The #Reloaded Currie Cup will kick off in dramatic fashion this weekend as six of the seven participating teams take to the field in the first of nine action-packed weekends of rugby, with the north-south derby between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town taking center stage.
The Cell C Sharks and Tafel Lager Griquas will kick off South Africa’s premier domestic competition – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services – in Durban on Friday evening, which will be followed by match-up’s between the Xerox Golden Lions and Phakisa Pumas in Johannesburg, and DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town, on Saturday. The Toyota Free State Cheetahs have a bye.
The tournament is set to deliver top entertainment with the new #Reloaded campaign, which will see fans being treated to an enhanced stadium experience featuring trendy music and a new food offering, and comedians selected as ‘Official Unofficial Team Commissioners’, among other activations.
Siv Ngesi (DHL Western Province) and Bouwer Bosch (Vodacom Blue Bulls) will make their debuts as ‘Official Unofficial Team Commissioners’ at DHL Newlands on Saturday, and lucky fans will have the opportunity to interact with them.
The Currie Cup First Division – also sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services – will enter its second week, and with the Boland Cavaliers, Jaguares XV and Leopards aiming to build on their winning starts to the competition, fans will be treated to another entertaining round of action.
The SWD Eagles and Leopards will take to the field in George in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Border Bulldogs take on the Valke in East London, the Jaguares XV meet the Boland Cavaliers in Potchefstroom, and the EP Elephants battle it out with the Down Touch Griffons in Port Elizabeth.
Currie Cup Premier Division:
In Cape Town, DHL Western Province will be hunting their fifth Currie Cup victory in a row against the Vodacom Blue Bulls when the teams meet in a repeat of last year’s semi-final on Saturday. They will also look to maintain their good track record at home against their Pretoria rivals.
But both teams will be acutely aware that DHL Western Province have won eight of their last nine home matches against the visitors from Pretoria, while the other match ended in a draw.
DHL Western Province flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis and Edwill van der Merwe (wing) will make their Currie Cup debuts, while Corne Fourie (prop) will make his DHL Western Province debut in a settled team featuring youth and experience.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls welcome back Springbok lock Lood de Jager following his recovery from a shoulder injury and he will slot into a familiar team, featuring only one new face in Wian Vosloo (flanker), who was at the Cell C Sharks last season.
Vosloo will make his Currie Cup debut for the team alongside De Jager, Cornal Hendricks and Rosko Specman (wingers) and Wiehahn Herbst (prop).
The clash between the Cell C Sharks and Tafel Lager Griquas could also be a good showcase with the visitors high on confidence after winning the SuperSport Rugby Challenge combined with the upsets the Kimberley side have caused against the KwaZulu-Natalians in the past.
The hosts have won their last five matches against Tafel Lager Griquas, but they have suffered a few shock defeats both at home and in Kimberley against them in the last few years, meaning they will not underestimate the opposition.
Cell C Sharks coach Sean Everitt named a settled starting team featuring 10 players who played in the Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-final against the Brumbies, while the notable inclusion in his team is experienced Springbok JP Pietersen, who returned from France and will start at outside centre.
Junior Springboks Phendulani Buthelezi (looseforward) and Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf) have been included on the bench and will make their Currie Cup debuts if they take to the field.
The Tafel Lager Griquas starting team bears a resemblance the one that defeated the Phakisa Pumas in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, with the side being guided by their experienced flyhalf and captain George Whitehead.
SuperSport Rugby Challenge runners up, the Phakisa Pumas, will have a point to prove against the Xerox Golden Lions when they cross paths at Emirates Airline Park.
The Lowvelders will be deter
mined to put the disappointment of going down in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge final behind them, especially after winning all of their matches en route to the final, and to make a strong statement early in the competition.
They are, however, expected to face tough competition from the hosts, who are equally determined to show that they can be a force to reckoned with after a disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.
Xerox Golden Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen named a team featuring a good mix of young players who have made a strong statement in the last two seasons and experienced players, with Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje leading their charge.
The Phakisa Pumas, under the captaincy of Ryan Nell (centre), feature nine players who started in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge final, which will give them confidence going into the clash.
Currie Cup Premier Division Round 1 fixtures:
Friday, 12 July:
Cell C Sharks v Tafel Lager Griquas
Venue: Jonsson King Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Vusi Msibi and Archie Sehlako
TMO: Christie du Preez
Cell C Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Tafel Lager Griquas – 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead (capt), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona. Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Moxili, 18 NJ Oosthuizen, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Zandre Jordaan, 21 Chriswell September, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Eduan Keyter.
Saturday, 13 July:
Xerox Golden Lions v Phakisa Pumas
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius and Eduan Nel
TMO: Pro Legoete
Xerox Golden Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (capt), 8 James Venter, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Ruben Schoeman, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Jan-Louis la Grange.
Phakisa Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (capt), 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Jacobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Hermanus Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Cornelius Els, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ashlon Davids, 21 Christopher Smith, 22 Henko Marais, 23 Morgan Naude.
DHL Western Province v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen and Jabian Jeftha
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans
DHL Western Province – 15 SP Marais, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl (capt), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie. Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Josh Stander, 23 Craig Barry.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (capt), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Ruan Nortjie, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima. Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Dylan Sage.
Currie Cup First Division:
The Leopards will look to build on their winning start to the Currie Cup First Division when they meet defending champions, the SWD Eagles, at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday, and given the close scorelines between the sides in the last few seasons, it could be a gripping clash.
The Leopards have won five of the last six matches between the teams dating back to 2015, but the men from Potchefstroom won by only two points last season, while they played to a 42-42 draw in 2017.
Fueling the hosts’ motivation, they will look to earn their first victory of the season after a draw against the Valke last week, which could set the scene for an exciting clash.
The match between the Border Bulldogs and Valke at Police Park in East London could also prove to be a good battle with both teams searching for their first win of the season.
The Valke have had the upper hand against their East London opponents in the last two seasons, but Border have put up a brave fight against them on their home patch, suffering defeats of no more than seven points in East London since 2014, which will inspire them.
The Jaguares XV and Boland Cavaliers are expected to dish up some top-class action at the Fanie du Toit Sportsground in Potchefstroom, especially with both sides racking up big scores in the opening round.
The Jaguares XV registered the biggest score last weekend in their 50-43 victory against the Down Touch Griffons, while Boland scored 31 points, and with both teams high on confidence and keen to establish themselves at the top-end of the log table early on, they will give everything on the field.
In Port Elizabeth, the EP Elephants will be determined to make up for their heart-breaking three point defeat last week when they meet last year’s semi-finalists, the Down Touch Griffons – who also come off a defeat – in Port Elizabeth.
With both sides eyeing a possible win, they are expected to throw everything at one another, paving the way for a gripping encounter. The Down Touch Griffons will look to tighten up their defence, in particular, going into the clash after conceding 50 points last week, while they will be determined to build on their solid attack after scoring 43 points in their opening match.
Currie Cup First Division Round 2 Fixtures:
Friday, 12 July:
SWD Eagles v Leopards
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Saturday, 13 July:
Border Bulldogs v Valke
Venue: Police Park, East London
Referee: Pablo Deluca
Jaguares XV v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Fanie du Toit Sportsground, Potchefstroom
Referee: Divan Uys
EP Elephants v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Paul Mente