Cape Town - The trials and tribulations of being a Currie Cup Premier Division coach will be highlighted in dramatic fashion this weekend in Round 6 of the competition as the teams take a step closer to knowing their fortunes in the penultimate pool round.
The action will be spread over the weekend with Griquas facing Western Province in Kimberley on Friday, the Pumas hosting Free State Cheetahs in Nelspruit on Saturday, and the Golden Lions taking on the Sharks in Johannesburg on Sunday.
These results will also undoubtedly extend the agony of the Blue Bulls, who will have to watch how things play out for their season while they have a bye.
In the Currie Cup First Division all eight teams will be looking for a meaningful end to their regular season in the final pool round.
It will be a dramatic - and for some distressing - weekend with the results set to deliver joy for four teams and despair for the rest.
The weekend is significant for two reasons. The final four teams on the log will be confirmed and with that a place in the semi-finals next weekend.
The top South African side on the log will also qualify to play in the Promotion/Relegation match, against the last-placed Currie Cup Premier Division side - should they decide to do so - in three weeks' time.
Every point crucial in Currie Cup Premier Division
Things could not be closer at the top of the Currie Cup Premier Division table, with the Golden Lions and Griquas not only sharing first place with 15 points, but also boasting the same points' difference (0).
The next two teams on the log both have 12 points, but the Free State Cheetahs (+61) currently have a better points' difference than Western Province (+39).
The Blue Bulls (9) have a bye this weekend and could be bumped into the wooden spoon position by Pumas (8), should the latter earn a valuable win at home.
Friday night's clash, between Griquas and Western Province in Kimberley, is expected to set the tone for the weekend.
Griquas had a bye last weekend, and will be pretty fresh and ready for the Cape onslaught. Coach Brent Janse van Rensburg rewarded the squad that subdued the Blue Bulls two weeks ago, making only one tactical change, with veteran Zandre Jordaan coming in at flank as the men from Kimberley look to impose themselves at the breakdown.
Western Province coach John Dobson, meanwhile, was forced into making four changes due to Springbok call-ups.
Chad Solomon replaces Scarra Ntubeni, Ernst van Rhyn comes in for Siya Kolisi, Dillyn Leyds is replaced by SP Marais and Wilco Louw by Carlu Sadie. Hooker Schalk Erasmus is set to make his WP debut from the bench, with lock David Meihuizen and scrumhalf Paul de Wet also coming into the match 23, as well as Damian Willemse who returns from injury.
Saturday's clash in Nelspruit will be equally telling. The Mbombela Stadium was good to the Pumas last time around and they will feel confident in their abilities to beat anyone coming to the Lowveld.
The Free State Cheetahs, on the other hand, had a dip in results after winning their opening three matches, and will be determine to stop sliding, but they will be wary of the fact that they cannot give the home side any opportunities to get their power game going.
Pumas coach, Jimmy Stonehouse, named Luther Obi on the wing and re-jigged his loose trio from last weekend. Obi started the season with the Southern Kings, but he now runs free in the Lowveld and could be a factor against his old team-mates. Carel du Preez comes into the loose trio and Jeandre Rudolph moves to the openside, while Willie Engelbrecht will start at the back of the scrum.
Former Sharks prop, Ngonidzashe Chidoma, will play off the bench.
Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith brought in Ruan Pienaar in at scrumhalf and moved regular captain, Tian Meyer, to the left wing, while William Small-Smith returns to the other wing.
The loose trio is also new with Gerhard Olivier and Junior Pokomela being named as the flankers, with Abongile Nonkontwana providing cover on the bench.
Smith also rotated Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi, with Steenkamp starting, while Jacques du Toit will be the starting hooker, with Joseph Dweba coming off the bench.
At prop, Schalk van der Merwe replaces the injured Charles Marais.
Sunday's clash between the Golden Lions and Sharks will have all the credentials of a humdinger. Both teams have real purpose and the hunger and ability to lift the Cup again, while they both have enough players of real quality to turn the game on its head.
Cell C Sharks coach, Sean Everitt, has not been shy to dip into his youth ranks and is doing so again this weekend. He named uncapped flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain in the team, as regular flyhalf Curwin Bosch has a lower back sprain.
Everitt last week gave Evan Roos a run with the seniors and of course already handed Junior Springbok scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba a starting berth, so Chamberlain will find some comfort in having his fellow national age group player on his inside after playing for the SAU20's on their UK tour earlier this year.
Another Junior Bok, Dylan Richardson, comes onto the bench as back-up to Kerron van Vuuren at hooker, and John-Hubert Meyer will start at tighthead prop in place of the injured Coenie Oosthuizen. Utility back Leolin Zas has also been drafted onto the bench as cover for the injured Marius Louw.
Golden Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen, who has been fielding young sides all year, is expected to name his team on Friday afternoon due to a number of injury concerns.
Vincent Tshituka and Stean Pienaar have low grade AC injuries, Johannes Jonker a calf injury, and Jan Louis la Grange and Manni Rass are on a Return To Play programme after suffering concussion, although Jacobie Adriaanse and Cyle Brink are likely to be declared fit.
Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:
Friday, August 16
Griquas v Western Province
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Rasta Rashivenge
TMO: Pro Legoete
Tafel Lager Griquas - 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zac Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Zandre Jordaan, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Weshuizen, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Substitutes: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Johan Momsen, 19 Gideon van der Merwe, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Chris Smit, 22, Bjorn Basson, 23 Ruan Kramer.
Western Province - 15 SP Marais, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Corne Fourie.
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Damian Willemse, 23 Edwill van der Merwe.
Saturday, August 17
Phakisa Pumas v Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Christie du Preez
Pumas - 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Henko Marais, 11. Luther Obi, 10. Chris Smith, 9. Ashlon Davids, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Substitutes: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblance, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smits, 21 Jaco Marais, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell, 23 Ngonidzashe Chidoma.
Free State Cheetahs - 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Tian Meyer (captain), 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Substitutes: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Sitnu Manjesi, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Tapiwa Mafura
Sunday, August 18
Golden Lions v Sharks
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen.
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Golden Lions (TBC)
Sharks - 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Substitutes: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 Leolin Zas