Currie Cup

Jannie du Plessis should be wary of 'Marcel trap' in Bloem homecoming

Jannie du Plessis (Gallo Images)
Jannie du Plessis (Gallo Images)
  • Jannie du Plessis' Bloemfontein homecoming should inspire the Lions against the Cheetahs this weekend, but it might have its pitfalls too.
  • The 38-year-old tighthead hasn't been in the greatest form in 2020 and should be wary of falling victim to potential biases, much like the Bulls' Marcel van der Merwe last week.
  • Head coach Ivan van Rooyen believes the Lions will be able to draw on their previous success in the City of Roses.


More than five years from his previous rugby visit to Bloemfontein, Jannie du Plessis will grace the Free State Stadium for the Lions against their hosts, the Cheetahs, on Saturday afternoon.

It's an occasion that merits fans for some atmosphere, be it to pay tribute to a longstanding servant of South African rugby or engage in some verbals about leaving the City of Roses for Durban back in 2008.

Nonetheless, the evergreen 38-year-old tighthead has deep roots in the Free State, having matriculated from Grey College, graduating from Kovsies and winning three Currie Cups with the Cheetahs.

Teams:

Cheetahs

15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Boan Venter

Substitutes: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Victor Sekekete, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Dries Swanepoel

Lions

15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Willem Alberts, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Mannie Rass, 23 Roelof Smit

"Jannie's getting a start," said Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions' head coach.

"We're quite excited by that."

Yet before the Lions get too giddy about that selection, there might be a lesson in trepidation to be learned from last week's match between the Bulls and selfsame Cheetahs.

Boan Venter, the Free Staters' loosehead, played a major role in prompting Bulls mentor Jake White to substitute his tighthead, Marcel van der Merwe, after just 33 minutes.

However, once Trevor Nyakane came on, the tide turned and subsequent discussions between the Bulls and relevant referees associations revealed that Venter was pushing his luck in terms of legality.

While White praised Jaco Peyper, the referee for the match, for his adaptability, the issue has shone a spotlight on potential referee bias.

Was Van der Merwe the unwitting victim of his own indifferent form when penalised in his engagements with Venter?

And did Venter's indiscretions suddenly appear when a man who is in form - Nyakane - struggled in his first scrum against the powerful Cheetahs No 1?

The point is that Du Plessis is in a similar position to Van der Merwe.

He has a great pedigree, but hasn't played a lot in 2020 and looked off the pace earlier in the year during the curtailed Super Rugby campaign.  

Du Plessis will need to draw on all his experience and composure to make sure he doesn't fall in the same trap, essentially due to the perception that his form is waning.

Meanwhile, the Lions will be confident of delivering a positive result at a venue where they've historically eked out crucial victories.

Even last year's narrow 28-31 loss in the Currie Cup final could have a galvanising effect.

"There are some good and not-so-good memories from our last time there, but we're very excited," said Van Rooyen.

"We know it will be tough and both teams will be desperate."

Kick-off is at 16:30.

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