WP on a high – Bulls up for a fierce fight

SA rugby’s North-south ‘civil war’ rages

Saturday Star - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI Blue Bulls: Re­place­ments: Ref­eree: As­sis­tant ref­er­ees: Ed­uan Nel TMO: Lesego Le­goete Kick-off: 5.15pm. TV: SS1 | Chris Ricco Ref­eree Egon Sec­onds was a pro­lific try-scorer in his play­ing days when he rep­re­sented Western Province 88 times

WESTERN Province come to Lof­tus Vers­feld with the com­fort­ing thought that their road to re­tain­ing the Cur­rie Cup tro­phy is merely a for­mal­ity.

Not that the out­come of to­day’s match against the Blue Bulls will be of any con­se­quence to them host­ing a home semi-fi­nal at New­lands and per­haps the only source of mo­ti­va­tion to win­ning for Western Province will be the thrill of boast­ing of an un­beaten sea­son in win­ning the ti­tle again.

Just like the Free State Chee­tahs and Golden Lions did in 2016 and 2015, re­spec­tively, win­ning the Cur­rie Cup is spe­cial but do­ing so un­beaten is pre­cious. And WP will want to savour that mo­ment of rar­ity come the end of the sea­son and this af­ter­noon’s en­counter will be part of many dress re­hearsals towards that mo­ment where they are the last team stand­ing.

It will also be fit­ting for the Cape Town out­fit to have all of their avail­able stars in­clud­ing Spring­boks Damian Willemse, Wilco Louw and Sikhum­buzo Not­she out for show es­pe­cially in the back­yard of their arch ri­vals.

“I think Province have a lot of tal­ented play­ers but more than any­thing they have a good team. It doesn’t mat­ter who plays and where they play,” said Bulls coach Pote Hu­man.

But the Bulls will care less about WP’S in­ten­tions and more on what they need to do to en­sure that when they ar­rive in the penul­ti­mate stage of the com­pe­ti­tion, noth­ing is a fore­gone con­clu­sion even for the teams who be­lieve they have done enough to war­rant a place in the fi­nal.

The men in blue may have strug­gled with con­sis­tency in the mid­dle part of this short­ened ver­sion of the Cur­rie Cup but they were able to get into a steady and threat­en­ing gal­lop prior to the break.

The Bulls’ abil­ity to shake off the cob­webs from a three week lay-off and hit the ground run­ning will be cru­cial in their bid to beat the vis­i­tors, get into the semi-fi­nals and not just be an­other par­tic­i­pant but pose a ma­jor threat to the favoured ti­tle con­tenders.

The hosts will also fancy their chances as they too have been boosted by the re­turn of their Spring­boks in Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl and Em­brose Papier.

The emo­tions and his­tory of this be­ing the north-south derby will fur­ther heighten the lev­els of ex­pec­ta­tions for an epic en­counter with the vic­tor hav­ing the right to claim­ing one hand on the Cur­rie Cup tro­phy.

“The home semi is at the back of our minds but I don’t think that’s our pri­or­ity now,” said Bulls cap­tain Hanro Lieben­berg.

“We just need to win and get good mo­men­tum go­ing into the semi. Ev­ery­one knows what can hap­pen in a semi-fi­nal, it is the bounce of the ball.”

Di­van Ros­souw, Jamba Ulengo, Johnny Kotze, Franco Naudé, Jade Stigh­ling, Manie Lib­bok, Ivan van Zyl, Hanro Lieben­berg (cap­tain), Marco van Staden, Ruan Steenkamp, Eli Sny­man, Hen­dre Stassen, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Vis­agie, Matthys Bas­son.

Edgar Marut­lulle, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ruan Nortjé, Nic de Jager, Em­brose Papier, Ti­nus de Beer, Dy­lan Sage.

Dil­lyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan du Plessis, SP Marais, Damian Willemse, Her­schel Jan­tjies, Sikhum­buzo Not­she, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schick­er­ling, Chris van Zyl (cap­tain), Wilco Louw, Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Ver­maak.

Chad Solomon, Caylib Oosthuizen, Neeth­ling Fouché, Sal­maan Mo­erat, Jaco Coet­zee, Paul de Wet, Josh Stander. Egon Sec­onds

Jaco Pre­to­rius,

Both match-day squads have a mem­ber of the Spring­boks’ Sev­ens team that re­tained their World Se­ries crown this year – Ruhan Nel for Western Province and Dy­lan Sage for the Blue Bulls.

Western Province: Re­place­ments:

Damian Willemse could be a key man in the high-rid­ing Western Province back­line to­day|

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