CAPE TOWN – There are just too many factors that should make today’s second Currie Cup semi-final a good one.
Firstly, it’s the age-old North-South derby.
Then there’s the fact that the Blue Bulls will be desperate to make the step-up of all step-ups and cause an upset after their timid display at Loftus against Western Province last week.
And then, of course, there’s Province, who have been on an absolute rampage this season with their fine mix of ‘sexy’ rugby and forward faculty taking them to the top of the standings.
But can they keep it up?
So, in a match that’ll have no shortage of enticing battles, we look at five of the hottest match-ups at Newlands (5pm kickoff)...
1 Damian Willemse v Manie Libbok
Willemse 4/5: John Dobson wasn’t exaggerating when he said that Willemse can be devastating. And that devastation can come from more than just his feet. He has grown a lot when it comes to his basic flyhalf duties, and the Bulls just have to think back to last year’s competition and how he hypnotised half of them to score his first Currie Cup try to get an unpleasant reminder of his balling ability.
Libbok 3.5/5: If there is one thing that last week’s replay of A Nightmare on Elm Street (Loftus version) didn’t reflect, it was Libbok’s quality. And quality – and X-factor – he packs in abundance. He has been immense for the Bulls this season, and on a much drier Newlands pitch, he is guaranteed to prove it.
2 Dillyn Leyds v Divan Rossouw
Leyds 4/5: If you can’t write a script as detailed as the World Rugby lawbook on Leyds’ performances at fullback, you probably haven’t been watching a lot of Currie Cup, especially not this year. The Springbok has been lethal in terms of creating opportunities from the back and punishing the opposition on the counter-attack. So, turnovers are something that won’t be kind to the visitors today.
Rossouw 3/5: Earlier this year, he said that he sees Waisake Naholo as just another player, and having the same attitude today as he prepares to go up against every player that WP have to offer will probably help. He’s been decent in the Bulls’ productions, and what he does in that No 15 jumper will be vital.
3 Sergeal Petersen v Duncan Matthews
Petersen 5/5: Just listing the tries he’s scored in WP’s six league games would be enough to give a sense of the season he’s had. From his heroics under the high ball to his finishing sprints down touch, and his ability to read the game (how else can you always be in the right place at the right time?), the competition’s top try-scorer has been on FIRE. Nothing more needs to be said.
Matthews 3/5: He has pace and his footwork can be ‘filthy’. And whether the Bulls decide to keep it tight and focus on passing the set-piece test or give the ball a lot of air time, this fit-again winger – who replaces Jamba Ulengo in Pote Human’s run-on side – can certainly add some punch if he gets to tuck the ball under his arm and turn on the gas.
4 Wilco Louw v Trevor Nyakane
Louw 5/5: Seeing that a massive emphasis will be placed on keeping Louw – who manhandled the Bulls scrum last week – in check, how the Bulls’ loosehead will go is crucial.
All that can be asked of Louw is to do more of the same. Never mind the rest of his season (which wasn’t bad at all), he deserves five stars just for last week’s work.
Nyakane 3/5: He will have one major mission this weekend against Wilco Louw, that’s for sure. The Bulls scrum is probably the biggest area they’ll want to get right after last week. And while the Bok prop has shown how mobile he can be around the park, it’s at the pack-down where the jury will be out today.
5 Ruhan Nel v Dylan Sage
Nel 4/5: He has been outstanding for Province this season. His defensive ability will certainly help Province should the Bulls decide to bash it up today, and even if they don’t, it’s not like proper defence ever gets redundant. And it doesn’t end there. His touches on attack have also been nothing short of superb.
Sage 3/5: Rating Sage is tricky, seeing that it’s his first start for the season, but the fact that Pote Human pulled a Blitzbok out of the hat and decided to start him in the place of Franco Naudé makes him one to watch. Besides, we know what he’s done on the Sevens circuit, now let’s see if he produces that excitement that Human is expecting to see in his first starting berth.
Worth a mention: Ernst van Rhyn, Juarno Augustus, Marco van Staden, Herschel Jantjies, Ivan van Zyl, JD Schickerling.@WynonaLouw