Currie Cup - Round 2 Preview
Bulls and Sharks set to collide
July 14, 2010
John Mametsa scored twice for the Bulls in round one © Getty Images
The Bulls got the defence of their Currie Cup crown off to a winning start last weekend with a comfortable 38-15 win over the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld, but their task gets considerably more difficult this weekend as they travel to Durban to take on Natal Sharks.
The Sharks have been licking their wounds this week after a dire second-half performance allowed the Griquas to snatch a thrilling 40-34 win in Kimberley last time out. They can get the start of their season on the right track with a victory at Kings Park in a rerun of the 2008 final, although they will be up against a familiar face.
Wilhelm Steenkamp, loaned to the Sharks during the Super 14, starts in the Bulls' second-row following Flip van der Merwe's call-up to the Springbok Tri-Nations squad. Bulls boss Frans Ludeke has refused to ask for any insider information however.
"We are lucky to have someone of the calibre of Wilhelm to replace Flip. He might have been with the Sharks during the Super 14, but it would be totally unprofessional to expect of him to share some secrets from that experience," Ludeke said. "What we do expect from him is what we got in the past, an honest effort in the blue jersey."
The Sharks have been bolstered by the signing of Ross Skeate from Toulon, with the former Emerging Springbok lock starting on the bench, while there is a reshuffle in the backline as Springbok wing JP Pietersen returns from injury. As a result, Louis Ludik reverts to fullback and Patrick Lambie shifts to inside-centre. Charl McLeod replaces Rory Kockott at scrum-half.
The Golden Lions lead the way in the early stages of the tournament, having dispatched the Leopards 43-13 in the opening round. John Mitchell's Lions will need to up their performance once again as they head to Newlands, where Western Province ended last season unbeaten.
Province were also victorious in round one, grinding out a 25-11 win against Free State in Bloemfontein thanks to lock Adriaan Fondse's try and the reliable boot of fly-half Willem de Waal. Both players are back in action this weekend, with Fondse again starting alongside skipper Anton van Zyl.
The Lions task has not been helped by a raft of injuries, with Springbok wing Tonderai Chavhanga leading a lengthy list of casualties. Flanker Wikus van Heerden is only fit enough for a place on the bench while Deon Van Rensburg replaces Chavhanga on the wing. Warren Whiteley takes over from Jonathan Mokuena at No.8.
Griquas are the other team on five points after their opening fixture and they will want to keep their run going in a local derby against the Cheetahs at Free State Stadium. After a low-key start to their campaign, the Cheetahs need to rediscover the swashbuckling style that carried them to last season's final.
They have received a major boost this week with the news that talismanic skipper Juan Smith is fit to return to the starting line-up in the No.7 jersey. His return menas a move to openside for last weekend's stand-in captain Hendro Scholtz. The home side will have learned a lot from their opponents' gutsy showing last weekend and will be mindful of the out and out pace possessed by wing Bjorn Basson, who again starts after an opening round brace.
In the round's other game, the Leopards are on the road to the Pumas in Witbank. Clayton Durand replaces Cecil Dumond at fly-half for the visitors after Dumond wasted a host of chances from the kicking tee against the Lions, while Riaan Swanepoel takes over from RW Kember at No.8.