Three-way race for top spot
It was touted as a watershed weekend and that is exactly what the seventh round of the Currie Cup proved to be, with a firm line being demarcated between the teams chasing top spot and those who face the twin challenge of vying for the fourth semifinal place and trying to avoid relegation.
With the Blue Bulls winning against the Cheetahs in Pretoria and Griquas losing in Cape Town, there are three teams in the relegation zone -- the Cheetahs, who are currently in bottom place, one log point behind the Bulls, who are in turn two behind the fourth-placed team, Griquas.
So theoretically the Bulls even in this season where there has been so much talk of crisis can still go on to win the trophy. And Griquas, who have been regarded as the surprise package, could still find themselves relegated.
Although the test match between the Springboks and Australia will take centre stage, this coming weekend’s round of matches will also go a long way towards deciding which of the three teams that retain a realistic chance of finishing top will be favoured going into the last two rounds.
Western Province, currently four points behind the log-leading Lions, host the Lions at Newlands on Saturday and the Sharks are at home to the Bulls on Friday.
Adding interest to an intriguing weekend will be the impact that Springbok call-ups could have on the top teams, particularly the Lions, who are now going to be without Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute and CJ van der Linde in addition to the players that were already missing. Jantjies was the man of the match in the excellent come-from-behind win they scored over the Sharks in Johannesburg this past weekend and he will be a big loss to the tournament front-runners.
With Griquas and the Cheetahs also due to meet this coming weekend, there is also going to be a lot of movement in the bottom half of the log. A Cheetahs win can lift them above Griquas, and if the Sharks beat the Bulls, the Bloemfontein team could find themselves going from last to fourth in the space of 80 minutes.
So while the quality of the domestic competition is sometimes questionable, there is certainly no lack of intrigue and interest as it heads into the last part of the league phase.
DHL Western Province 45 GWK Griquas 21
Vodacom Blue Bulls 34 Toyota Free State Cheetahs 30
MTN Golden Lions 28 Sharks 22