2015 Absa Currie Cup ready for lift off

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The 2015 edition of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division will lift off on Friday with two round-one matches in Kimberley and Nelspruit respectively.

A remarkable feature this season is that six of the eight teams who will battle it out for the historic trophy on offer in South Africa’s oldest provincial competition, will do so with new coaches at the helm. Xerox Golden Lions coach, Johan Ackermann, and Hawies Fourie (ORC Griquas) are the only surviving coaches from last year.

The six new coaches in this year’s competition are: Nollis Marais (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Gary Gold (Cell C Sharks), John Dobson (DHL Western Province), Franco Smith (Toyota Free State Cheetahs), MJ Mentz (Steval Pumas) and Brent Janse van Rensburg (Eastern Province Kings).

Rugby World Cup duty and the departure of several former stalwarts to overseas club-rugby arenas, resulted in several household names not playing this year in their well-known provincial colours. However, that opens the door for a new generation of young and promising stars to make their mark in the competition.

The 2015 edition of the Absa Currie Cup will be characterised as the changing of the guard in many respects. The influence of the new coaches, coupled with several Springbok Sevens stars who were released for provincial duty and the emergence of a number of Junior Springboks in the senior ranks should make for an interesting campaign.

Springbok Sevens stars who will be in action this coming weekend include Seabelo Senatla (DHL Western Province), Ruhan Nel (ORC Griquas), Kwagga Smith (Xerox Golden Lions) and Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Blue Bulls). Meanwhile, Hanro Liebenberg (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez (Cell C Sharks) and Wilco Louw (WP) are some of the promising Junior Springboks who will make their competition debuts.

Defending champions, DHL Western Province, kick off the competition on Friday afternoon in Kimberley against the ORC Griquas. The Griquas secured their spot in the top flight via a tough Qualifying campaign and they will be out to resume their status as giant-killers when they host Province in the opening match which starts at 15h30.

This fixture will be followed by the Steval Pumas encounter against the Cell C Sharks in the impressive Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit (18h00).

Saturday’s action sees 2015 finalists, the Xerox Lions, travel to Port Elizabeth to face the Eastern Province Kings in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, while a bruising encounter is expected between the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein. Both clashes start at 14h15 and all the Absa Currie Cup action will again be televised live on SuperSport.

Nel to face baptism of fire in midfield battle

Springbok Sevens utility player Ruhan Nel faces a baptism of fire on Friday afternoon when he runs at centre for Griquas opposite the experienced Western Province captain, Juan de Jongh.

Nel and Springbok Sevens squad member Sandile Ngcobo are both in the match-day squad for the Kimberley side after SARU released several Blitzboks to provincial duty.

It will serve WP well to be fully aware of the try scoring abilities of Nel. The versatile back is equally at home in the midfield and on the wing, and two years ago he scored a try for the Golden Lions within five minutes after taking to the field as a replacement against the Free State Cheetahs. He repeated his try-scoring feat at international level when he scored a quick-fire hat-trick after coming on as replacement for the Blitzboks against American Samoa at the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia.

Ruhan Nel mini-biography

Height 1.9m tall
Weight 101 kilograms
Date of birth 17 May 1991
Place of birth Port Elizabeth, RSA
Education Attended Rynfield Primary School, Brandwag HS and the University of Johannesburg.
Playing career Steval Pumas (Absa Currie Cup Under-19); Wits (Varsity Cup); Xerox Golden Lions (Vodacom Cup, Absa Currie Cup); Springbok Sevens (Six World Series tournaments)

 

 

Round-up of other interesting team news

  • There are seven DHL Western Province Currie Cup debutants – two in the starting team and five on the bench – however, the playing squad includes 13 members of the squad that did duty in last year’s final against the Xerox Golden Lions at DHL Newlands. Front-rowers Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw are the two Province newcomers in the starting team.
  • Junior Springbok twins, Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez, have both been included in the Cell C Sharks match-day squad for the first round tie against the Steval Pumas on Friday in Nelspruit. The twins celebrated their 20thbirthday on Wednesday and they are joined in the squad 23 by 2014 Junior Springbok team mate André Esterhuizen (centre).
  • Eastern Province Kings play their first match at home in the Nelson Mandela Stadium against the Golden Lions, who will unleash the formidable flank combination of Jaco Kriel and Springbok Sevens ball poacher Kwagga Smith.
  • 23-year old flyhalf Niel Marais spearheads a group of five rookies who will make their Absa Currie Cup debut for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs against the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday.
  • Former Free State flanker Lappies Labuschagne was named as Blue Bulls captain for the season-opener. Making their debuts in the backline for the Pretoria side are Warrick Gelant (Junior Boks and Blitzboks) and Travis Ismaiel, while Hanro Liebenberg (2015 Junior Bok captain), Marvin Orie and Jaco Visagie are forward debutants. Prop Werner Kruger will play in his 98th match in the competition.

Absa Currie Cup Premier Division round one fixtures:

Friday, August 7

ORC Griquas vs DHL Western Province

Venue: Griqua Park, Kimberley

Kick-off: 15h30

Home team results since 1996: P31, W3, L27, D1

 

Steval Pumas vs Cell C Sharks

Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Kick-off: 18h00

Home team results since 1996: P20, W3, L17

 

Saturday, August 8

Toyota Free State Cheetahs v Vodacom Blue Bulls

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Kick-off: 14h15

Home team results since 1996: P36, W13, L20, D3

 

Eastern Province Kings v Xerox Golden Lions

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Kick-off: 14:15

Home team results since 1996: P11, W0, L11

 

*All matches live and exclusive on SuperSport

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