Bulls vs Western Province set to turn the clock back in Currie Cup semifinal showdown

12 October 2016 - 15:56
By Craig Ray

Although the Currie Cup is increasingly losing its lustre‚ this weekend’s second semi-final between the Blue Bulls and Western Province will turn the clock back and rekindle some nostalgia.

Neither side are the powerhouses they once were as professionalism has stripped both teams of star players.

Some Springboks aren’t allowed to play due to contractual clauses with SA Rugby while others are injured. To compound matters‚ both sides have lost key players to overseas clubs over the years.

So both will go into Saturday’s semi-final at Loftus Versfeld with callow teams closer to under-21s than Test lineups‚ which used to be the case. But there will be passion‚ commitment and some youthful flair on display.

WP coach John Dobson has never shied away from the fact that the Currie Cup is now a step on the way to Super Rugby rather than a win-at-all-costs tournament‚ but even so‚ he is as passionate as ever about the prospect of playing against the Bulls on their own patch.

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He also expected that despite the Bulls’ positive approach under coach Nollis Marais this season‚ they would still use the staple Bulls template of aerial bombardment as a way of testing the young WP defence.

"We are expecting it to rain contestable kicks up there and we have been working on it for two weeks‚" Dobson said.

"We have worked on the skill of catching and we worked on how we are going to play off it‚ so that has probably been one of our major focuses.

"We know where we have fallen short this season and we are aware that the high ball is an issue for us.

"It will only be natural given the size of that [Blue Bulls] team‚ and it is basically a Super Rugby pack of forwards‚ that are going to try and beat us physically.

"I am not saying that they are going to revert to the laager‚ but I do expect contestables and a physical approach."

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For both teams there is also the hope of hosting the Currie Cup final if the fourth-placed Lions can topple top seeds the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in Saturday’s early semi-final.

Dobson was also quick to hand the favourites tag to the Bulls.

“I would have to be a good salesman to market us as favourites‚" Dobson said.

"I have seen the odds and we have been written off everywhere for this game already. There is no pressure on us - nobody expects us to win.

"The Bulls are playing in front of their home crowd. They are playing with the favourites tag. We beat them at the end of Super Rugby and in the qualifiers‚ so there will be a lot of pressure on them to beat us."

- TMG Digital