The Vodacom Bulls will host their southern neighbours, the Xerox Lions, in Pretoria in the first semi-final at 14h00, before the action switches to Cape Town for the match-up between DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks at 16h30, with all the drama playing out live on SuperSport.
The log-leaders from Pretoria will be guaranteed of a home final at Loftus Versfeld – their first since 2009 – if they succeed in recording their second victory in three weeks against the men from Jozi.
A victory for the Xerox Lions, however, will hand the winner between DHL WP and the Cell C Sharks a home final – feats they last achieved in the 2018 and 2017 seasons respectively.
In the event of teams being level on the scoreboard at the end of the regular 80 minutes of play, 20 minutes of extra time will be played – two stanzas of 10 minutes each – with the side in the lead on the score board advancing to the final.
If the teams are still level, the side that progresses to the final will be determined by the most tries in the match, and then the highest log position following the completion of the pool rounds.
No love lost between Gauteng neighbours
There will be no love lost between the Vodacom Bulls and the Xerox Lions when they meet on Saturday in their Carling Cup semi-final at Loftus Versfeld, and their close encounter three weeks ago is expected to fuel their motivation.
The prospect of a home final, the desire to earn a memorable double after winning the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked competition, and back-to-back wins against their Gauteng rivals will drive the Vodacom Bulls, but the Xerox Lions have a score to settle after losing by seven points in their last match.
Memories of going down in the Carling Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein last year will also serve as a stark reminder of the feeling of despair that accompanies a knock-out defeat – something Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies and his team will be determined to prevent as they attempt to earn successive final berths.
The encounters between these sides have been balanced in the last few years, with the men from Pretoria winning five of their last nine Carling Currie Cup games – four of which were at Loftus Versfeld – and given the high stakes this weekend, neither team will give an inch.
Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White named a full-strength squad with David Kriel (fullback), Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans (centres) back in action.
Blitzbok speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse is back on the right wing, while Springbok halfbacks Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf) and Morné Steyn (flyhalf) will steer the ship as the latter celebrates his 100th provincial match for team from Pretoria.
Upfront, Duane Vermeulen (No 8) resumes the captaincy and Sintu Manjezi has been named at lock, serving as one of the lineout targets for Schalk Erasmus (hooker), who will pack down between two Springbok props in Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane.
“We have reached the business end of the Carling Currie Cup and I must commend our entire squad on getting us to this point,” said White.
“Focusing on this weekend has been in our minds for the last two weeks and we have done all we can in terms of preparation. We know how to win, and we have to do just that against a team that has pushed us each time we've played them.”
The Xerox Lions included six Springboks in their starting team and two more on their extended bench, with Jantjies leading the team into battle.
The backline has a familiar feel to it, with Burger Odendaal (centre) linking up with the hot-stepping Wandisile Simelane, while Andre Warner got the nod at scrumhalf.
Ivan van Rooyen (head coach) opted for the Rugby World Cup winning experience of Jannie du Plessis in the front row alongside experienced hooker Jaco Visagie and Sti Sithole (prop), while Jaco Kriel (flanker) will partner up with Len Massyn (No 8) and Vincent Tshituka (flanker) in the loose trio.
“It is going to be a physical clash, so whoever dominates the contact and wins the set piece will be on the front foot,” said midfielder, Odendaal.
Vodacom Bulls – 15 David Kriel, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Xerox Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements (from): 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Francke Horn, 24 Nathan McBeth, 25 EW Viljoen, 26 Ross Cronjé.
Vodacom Bulls v Xerox Lions
Date: Saturday, 23 January 2021
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs and Griffin Colby
TMO: Marius Jonker
TV: SuperSport Grandstand and Rugby
Epic showdown expected in Cape Town
The Carling Currie Cup semi-final between DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town ticks all the boxes for an epic showdown.
Both teams won seven matches this season, with the Capetonians scoring only two points fewer than the Durbanites, although DHL WP’s defensive record is slightly better as they conceded 216 points and the Cell C Sharks 244.
Adding to this, Saturday’s game will mark the first time the sides meet this season after both matches were cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.
The hosts will also have a point to prove after suffering defeats in their last two Carling Currie Cup matches against the Kwa-Zulu Natalians, while they won only one of their last three matches against the teams at DHL Newlands.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is back at openside flank and will lead DHL Western Province after having missed the previous two games due to COVID-19 protocols.
There are two further changes to the forward pack, with Salmaan Moerat (lock) also making his return, while in the front row Ali Vermaak (loosehead prop) makes his first start of the season in the absence of Springbok stalwart Steven Kitshoff, who was ruled out through COVID-19 protocols.
“We have earned the right to play this semi-final at DHL Newlands and we want to deliver a fitting performance on Saturday,” said DHL Western Province head coach John Dobson.
“We have had time to prepare properly and we are fielding a number of settled combinations, so the challenge is to go out there and put together an 80-minute performance and secure our place in the final next week.”
In the Cell C Sharks camp, Springbok prop Thomas du Toit is back from a few weeks on the sideline and will anchor the scrum in one of five personnel changes to Sean Everitt’s starting team.
Dylan Richardson and Sanele Nohamba are promoted from the bench and will start at flanker and scrumhalf respectively, while the experienced backline duo of Marius Louw (centre) and Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi are also back in the run-on side.
“We know what Western Province’s strengths are in terms of set-piece dominance, they’ve proven it throughout the competition, so from our side, we’ve been working on us mainly, to try strengthen any parts we feel need working on,” said Cell C Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am.
DHL Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak. Replacements (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel, 24 Sazi Sandi, 25 Tristan Leyds.
Cell C Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok.
DHL Western Province v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday, 23 January 2021
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni and Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Stuart Berry
TV: SuperSport Grandstand and Rugby