Pietersen, and the promising Marcel Brache in the number 12 jersey.
Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Louis Fouché tops the Premier Division point-scoring log going into the semi-finals, with 137 points made up of 13 conversions, 35 penalties and 2 drop goals. Behind Fouché in tied second place on 113 is GWK Griquas flyhalf Francois Brummer and DHL WP pivot Demetri Catrakilis.
Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule tops the try-scoring table ahead of the play-offs with eight touchdowns, with Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane and Griquas wing Rocco Jansen tied for second place, with seven tries apiece.
This weekend's fixtures – Semi-finals:
Sharks vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Date: Saturday, 20 October
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Mark Lawrence
Assistants: Jason Jaftha, Christie du Preez
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman
Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandrè Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Steven Sykes/Peet Marais, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Meyer Bosman.
Blue Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (capt), 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett. Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Dean Greyling.
MTN Golden Lions vs DHL Western Province
Date: Saturday, 20 October
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistants: Sindile Mayende, Stefan Breytenbach
Television Match Official: Johann Meuwesen
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach/Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (capt). Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde/Pat Cilliers, 18 Hendrik Roodt, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Deon Helberg.
WP – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie (capt), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Damian de Allende, 22 Joe Pietersen.