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Xerox Golden Lions 10 10 48
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ORC Griquas 10 1 8
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Picking the Currie Cup gems


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content on 6 Aug 2013 at 13:53
Tagged with : , , , ,

With the 2013 installment of SA’s older provincial rugby tournament set to kick off on Friday, it’s time to run the rule over the teams competing in what may well be one of the tightest Currie Cup competitions in years.

As is usually the case, big and small teams alike have been decimated by player defections, with the additional whammy of Bok call-ups removing a whack of players from the ranks of the “big four”. Even at this late stage, there’s plenty of horse trading going on and I can’t recall a recent season where the player market has been quite this active even so close to Currie Cup kick-off.

What that means is that all the teams are, to an extent, unsettled, making it really hard to pick a likely winner – or even four semi-finalists – at this early stage. For those playing in our Fantasy League competition, though, it’s obviously hugely important to figure out where the isolated stars are likely to come from. Who are the special players that are likely to stand out and turn matches for their teams in such a closely-contested competition? Let’s have a look at the teams to see if we can spot them.

Griquas

The country cousins have suffered their usual merry-go-round amongst the backline, but have retained the bulk of the strong forward pack that served them well last year. They also enjoy continuity in coaching and leadership, which should stand them in good stead. It’s the front row, in particular, that stands out as an area of real strength for Griquas, with the likes of Ryno Barnes and Lourens Adriaanse sure to have good seasons. They lack any genuine flair amongst the forwards, though and will turn to the likes of Howard Mnisi and Gouws Prinsloo, both of them new acquisitions, to make stuff happen at the back. Flyhalf Francois Brummer will obviously be a key man for them as well.

Lions

A host of recent injuries looks set to really complicate the picture for the newly-promoted Super Rugby side and the loss of the likes of JC Janse van Rensburg and Hendrik Roodt will severely weaken their tight five. It’s hard to see the tight forwards being much of a strength for the Lions, but loosies such as Derick Minnie and Jaco Kriel will be good value as always. Expect the Lions to play things a fair bit looser in the Currie Cup, where their real danger men at the back will be Elton Jantjies and try machines Stokkies Hanekom and Anthony Volminck.

Cheetahs

For once, the Cheetahs have been hard hit by Bok call-ups, but appear to have recruited well during the off-season to mitigate. Never a team to depend much on individuals, they’ll be strong in the tight five, although perhaps a little short on good locks. The loss of Hein Brussow will hurt, but the likes of Lappies Labuschange and Phillip van der Walt will ensure they remain competitive in the back row. They do look short of options at the back, though, with flyhalf and wing particularly thin. Expect Piet van Zyl, Rob Ebersohn and Johann Sadie to be their gems in the backline.

Blue Bulls

Few sides appear quite as unsettled as the Bulls this season and to most outsiders, it’s really tough to even start to predict what a Currie Cup starting lineup would look like for them. They’ll keep their Super Rugby props, for what that’s worth, but will have little else in terms of experience in the pack. Look out for some exciting youngsters like Paul Willemse and Jacques du Plessis, who should do well for the Bulls at this level. All eyes will be on Handre Pollard, once he regains fitness, but the Bulls are likely to be stretched amongst the halfbacks like never before. Further out, players like Jurgen Visser, Frans Venter and the evergreen Akona Ndungane will be their mainstays.

Sharks

The Sharks have named a strong squad, with few areas of genuine weakness. A shortage of depth at loosehead prop and tight lock is a concern, but look to the likes of Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst and lock acquisition Marco Wentzel to add fire up front. There is an embarrassment of riches at loose forward too, with Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Jean Deysel just a few of the perennial high-scorers that Fantasy Leaguers aught to look at. At the back, things are less settled, although Lwazi Mvovo stands out as a key man from whom many tries will be expected. Butch James is a tempting pick, but our bolter amongst the Sharks backs is actually Fred Zeilinga, who might just go on to play more regularly than the old-timer. Look out for centres Tim Whitehead and Louis Ludik to play strong roles, as will veteran Odwa Ndungane at fullback.

Western Province

The current holders have named a very interesting squad which appears to have no areas of either genuine strength, or glaring weakness. They’ll look to seasoned man such as Pat Cilliers, Tiaan Liebenberg and De Kock Steenkamp to guide them upfront, while Rynhardt Esltadt and Deon Fourie are the picks of a so-so back row. They need to settle on a flyhalf quickly, with Gary van Aswegen the man likely to make big strides early on. The backline is a young one, with Pat Howard our pick to make a big step up this season. The veteran Gio Aplon will also have a big season.



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