It may be a foregone conclusion that the Free State Cheetahs will finish on top of the Currie Cup standings heading towards the semi-finals of the competition. But nothing is yet cast in stone for the Blue Bulls and the rest of the chasing pack.
For the Bulls they have to withstand a two week wait before they know exactly where they fit into the puzzle and whether they will have a home semi-final or not.
However, they would be chasing fool’s gold if they think that far ahead as they need to secure their place in the play-offs by beating the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington tomorrow.
What seems like certain victory against the struggling Boland side is something that coach Nollis Marais is not taking for granted and is desperate for his side to guarantee the win before chasing the all-important bonus point that could seal a second consecutive home semi-final.
The Bulls need four points to see them through to the semi-finals while a bonus point could be enough to see them play at Loftus Versfeld. But they will also have to rely on some favours from the likes of the Golden Lions in their match against the Sharks, who are ahead of the Bulls because of a better points difference.
The Sharks are currently in second spot on the log with 25 points, the same number as the Bulls. But they have a bye this weekend before playing their last fixture of the round robin part of the competition away in Johannesburg against a Lions side that will be equally desperate to make the semi-finals.
“It is not as clear cut as that. If we get four points, we’ll definitely be in the semi-final. If we get five points we qualify almost definitely for a home semi-final depending on how the Sharks and the Lions do. So for us at the moment it is about making sure we get the four points and get into the semi-finals,” said Marais.
At the same time Marais is not ignorant to the reality of Boland pulling a rabbit-out-of-the-hat performance and upsetting his side who are on a three-match winning streak and is well aware of the disaster that could befall his team if they don’t win in Wellington.
Even though Boland have only won two out of their six games so far, they remain a threat that could pull the plug on the Bulls' title ambitions. Victory for the hosts could leave the men from the capital in dire straits and praying that Griquas, the Cheetahs and the Lions do them favours in the next two weekends.
“If we lose on Friday then we could miss out totally. We are not going down to Boland to lose but that is also a permutation. We need to go for the win and then the five points and see if we can get a spread on the game as well. But it is all going to come down to the last week in Currie Cup. There are so many permutations, Western Province can put up 10 points in their two games and we can end up playing them. The most important thing for us is that I don’t want players to chase scores on Friday, I want players to go for the win and play the way we want to play in the semi-final. We must make sure we stick to the things that we are doing well at the moment, get the win and I believe the bonus point will come. Hopefully it works out for us to get a home semi-final,” Marais said.
Boland Cavaliers: Adriaan Carelse, Logan Basson, Gerrit van Wyk, Christopher Bosch, Danwel Demas, Theuns Kotze, Marnus Hugo, Zandre Jordaan, Jacques Engelbrecht, Keenan Cronje, Joubert Horn, Shaun McDonald, Basil Short, Clemen Lewis (captain), Stephanus Wessels. Replacements: Francois Esterhuyzen, Enoch Mnyaka, Francois Hanekom, Wayne Wilschut, Hanno Kitshoff, Gerhard Jordaan, Robbie Louw.
Blue Bulls: Ulrich Beyers, Bjorn Basson, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg (captain), Nic de Jager, Roelof Smit, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Jacobie Adriaanse, Bandise Maku, Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Martin Dreyer, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Andre Warner, Joshua Stander, Divan Rossouw.