Carling Currie Cup action resumes on Friday evening, with the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks facing tricky away matches in their quest to keep their unbeaten starts to the competition intact and overtake the Vodacom Bulls at the top of the standings.
Tafel Lager Griquas will be eager to add the scalp of DHL Western Province to their win in the previous round when the two sides clash in Kimberley at 19h00 on Friday night.
On Saturday afternoon, the Airlink Pumas will be looking to bounce back from their loss to the team from the Northern Cape two weeks ago when they host the Toyota Cheetahs in a 14h30 kick-off in Nelspruit.
The third and final fixture of the weekend features the Sigma Lions at home against the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg, where the action is set to start at 17h00.
Defending champions and log leaders, the Vodacom Bulls, have a bye this weekend, and all three matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
After suffering a heartbreaking 24-23 loss to the Cell C Sharks on 19 January, Tafel Lager Griquas bounced back firmly for a 41-20 triumph over the Airlink Pumas two weeks ago, thanks to a masterclass kicking display by Zander du Plessis.
The Northern Cape outfit will no doubt be eager to keep that upward curve intact against a DHL WP side hoping to get back to winning ways following their 35-20 away loss to the KwaZulu-Natalians in the same round.
However, Tafel Lager Griquas suffered a huge setback when their experienced skipper, Ruan Steenkamp, was sidelined for the next three months due to a serious knee injury. As a result, the captaincy will be taken over by 24-year-old loose forward Niel Otto, who joined Griquas from the Pumas in the off-season.
Last season, Tafel Lager Griquas achieved a rare double over DHL WP, outplaying them by 46-25 in Kimberley and edging the men from the Western Cape by 30-28 in Cape Town.
Meanwhile, there are five players in the forward pack that did not feature in DHL Western Province’s last match in Durban a fortnight ago, including loose forward Junior Pokomela, who will make his debut in the blue and white hoops from the bench, having recently recovered from injury.
The only change to the Capetonians’ backline sees versatile Kade Wolhuter make his first start of the season at fullback to gain some valuable game time, with Sergeal Petersen starting at right wing.
The Airlink Pumas will be aiming to make home ground advantage count when they welcome the Toyota Cheetahs to their Lowveld base in Saturday’s early afternoon clash.
The men from Mpumalanga were outplayed by a determined Griquas outfit in their previous outing, while the Free Staters made it two from two courtesy of a convincing 38-25 victory win over the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.
In last year’s fixture between the two sides played in Nelspruit, both teams managed to score three tries, but the Airlink Pumas prevailed 28-19 thanks to three successful penalty goals.
Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie made minor tweaks to his starting selection for the trip to Nelspruit. Daniel Kasende gets the nod at right wing with Springbok speedster Rosco Specman moving over to the left wing, replacing the injured Enver Brandt.
It was a youthful Sigma Lions team that suffered back-to-back losses against WP and the Pumas which have left them at the bottom of the log with just two league points to show. Following a break of almost a month since their first home match (they had a bye in the previous round), the Joburg outfit have named a reshuffled side for their home encounter with the Cell C Sharks, who easily won the corresponding fixture 56-14 last year courtesy of eight converted tries.
Lions head coach Mzwakhe Nkosi has named influential loose forward Vincent Tshituka, his brother Emmanuel, and prop forward JP Smith in a changed line-up for their home tie with the Durbanites.
Tafel Lager Griquas vs DHL Western Province
Date: Friday, 18 February
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Airlink Pumas vs Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 19 February
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Morné Ferreira
Sigma Lions vs Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday, 19 February
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: AJ Jacobs