Defence to take centre stage at Newlands as WP host Sharks

Western Province host the Sharks at Newlands in the only Currie Cup fixture this weekend, and the result may well decide which team tops the log.

With the two remaining undefeated teams this season - each boasts a 4-0 record -separated at the top of the table only by points difference, KweséESPN takes a look at the areas where the crucial clash are likely to be won and lost.


Last year's finalists are in contrasting situations when it comes to their front-rows.

Wilco Louw and Bongi Mbonambi, who started for Western Province last week, are absence this week having been named in the Springboks' 23 to face the Wallabies on Saturday.

Their absence means that Scarra Ntubeni and 22-year-old Michael Kumbirai will start at hooker and tighthead prop in a weakened and perhaps disrupted front-row.

The Sharks, on the other hand, have been boosted by the return of Thomas du Toit, from the Springboks' squad, and Coenie Oosthuizen from injury.

In addition to their two Springbok props, the Sharks also boast two Springbok hookers in captain Chiliboy Ralepelle and the explosive Akker van der Merwe.

While the four Springboks play only two positions between them, the addition of rolling substitutions to this season's Currie Cup will allow coach Robert du Preez to keep them fresh and get maximum usage out of the four of them.

Western Province's front-row will have to make sure to hold their own against the experienced Sharks front-row at scrum-time and around the park if they are to provide their backs with the ball that they thrive off.

Outside Backs

The Western Province back three has wreaked havoc this season, with Sergeal Petersen the chief destroyer.

The former Cheetahs and Kings winger has scored a brace in three of his teams' four matches so far. The only game that he didn't score in was the opening win over the Free State Cheetahs in torrential rain at Newlands when he was named on the bench.

His impact goes beyond his try scoring ability. He has been the provider for many of his teammates' tries with some silky skills and back-of-the hand passes.

Dillyn Leyds will return to fullback, a position he played earlier in the competition due to "counter-attacking skills" and the fact that he "has a bit more freedom to strike from fullback", according to coach John Dobson.

Curwin Bosch is Leyds' opposite number, and, he also has pace to burn; however, it will be his boot that poses the biggest threat to Western Province.

His ability to keep Western Province pinned in their own territory to negate Leyds and Petersen's influence and bring the Sharks powerful forward pack into the game.

In addition to that, he provides an extra goal-kicking option from long-range which is something that Western Province will have to keep in mind, along with his ability to strike drop goals from distance, as he has done for the Sharks before.

The Sharks will start the match with Lwazi Mvovo and Kobus van Wyk on their wings.

The two have scored just one try each in the competition, but their physical presence will not go unnoticed in the wider channels.

On the bench, though, the Sharks have the exciting young talent Aphelele Fassi.

He covers both fullback and wing and his shown his electric pace and skills on his way to two tries from the bench in the Sharks campaign so far including an exceptional try against the Pumas in the wet.

Another player to watch on the Sharks bench is Leolin Zas who will have an opportunity to make a comeback from his almost two-year-long injury against his former team.


Both teams have exciting and devastating attacking potential, as previously mentioned, especially in their back three, but defence is where the game could be won and lost.

The two teams have been near-unstoppable in the Currie Cup this season. Western Province have racked up 192 points in their four games, including 27 tries. The Sharks have also scored freely, although not quite to Western Province's extent, with 124 points and 17 tries. Although, it is worth noting that the Sharks have not yet played the low-lying Griquas, who have conceded over 200 points in their five matches so far.

The Sharks boast a better defensive record in the tournament so far, although not by much.

They have conceded 10 tries, just one less than Western Province, and 72 points, six point less than Western Province.

The team that does a better job of smothering the opposition's attack will take a massive step towards the top of the table.

Currie Cup Round 7: Line-Ups

Saturday, Sep. 29

Western Province vs. Sharks

Western Province: Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan Kriel, SP Marais, Josh Stander, Jano Vermaak, Juarno Augustus, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (c), Michael Kumbirai, Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak. Replacements: Chad Solomon, Caylib Oosthuizen, Carlu Sadie, Salmaan Moerat, Cris Massyn, Herschel Jantjies, JJ Engelbrecht.

Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder, Dan du Preez, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Hyron Andrews, Gideon Koegelenberg, Thomas du Toit, Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), Juan Schoeman. Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ruben van Heerden, Luke Stringer, Cameron Wright, Leolin Zas, Aphelele Fassi.