The Currie Cup 2017 competition has provided an interesting mix of results, with a very mixed log presenting itself just after the halfway stage.
There are two clear leaders at this stage, being the Cell C Sharks and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. Behind them, three points separate the Vodacom Blue Bulls in third place and the Xerox Golden Lions in seventh place.
Before we look at each team’s performance, it is worthwhile to take a look as the current standings.
Currie Cup Standings:
|Cell C Sharks
|Toyota Free State Cheetahs
|Vodacom Blue Bulls
|DHL Western Province
|Tafel Lager Griquas
|Xerox Golden Lions
Currie Cup 2017: The Current Status
Cell C Sharks
The Sharks have enjoyed a strong start to the season and it appears that Head Coach Robert du Preez’s appointment is starting to pay dividends. There is a fair amount of youth in his squad and the Sharks future is looking more and more promising.
They are in pole position to top the log at the end of the round robin stages, with problems facing their two closest rivals which we will cover below.
In an interview with the Sharks website, Du Preez had this to say:
“Being top of the log at this stage is pleasing and it is due reward for the effort and character shown by our players over the last few weeks.”
“There is no time for complacency though and we need to ensure that we carry the momentum from our six wins on the trot into this tough fortnight OF fixtures,” said Du Preez.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs
The Cheetahs were log leaders until this past weekend, when they were well beaten by the Sharks in Durban. Up until that point, the Cheetahs were rotating players in preparation for their introduction to the PRO14 in Europe.
Now that the Cheetahs have kicked off their participation in Europe, they have been forced to field what is effectively a third string team in the Currie Cup. We can expect them to start dropping down the Currie Cup 2017 log and out of playoff contention.
Vodacom Blue Bulls
The Bulls are the curate’s egg of Currie Cup rugby 2017. On paper, they have one of the stronger squads in the tournament. Their three wins from seven attempts is a worry, and ended up with Blue Bulls head coach Nollis Marais being put on leave for the rest of the year. Incoming Super Rugby head coach John Mitchell took over the reigns with immediate effect, on August 21st.
Mitchell has been mixing and matching his playing resources and combinations thus far. It appears to be more of an audition for some of the younger players to get themselves into the Bulls 2018 Super Rugby squad, than a serious effort to win the competition.
DHL Western Province
Province are a single point behind the Bulls with a game in hand and are likely to make a run for second place on the table. Given their squad strength and what is happening ahead of them on the table, they look to be heading towards a final showdown against the Sharks, with 2016 champions not likely to feature.
The Pumas are level on points with Western Province, but have played one game more. They have been competitive throughout the first half of the tournament but are unlikely to post a serious threat towards the end of the competition. As with most of the smaller unions in South Africa, financing their team will always be a problem and continually have to rebuild each year.
Doing this means that hampers them in that it becomes impossible to build on a previous years’ momentum and move up the table.
Tafel Lager Griquas
The Griquas remain a tournament banana peel team for those having to travel to Kimberley despite also struggling to retain their quality players each year. Kimberley is always a favoured destination for out of contract players to revive their careers.
They are also unlikely to pose any real threat to those above them on the table, with the biggest concern being their inability to win away from home.
Xerox Golden Lions
The Lions are currently paying the price for their own success. They have lost a number of key players to the national team, as well as players who are contracted to play in Japan during the Currie Cup season.
Unless something extraordinary happens, the Lions are also unlikely that they will make a run for glory in 2017. It would probably be a good thing for new Head Coach Swys de Bruin to follow Mitchell’s lead at the Bulls and take the opportunity to work on his depth ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby Season.
Another round of ABSA Currie Cup games begin on Friday, September 8.
- Pumas v Sharks, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit. 17:00 (SA, GMT+2)
- Griquas v Golden Lions, Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley. 19:15
- Western State v Free State Cheetahs, DHL Newlands, Cape Town. 15:00
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