Bok backup on the bench for semis
IF THERE were any doubts that winning this weekend's Currie Cup semifinals would require anything less than an 80-minute, 22-man effort, the names of the players on the bench should clear that up.
Sharks coach John Plumtree is able to call Test heavyweights such as prop Tendai Mtawarira and loose forward Willem Alberts from the reserves against the Blue Bulls in Durban.
He also has the luxury of Bok scrumhalf Charl McLeod and utility back Meyer Bosman at No21 and 22. The Bulls have Bok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and scrum-half/wing Francois Hougaard among the reserves, as well as Dean Greyling.
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann has left his two Springbok props - CJ van der Linde and Pat Cilliers - on the bench to face Western Province at Ellis Park.
And even injury-ravaged WP have a Bok on the bench in prop Deon Carstens.
It's obvious from these selections that the coaches believe the matches will be tight and that the last quarter will play a huge role in settling the outcomes.
It would be superb if the games played out the way the coaches have anticipated, put-ting the icing on a very good Currie Cup season so far.
The six-team Premier Division has led to more unpredictability and in turn has made it difficult to call this weekend's results.
The Sharks will start as favourites against a rejuvenated Blue Bulls, simply based on their excellent home record that has not seen them lose at King's Park since May when they lost to the Chiefs in the Super 15.
The Bulls were good against a depleted Lions last week, but it will be a monumental effort if they can topple Plumtree's team on their own turf.
There are several spicy match-ups including the duel between flyhalves Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie, No8s Keegan Daniel and Arno Botha, and scrum-halves Cobus Reinach and Jano Vermaak.
At Ellis Park, WP head into a repeat of last year's semifinal at the same venue short on key players. Centre Jean de Villiers, hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and lock Andries Bekker were all ruled out this week.
The Lions should start as favourites despite losing heavily to the Bulls last weekend with a depleted side. They have beaten WP twice this season and will take confidence from that fact.
The return of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf and Michael Bondesio at scrumhalf will be key, but continuity in selection will be the Lions' biggest ally tomorrow.
Tonight sees the first leg of the Currie Cup promotion-relegation match with the Free State Cheetahs, hosting the EP Kings in Bloemfontein. The team with the highest points aggregate over the two legs will play in next year's Currie Cup Premier Division.