Cape Town – The momentum of the Currie Cup will change significantly on Saturday as the teams make the switch from qualifying mode to final mode as they take to the field in the Premier Division semi-finals.
The Sharks will host the Golden Lions in Durban at 14h30, while defending champions and log-leaders,Western Province, will meet the Blue Bulls in Cape Town at 17h00. All four teams will field 23-man squads, as opposed to applying rolling substitutions as in the pool stages.
A victory for Western Province will guarantee them a home final at Newlands on Saturday, 27 October, however, should they suffer a defeat, the winner of the Sharks and Golden Lions match will host the final.
At Kings Park, the Sharks will be determined to build on their 37-21 victory against the Golden Lions in a repeat of this match in the pool stages, but they will be wary of underestimating the visitors.
The Durbanites have suffered only one defeat at home against their Gauteng rivals since 2008, and that was in 2015, which should bolster their confidence going into the match. Interestingly, the Golden Lions have scored 46 more points than the KwaZulu-Natalians in the pool stages, but they conceded 80 more.
The Golden Lions made only three changes to their team, with Pieter Jansen joining Springboks Warren Whiteley and Aphiwe Dyanti in their starting team.
The Sharks also made minimal changes to their side with Thomas du Toit and Daniel du Preez starting, while Marius Louw and Robert du Preez are back at centre and flyhalf respectively, which sees Curwin Bosch move to fullback.
In Cape Town every point will count forWestern Province who will have their sights set on earning their first home final since 2014 to give themselves the best possible chance to defend their title when they host the Blue Bulls in their second successive match.
The Capetonians powered their way to a comprehensive 34-7 victory last week, which proved to be the final score after the match was cut short due to heavy rain and lighting after the first half.
They will, however, be wary of writing off the Blue Bulls, who had to dig deep to earn a semi-final berth and who will have a point to prove after their disappointing display last week.
Western Province have been dominant against their Pretoria rivals in the last four seasons, with nine victories in 12 outings, and although anything can happen in a semi-final, the Pretorians will have their work cut out to create an upset as the hosts have been the best side on attack and defence this season.
Dillyn Leyds and Juarno Agustus have recovered from injury and will start for Western Province, while Dan Kriel and Bongi Mbonambi are back from a rest. Kriel will partner up with Ruhan Nel in the midfield, while Damian Willemse has been named at flyhalf.
The Blue Bulls moved Trevor Nyakane to the loosehead position and named Dayan van der Westhuizen as tighthead in changes up front. In the backs, Dylan Sage will make a first start for his new team and Duncan Matthews was named at wing.
The Sharks/Lions encounter kicks off at 14:30 and the Western Province/Blue Bulls match follows at 17:00