The Golden Lions come to Durban looking to not only secure a top four finish in the Currie Cup, but even move up the ladder when they take on the Cell C Sharks at Growthpoint KINGS PARK on Friday.
The competition remains wide open as the tournament gathers momentum towards the knock-out rounds, with six of the seven teams all potential semi-finalists. Three teams have played 10 matches, four have played nine which means the Currie Cup is going to go right down to the wire in the final weekend’s action in two weeks’ time as teams jockey for positions on the log.
Three more log points from our last two games will secure top spot for the Cell C Sharks and the guarantee that we will not play any more games away from home – something that has proved an important ingredient in the recipe of success.
But the Lions, currently in fourth spot with the Pumas (and to a lesser extent, the Blue Bulls) breathing down their necks, losing to the Cell C Sharks this weekend could be disastrous for South Africa’s most successful team in recent years with consecutive appearances in the Super Rugby Final in 2016 and 2017, and Currie Cup winners in 2015.
The Cell C Sharks gain is the Springboks’ loss as we welcomed back Sbu Nkosi who had joined up with the Springbok squad but was subsequently released back to play Currie Cup rugby which is a huge boost for our campaign.
“He said the experience was really good for him, I think it is great for his confidence and just reward for all of the hard work and his form this season,” explains coach Robert du Preez. “Whilst I’m pleased to have him back, I’m also disappointed that he’s not getting a shot; but I think that will happen soon.”
Daniel du Preez gets another chance as he too was released from Castle Lager Rugby Championship commitments this weekend for the Springbok clash with the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, with the coach admitting that, “He’s had very little game time, he hasn’t played a lot of rugby which is quite frustrating for him, but last week was a good hit-out for him so it’s a nice opportunity for him to play two weeks in a row.”
With the weather man predicting near perfect conditions for Friday night’s return leg clash with the Golden Lions, the rain that had a huge influence in last week’s win over the Blue Bulls will gladly stay away.
Du Preez expects the Lions to be a different prospect to the last time the two teams met – at Emirates Airline Park – when the Cell C Sharks had to dig deep to come away with what was ultimately a commanding score-line in a game that could so easily have gone the other way but for a powerful surge in the second half.
“The Lions have been improving, certainly they have improved since we played them up there in the first round, this will certainly be a much tougher game.”
Next week sees the Cell C Sharks enjoying a well-deserved bye before the final home game against Western Province to close out the pool stages of the Currie Cup. Then come the knock-out rounds, the semi-finals and final, with the Cell C Sharks well on track at this point.
But du Preez has no thoughts outside of the Lions’ match this weekend.
“For us, it’s all about taking it one game at a time, a big focus for us is not to just maintain but to get better every week; that’s been a big driving force for us.”