Cape Town – The Currie Cup has had its obvious challenges this year, bit on Saturday it promises to dish up something worth watching when the Golden Lions host Western Province at Ellis Park.
With the competition shortened to one round of regular season fixtures, each of the seven sides only play each other once before the top four progresses to the semi-finals.
But with the Pumas and Griquas struggling and with Free State selecting their best players in the PRO14, there hasn’t been a competitive edge to some of the matches so far in 2018 and crowd numbers have been worrying.
The Lions, WP and the Sharks have collected maximum points, though the Sharks and Lions have played three matches each while WP have only played two.
It makes this clash between two of the tournament favourites a big one, and with a number of seasoned Super Rugby players on show the competition could finally be given a dose of proper competition.
Both sides have delivered exciting running rugby so far, and WP coach John Dobson is expecting Saturday to provide more of the same.
“This to us is probably our most important game of the season,” Dobson said from Newlands on Thursday.
“I think it’s going to be a cracking game and brilliant for the Currie Cup. On that surface with the way that both teams play, it’s going to be super.”
Dobson said it was crucial for his side to “win the final 15 minutes”, given that the Lions have historically thrived in that area when visiting sides fall away as the result of the altitude.
“It’s a big challenge for us. Some of their approaches in Super Rugby against the New Zealand and Australian teams has been like a shootout and it’s a massively fast tempo,” the coach explained.
“They just know that at altitude they’ll be there at the end.
“We need to play tempo that we want to play and then we need to win the last 15 minutes, there’s no question.”
The Sharks, meanwhile, have a bye this week.
Kick-off in Johannesburg on Saturday will be at 15:00.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Len Massyn, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Corne Fourie, 1 Sti Sithole
Substitutes: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Johannes Jonker, 18 Reinhard Nothnagel, 19 Driaan Bester, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gianni Lombard, 22 Wandisile Simelane
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak
Substitutes: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Dan du Plessis