Johannesburg – It’s taken four weeks but this year’s Currie Cup competition is finally starting to separate the contenders and the pretenders.
And it’s about time if you consider the competition will be at the halfway mark after this coming weekend’s matches.
The log-leading Sharks (14 points) seem to be the most settled and complete side at the moment, as witnessed by their demolition of the Blue Bulls in Durban. Brad McLeod-Henderson and his new coaching team may have started the competition with a surprise defeat to Griquas, at home, but since then they’ve racked up three wins on the trot and look to be well on their way to making the top four.
Just behind them are the Cheetahs and Western Province, who have 12 points each. Both sides have won twice from their four games and also look to be settling now that the competition is a month old.
Naka Drotske’s men faced a tricky encounter at the weekend against neighbours Griquas, but they were superior in all departments and won comfortably in the end. One gets the feeling the Cheetahs are poised to launch a serious assault on the top spot, but they’ll face another big character test at Loftus this weekend when they take on the Bulls.
Allister Coetzee’s Western Province are third only because of an inferior points difference to the Cheetahs, and their two draws in four games hasn’t helped their cause. They drew first up against the Bulls in Cape Town and last Friday suffered a second half implosion to allow the Lions back into their game and in the end, Kurt Coleman had to slot a last-gasp penalty to take two points from the game.
Like the Lions, who’re mid-table, with one win and a draw so far, Western Province will have to work on playing for the full 80 minutes because their inability to keep their opponents under pressure for the full duration of the match is costing them dearly. While Johan Ackermann will be pleased his side showed so much character to turn around a 19-point deficit to WP, his team’s slow start was massively concerning.
While the Sharks looked clinical and slick in dispatching the Bulls in Durban, the men from Pretoria look to be on a hiding to nothing. They may have drawn their first game and won against Griquas, but they were hammered by the Lions and also took some beating by the Sharks. If they’re to stay in the hunt to finish in the top four they simply have to win against the Cheetahs this weekend, but that is easier said than done.
Griquas, like the Bulls, appear to be the strugglers this year. They promised much first up, but have lost three in a row and will do well to turn their campaign around. So while there are not too many points between the Premier Division teams at this stage, one can assume the Sharks, Cheetahs, WP and the Lions are the teams to beat.
This weekend, the Lions will be up against a desperate Griquas in Kimberley and their effort there will give a good indication of where they actually stand this season. In Pretoria the Bulls host the Cheetahs and in Cape Town, two in-form teams, Western Province and the Sharks, meet in what should be the match of round five. – The Star
Sharks 34, Bulls 18; Cheetahs 40, Griquas 20; Lions 31, WP 31
Saturday: Griquas v Lions; Bulls v Cheetahs; WP v Sharks
P W D L F A BP Pts
Sharks 4 3 0 1 115 90 2 14
Cheetahs 4 2 0 2 99 82 4 12
WP 4 2 2 0 90 88 0 12
Lions 4 1 1 2 147 117 3 9
Griquas 4 1 0 3 80 105 2 6
Bulls 4 1 1 2 80 120 0 6