The Blue Bulls travel to Bloemfontein where they have to tough task of trying to get their Currie Cup campaign back on track against the resurgent Free State Cheetahs.
The Blue linger in sixth position on the Currie Cup log and will have to get back on the winning track if they are not going to miss out on the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
On Friday evening, the Golden Lions host Griquas and will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the table, but it won't be easy against a team that have been playing good rugby this season.
Saturday's first two games see the Pumas travel to Durban to face the Sharks and Western Province host the Leopards in Cape Town.
With seven victories thus far the Lions top the log and if they can keep that winning momentum going, they could host a Currie Cup semifinal for the first time since 1999, which is also the last time they won the coveted golden trophy.
Lions assistant coach Johan Ackermann, a member of the Lions squad in 1999, said there are a lot of similarities between their squad in 1999 and this year, but that it's still too early to start predicting who will finish where on the Currie Cup log.
"We're definitely not looking that far ahead yet," said Ackermann.
"Home ground advantage in a semifinal can be very handy, but we'll only start looking at possible permutations later in the season. For now we've got a difficult game ahead against a Griquas side that can topple any team on any given day.
"I've played there as well and know that they always play with great character. In Abre Minnie and Pote Human they have two very good coaches, so we're getting ready for a big onslaught from Griquas on Friday."
Even though his team won an entertaining match at Loftus Versfeld last weekend, Sharks coach John Plumtree will be looking for an improvement on attack when they host the Pumas at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
"We're not as structured and disciplined on attack as we'd like to be," Plumtree said after his team were outscored by four tries to three against the Blue Bulls.
"Just when we got something going last week, the Bulls would give away a penalty and while we looked quite dangerous from turn-over ball and some of the tries we scored were really good, we don't feel like we're there yet."
In their match against the Pumas earlier in the season in Nelspruit, the Sharks had to work very hard for victory and Plumtree said he's hoping his players will have the right attitude on Saturday.
"Hopefully they've grown as a group and will show maturity and respect for the opposition," he said while stressing the importance of winning at home.
"If you can win all your home games in this competition then you give yourself the chance to push for a home semi and possible a home final as well. We're taking it one game at a time really because we've felt like we haven't really got our game going."
Western Province are expecting a Leopards team desperate for only their second Currie Cup victory this season when these two teams meet at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
Leopards coach Leon Boshoff has decided to shuffle his team quite a bit in an effort to rest certain players, but also to give some of his fringe squad members an opportunity to get some valuable game time.
WP assistant coach Matt Proudfoot, who earlier in his coaching career worked in Potchefstroom, said: "We are expecting a side that will be desperate for a win. They have made a few changes so they will be looking for improvement.
"I've coached many of their players so I know that they will throw everything they have at us. We are expecting it to be very tough physically as well as at the set piece where they will probably look to rattle us a bit."
With Demetri Catrakilis out injured, Isma-eel Dollie, a former Emerging Springbok, will start at flyhalf for WP.
In the Leopards team, Boshoff has decided to rest players like their captain Morne Hanekom, Joubert Engelbrecht, Brendon Snyman and BG Uys, giving Robert Kruger, Snoepie Coetzee and Hennie Skorbinski their first starts in the Currie Cup this season.
Victory in Bloemfontein is paramount as the Blue Bulls, the most successful team in Currie Cup in the last decade, aim to improve their position on the log as the playoffs inch closer.
It's been almost three years since the Bulls last beat the Cheetahs in an Currie Cup match at the Free State Stadium. That happened on September 20, 2008, when the team from Pretoria won by 23-5. Six players from that win, Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Dewald Potgieter, Juandre Kruger and Werner Kruger, will play again this weekend.
Four Cheetah "survivors" from 2008 have been included in their match 22 for Saturday: Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Robert Ebersohn and Tewis de Bruyn.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar, who was still involved in Free State rugby in 2008, knows his team will have to lift their game in the coming weeks.
"There is no doubt that we have painted ourselves in a corner with regards to our playoff hopes," Pienaar said.
"We need to win and keep on winning, but for that we will have to improve on our decision-making, discipline and execution. We have the quality of players to turn it around, but is running out of time."
Two players that were part of the SA Under-20 squad earlier this year, will line up against each other. The Free State Cheetahs have selected flyhalf Johan Goosen, while inside centre Francois Venter will start for the Blue Bulls.
Friday, September 9
Lions v Griquas
(Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
Prediction: The Lions are growing into a very strong side at Currie Cup level and are rightfully sitting pretty at the top of the log. Griquas are never an easy side to play, but without Riaan Viljoen they are severally weakened. Lions by about 12.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Derrick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Johan Snyman, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Warren Whitely, 21 Burton Francis, 22 James Kamana.
Griquas: 15 Rudi Vogt, 14 Rocco Jansen, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Hanno Coetzee, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (captain), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Ivann Espag.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Steph Roberts, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Matthew Rosslee, 22 Monty Dumond.
Saturday, September 10
Sharks v Pumas
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Prediction: The Sharks will be boosted by their convincing victory over the Bulls last week, while the winless pumas have given a number of top sides a tough time. At home in Durban the Sharks will have too much firepower. Sharks by 15.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Alistair Hargreaves, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Adrian Jacobs.
Pumas: 15 MJ Mentz, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Tiaan Marx, 11 Wilhelm Looch, 10 Coenie van Wyk, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Christo le Roux, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corne Steenkamp (captain), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Rudi Matthee, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Brett Nel, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 JP Mostert, 20 Hendrik van der Nest, 21 Siviwe Magaba, 22 Johan Jackson.
Western Province v Leopards
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT)
Prediction: Without Demetri Catrakilis Province could struggle initially with Isma-eel Dollie having very big boots to fill. However, the Leopards have had a torride time this season with just one victory and are unlikely to cause a major upset. Province by 20.
Western Province: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Isma-eel Dollie, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg (captain), 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Nizaam Carr, 19 Siya Kolisi , 20 Nic Groom, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Steven Hunt.
Leopards: 15 George Tossel, 14 Jovan Bowles, 13 Charl Weideman, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 Vainon Willis, 10 Clayton du Randt (captain), 9 Westley Moolman, 8 Spanner Pretorius, 7 MB Lusaseni, 6 Robert Kruger, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Roan van Heerden, 3 Stephan Bezuidenhout, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Snoepie Coetzee.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Moller, 17 BG Uys, 18 Morne Hanekom, 19 Brendan Snyman , 20 Johann Laker, 21 Wesley Dunlop, 22 Joubert Engelbrecht.
Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
Prediction: The Cheetahs are always a tough prospect at home and enjoy going toe-to-toe with rivals the Blue Bulls. The Bulls are still in a building phase, but desperately need a few victories to keep their chances of reaching the semifinals alive. The Cheetahs group of youngsters have gelled better than the Bulls and should be too strong on home soil. Cheetahs to edge it by less than 7.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Burger.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Dustin Jinka, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Jurgen Visser.
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