The pressure is rising drastically in the Currie Cup Premier Division with a four of the teams reaching the halfway stage of their pool rounds this weekend which could push the tempo to another level.
The weekend’s games will see the return of three Springbok squad members, Golden Lions lock Marvin Orie, Western Province winger Dillyn Leyds and Blue Bulls flanker Marco van Staden, following their release from the national squad.
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will go in search of their first victories of the season in Nelspruit in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Free State Cheetahs face Griquas in Bloemfontein and Western Province go up against the Golden Lions in Cape Town. The Sharks have a bye.
In the Currie Cup First Division the heat is on as the competition passes the halfway mark and the teams begin to scramble for places in the top four on the log with an eye on possible semi-final spots.
The SWD Eagles and Boland Cavaliers will kick off the weekend’s action in George on Friday, while Saturday’s jam-packed schedule will see the Leopards host the Border Bulldogs in Potchefstroom, the Valke meet the Griffons in Brakpan, and the EP Elephants take on the in-form Jaguares XV in Port Elizabeth.
Unbeaten two and the winless duo under additional pressure
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will both go in search of their first victories of the season when they cross paths in Nelspruit in the opening match of the weekend in the Currie Cup Premier Division. (see also Desperate Blue Bulls pick two Boks to stay in the hunt against Pumas - http://rugbyvaria.co.za/sa-rugby/sa-rugby-currie-cup/desperate-blue-bulls-pick-two-boks-to-stay-in-the-hunt-against-pumas).
♦ The Free State Cheetahs and the table-topping Griquas will enter their clash at the Free State Stadium on Saturday unbeaten, paving the way for an exciting clash. The home side started their campaign on a winning note last week, and they will go up against their neighboring opposition high on confidence after two bonus-point wins.
Griquas have had the upper hand between the sides in the last three matches – with one of their wins being in Bloemfontein – meaning the Free State Cheetahs will go in search of their first win against the Kimberley outfit since 2016.
Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith made only one change to the starting lineup for their first home game, with Darron Adonis taking over from Louis Fouche at fullback, with the latter being named among the replacements.
The Griquas team showed three staff changes, with the inclusion of Johan Momsen (lock) being the only change among the forwards, while Tinus de Beer (flyhalf) and Bjorn Basson (winger) have been named in the backline, which sees captain George Whitehead switch to fullback.
♦ In Cape Town, the Golden Lions will face a Western Province side committed to bouncing back from a narrow defeat last week, while they will want to build on their winning start to the competition.
The Capetonians will draw inspiration from the fact that they won their last six home matches against the Jozi side, but they will also be wary of the fact that the Golden Lions scored nine points fewer in their first game than what WP have accumulated in both their matches up to now. WP will, however, back their defence after conceding the same number of points (37) in two matches to the visitors’ one.
Western Province coach John Dobson made a number of changes to his side, which features a new halfback pairing of Paul de Wet (scrumhalf) and Josh Stander (flyhalf), while Leyds starts at fullback, while SP Marais takes over on the left wing. The changes up front see Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8) and Carlu Sadie (tighthead prop) earn starts.
The Golden Lions team feature a new lock pairing of Springbok Marvin Orie and Ruben Schoeman among the six changes to the starting side. Sti Sithole (prop) and Pieter Jansen (hooker) will pack down in a new-look front low with Hacjivah Dayimani coming in at No 8, while the only change among the backs sees Jan-Louis la Grange starting at centre.
15 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (captain), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Christ Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima. Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adri Smit, 20 Wihan Vosloo, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Jade Stighling.
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Eduan Nel and Johra Botha
TMO: Johan Greeff
Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas
Free State Cheetahs
15 Darron Adonis, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Louis Fouche.
15 George Whitehead (captain), 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Eduan Keyter, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona. Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Moxili, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Zandré Jordaan, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Michal Haznar, 22 Grant Hermanus, 23 Ruan Kramer.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys and Eon van Zyl
TMO: JJ Wagner
Western Province vs Golden Lions
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corné Fourie. Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Edwill van der Merwe, 23 Sergeal Petersen.
15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jan-Louis la Grange, 11 Stean Pienaar; 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass.
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen and Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
SWD Eagles look to keep unbeaten record
Defending Currie Cup First Division champions, the SWD Eagles, will look to continue their dominance against the Boland Cavaliers and maintain their unbeaten run in the competition when the teams meet at Outeniqua Park.
The hosts, who come off two draws and a win in the first three rounds, will be determined to build winning momentum, but they will face a side hurting from a one-point defeat last week and who are desperate to build momentum after only one win.
SWD won their last two matches against the Wellington outfit, scoring over 50 points in the process, while they played to a 28-28 draw at this venue in 2015.
♦ The clash between the Valke and Griffons in Brakpan is also expected to be thrilling as the home side goes in search of their third successive victory against a Welkom team hoping to build their performance.
The last match between the sides proved to be a proper showpiece with 108 points scored in the match – with the Valke winning 56-52 – and with both teams determined to remain on the higher end of the log standings, it could prove to be another tight tussle.
♦ The EP Elephants will be bracing themselves for a big battle against the Jaguares XV in Port Elizabeth after the Argentineans got their campaign off to flying start with three bonus-point wins in a row.
The hosts will draw inspiration from their first win last week – albeit by one point. They will, however, have to deliver a solid performance all around, and be rock-solid on defence in particular, to contain the Argentineans, as the side has been hot on attack, scoring 182 points so far.
♦ In Potchefstroom, the Leopards and Border Bulldogs will both have their sights set on a victory after a slow start to the competition, which has seen them languishing at the foot of the log standings.
Border have yet to win a match, while Leopards have struggled to gain momentum, although they will be inspired by their competitive performance last weekend in which they tested the Valke thoroughly. With the Leopards having won all the match-ups between the sides in the competition dating back to 2014, they will enter Saturday’s match with a mental edge.
First Division matches
SWD Eagles vs Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Griffin Colby
Leopards vs Border Bulldogs
Venue: Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: Pablo Deluca
Valke vs Griffons
Venue: Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Referee: Quinton Immelman
EP Elephants vs Jaguares XV
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Issued by SA Rugby Communications