Provinces battle for semi berths

2008-09-15 00:00

WHILE the Sharks and the Blue Bulls are involved in a dogfight for the top places on the Currie Cup rugby log, three provinces are battling over the remaining two semi-final positions.

The Sharks, if they can win the awkward Ellis Park game against the Lions on September 27, should nail down top spot on the log to earn the right to a home semi-final and, if they win, a King’s Park final.

Their other two round-robin games are against the struggling Falcons in Brakpan this weekend and against Griquas in Durban on October 4.

On current form, they would expect to win both with a bonus point.

The Blue Bulls should also have no problem cementing their top two placing with wins over Griquas, though they are away in Kimberley, and the Falcons. Their biggest hurdle is this Saturday, when they face the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs and the Lions are under serious threat from fast-finishing, Springbok-boosted Western Province, who could sneak into the semi-finals by the odd point.

Province have to win all their remaining games with a bonus point and their final game against the Lions in Cape Town on October 4 is obviously crucial to both teams.

Free State, the champions, are also under fierce pressure and they need to beat the in-form Bulls in Bloemfontein on Saturday to make certain of a semi-final berth.

A win by the Lions over either the Sharks or Province would ensure their top-four finish.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has confirmed that he will rest a number of players for Saturday’s trip to Brakpan to face the Falcons.

Fullback Stefan Terblanche and hooker Bismarck du Plessis are among those who will be given the weekend off and it seems certain that prop Beast Mtawarira and wing Odwa Ndungane, who both left the field with injuries on Saturday, will not be considered.

Plumtree seems certain to ease Bok number eight, Ryan Kankowski, back into the action, while reserve hooker Craig Burden and possibly centre Brad Barritt, who missed the Free State game because of concussion, may also return.

The match is at 3 pm on Saturday and will be screened on SuperSport 6.

Remaining fixtures for top five teams

Sharks

Sept 20 vs Falcons (Brakpan); Sept 27 vs Lions (Ellis Park); October 4 vs Griquas (King’s Park).

Blue Bulls

Sept 20 vs Cheetahs (Bloemfontein); Sept 27 vs Griquas (Kimberley); October 3 vs Falcons (Pretoria).

Lions

Sept 20 vs Boland (Wellington); Sept 27 vs Sharks (Ellis Park); October 4 vs WP (Newlands)

Free State

Sept 20 vs Blue Bulls (Bloemfontein); Sept 26 vs Falcons (Brakpan); October 4 vs Boland (Bloemfontein).

Western Province

Sept 19 vs Griquas (Cape Town); Sept 27 vs Boland (Wellington); October 4 vs Lions (Cape Town).

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