Plenty at stake in trans-Jukskei derby

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT&RACING - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

THE Golden Li­ons’ three wins from eight matches in this year’s Cur­rie Cup have come against Gri­quas, twice, and the Pu­mas. Today they’ll be hop­ing to fi­nally reg­is­ter a win against one of the so-called big guns when they host the Blue Bulls at El­lis Park (5.15pm).

It prom­ises to be a fas­ci­nat­ing en­counter. Both teams have strug­gled in the com­pe­ti­tion, each record­ing three wins, while both out­fits are un­der new lead­er­ship; the Li­ons be­ing coached by Swys de Bruin, and the Bulls by John Mitchell.

On top of that there are sev­eral play­ers in­volved today who first made their mark for the op­po­si­tion. For the Li­ons, Ro­han Janse van Rens­burg, Mar­vin Orie, An­dries Fer­reira, Ja­co­bie Adri­aanse and Rob­bie Coet­zee were once paid by the Lof­tus Vers­feld­based union while Bulls men Mar­nitz Boshoff, Jano Ven­ter and Edgar Marut­lulle once fea­tured for the Joburg-based team.

There won’t only be Cur­rie Cup log points on the line today but plenty of brag­ging rights, too. It’s just the way it is. Li­ons boss De Bruin is fully aware of the chal­lenge fac­ing his young team, es­pe­cially as they look to down one of the “big-five”.

“Look, Gri­quas and the Pu­mas are now also big teams, es­pe­cially when you fac­tor in they haven’t lost any play­ers to the Spring­boks and are fairly set­tled sides,” said De Bruin in the build-up to today’s match.

“The play­ing fields are very even in the Cur­rie Cup, but yes, we haven’t beaten a big union yet and that’s all we’ve got left to play against. I think we’ve turned the cor­ner (after a slow start to the com­pe­ti­tion), but th­ese are still early days. For­tu­nately we’re play­ing much bet­ter now.”

The Li­ons strug­gled to adapt to De Bruin’s coach­ing style fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Jo­han Ack­er­mann, but go into today’s match on the back of wins against the Pu­mas and Gri­quas. After today’s match, the Li­ons en­joy a bye and then fin­ish of the reg­u­lar sea­son with matches against the Sharks, Western Prov­ince and the Chee­tahs – none of whom they’ve beaten in 2016.

“The bye next week comes at the per­fect time,” said De Bruin. “It will be well-de­served, but be­fore then we have a match to play. I’m re­ally look­ing for us to play for the full 80 min­utes now. We’ve lost con­cen­tra­tion at times in re­cent weeks so i want us to fin­ish off our games prop­erly.” De Bruin said he was ex­cited about sev­eral young stars in his team who are push­ing for Su­per Rugby places next year. “We want to do well in the Cur­rie Cup, but my mind­set is also on the fu­ture ... I’m look­ing at com­bi­na­tions and lead­ers and with so many guys out it’s an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for some play­ers to show what they can do. I’ve al­ready iden­ti­fied some new play­ers who’ve stuck their hands up who could play Su­per Rugby next year.”

In fact there are a num­ber of ex­cit­ing play­ers – both young and “old” – on both sides to en­sure today’s trans-Jukskei derby will be one of the high­lights of the com­pe­ti­tion.

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