Johannesburg - It would be wrong to suggest that the Golden Lions are a one-man team, but still, one has to wonder what the impact will be of losing star flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff for the remainder of the Absa Currie Cup competition.
A broken arm, suffered against the Bulls in the opening round last weekend, means Boshoff will now have to watch from the sidelines as the Lions look to repeat their feat of 2011 when they went all the way and won the Currie Cup.
It is a massive blow for Johan Ackermann’s men who’ve steadily improved as a team over the last year and are without question among the favourites to play in the final in late October.
Much of the Lions’ game is based around Boshoff’s big boot, but also his ability to get the best out of an exciting back division. And, let’s not forget about his goal-kicking abilities - probably the best of the South Africans right now.
Ackermann has thrown 20-year-old Jaco van der Walt into the mix this weekend for their match against the EP Kings, at Ellis Park on Saturday, but, while the former Monument pupil has plenty of potential, it would come as no surprise were he and fullback Andries Coetzee to swap positions during the game.
Coetzee is a supremely gifted attacking player, and he’s got loads of experience, so expect him to play a kind of Willie le Roux role, where he joins the line on a regular basis, often as first-receiver.
The change at No10 is the only one made by Ackermann this week, with his side showing plenty of promise first-up last Saturday and they should test the Kings in most areas on Saturday afternoon. Carlos Spencer’s side were well beaten by Western Province a week ago and playing at altitude this weekend should prove an even tougher assignment. If the Lions don’t bag another five log points, Ackermann would be massively disappointed.
In Cape Town, Allister Coetzee’s men will start as favourites when they host the Bulls, a side badly exposed for their highly predictable game against the Lions a week ago.
Coach Frans Ludeke would have read his players the riot act after such an embarrassing performance, but one’s got to question some of the selections, and the game plan, more than the actual performance of the players. The Bulls simply have to have a rethink about the way the game is played and that’s not likely to happen inside a week.
Ludeke’s men, though, will be fired up on Saturday, but it’s doubtful they’ll have enough class to out-play a pretty good Province team.
Another team that will want to make a big step up on Saturday are the Cheetahs. Rory Duncan’s men were a shadow of their full potential in Nelspruit in the opening round and have a chance against a fairly underwhelming Griquas side to bounce back. The central South African derby is always a close encounter and on Saturday should be no different, but if the Cheetahs don’t win then one could justifiably say they have a mountain to climb to reach the highs of a few years ago when they dominated the competition.
It’s a short and sharp Currie Cup competition with no time to “settle in”, as Ludeke likes to say, so even though we’re only in round two, the pressure’s already on some of the bigger teams. Will they be able to turn things around and respond in style or will we already be talking about contenders and pretenders after this weekend’s action?