Absa Currie Cup Preview – Week 2

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The two most successful Absa Currie Cup sides from the last decade, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, square off in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

These two sides have won or shared the Absa Currie Cup no less than seven times in the last ten years. The Vodacom Blue Bulls were champions in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009, while the Toyota Free State Cheetahs won the trophy in 2005 and 2007. They shared the spoils in 2006.

The only other teams to have won the competition since 2001 – DHL Western Province (2001) and The Sharks (2008 and 2010) – travel to Potchefstroom and Nelspruit on Friday for their matches against the Platinum Leopards and the Ford Pumas respectively.

The fourth match this weekend in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division is on Saturday afternoon in Kimberley, where GWK Griquas host the MTN Golden Lions.

This weekend’s matches:

Ford Pumas vs The Sharks

During their last visit to Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium, the Ford Pumas upset the Vodacom Blue Bulls by 22-21, which will give them a lot of confidence ahead of their of their game against the defending Absa Currie Cup champs.

Furthermore, The Sharks will know they always face a fired up Ford Pumas side when they travel to Mpumalanga, having been on the losing side up there before. The last time the Pumas beat the KwaZulu-Natalians, was in 2004, and even though it’s a while ago, it proves that upsets can happen.

Experienced Sharks flanker Jacques Botes was in the grey of the Ford Pumas on that day in Witbank and is the only player from that game that will play in Friday’s fixture in Nelspruit.

Grant Bashford, Sharks assistant coach, said: “We were impressed by the Pumas at the weekend, because that Lions team hasn’t lost many of the players they had in their Super Rugby campaign. For much of the game the result could have gone either way and it took an intercept try for the Lions to get home. The Pumas have a big pack and some exciting backs, so it’s going to be a tough match.

Bashford added that The Sharks’ pack impressed against the Vodacom Blue Bulls last week and that they would be looking for more of the same this weekend: “The pack really put in a big performance and we were really impressed with their work-rate. That sort of X-factor, energy and enthusiasm was impressive.

“We certainly don’t want to put ourselves under pressure early on in the season and especially with some difficult matches to come. After a big effort against the Bulls, we don’t want to now slip up this weekend, so it will be important for us to get the job done.”

Ford Pumas vs The Sharks

Date: Friday, 22 July

Kick-off: 19:00

Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Referee: Mark Lawrence

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 10 September 2010, The Sharks won by 14-30 in Witbank

Platinum Leopards vs DHL Western Province

After losing their first game of the season in Bloemfontein last weekend, the Platinum Leopards will be looking to turn things around when they host last year’s runners up, DHL Western Province, in Potchefstroom on Friday evening.

The visitors to North West drew their first game of the season, last weekend in Cape Town against GWK Griquas, which wasn’t the greatest way to start the 2011 competition and had their die hard fans up in arms.

Allister Coetzee, coach of DHL WP, said: “There is no such thing as easy games in the Absa Currie Cup. We will have to be at our best to beat the Leopards – they have some very good players, good structures and a good coaching team.

“We also have to fix the mistakes we made against Griquas last weekend. We’ve laid the foundation with a young team and know which areas we have to work on. But like I said, the Leopards will test us, especially up front, and we can’t afford to give anything less than our level best on the field.”

Platinum Leopards vs DHL Western Province

Date: Friday, 22 July

Kick-off: 19:10

Venue: Profert Olën Park, Potchefstroom

Referee: Lesego Legoete

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 11 September 2010, DHL WP won by 59-17 in Cape Town

GWK Griquas vs MTN Golden Lions

After having to fight hard to beat the Ford Pumas in Johannesburg last weekend, the MTN Golden Lions have a tough encounter in Kimberley at 15:00 on Saturday afternoon.

GWK Griquas are notoriously tough opponents on their home track and after their draw at DHL Newlands last weekend, the Peacock Blues will be looking ahead to another good performance against a more fancied team.

However, it will probably be brother against brother in the front row when the two Adriaanses, Jacobie (MTN Golden Lions) and Lourens (GWK Griquas), square off against each other.

They both went to Paarl Gymnasium and then Stellenbosch University, but have since left the Western Cape for the opportunity to play Vodacom Super Rugby and in the Absa Currie Cup. Jacobie is a tad under three years older than Lourens, but the younger brother is slightly taller (1.80m vs 1.78m) and heavier (115kg vs 112kg).

A man who knows all about the heat in the tight five kitchen, is Johan Ackermann, MTN Golden Lions assistant coach and a former Springbok lock.

“Griquas have traditionally been known for their superb pack of forwards and this year is no different. They boast a number of players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience and will test us upfront,” said Ackermann.

“Even with Sarel Pretorius injured, they still have quite a few dangerous backs as well, so we can’t afford to let the intensity slip like we did last week. Kimberley is not the easiest place to go and play and we have worked hard at eradicating our mistakes. We simply have to protect our ball better, otherwise Griquas can hurt us.”

GWK Griquas vs MTN Golden Lions

Date: Saturday, 23 July

Kick-off: 15:00

Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley

Referee: Craig Joubert

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 11 September 2010, MTN Golden Lions won by 40-29 in Johannesburg

Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs

Their heavy defeat in Durban last week (35-16) would’ve given the Vodacom Blue Bulls enough motivation to set the record straight against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

Last season, the Free Staters beat the team from Pretoria twice and one has to go back to the Absa Currie Cup final of 2009 for the Vodacom Blue Bulls last victory over the Toyota FS Cheetahs (36-24).

The Toyota FS Cheetahs started the season well and currently occupy first position on the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division log. They beat the Platinum Leopards by 40-12 in Bloemfontein, but a trip to Pretoria is a different kettle of fish and the team from Bloemfontein knows that, especially since the Vodacom Blue Bulls would be hurting from their season opener.

The battle upfront will again be crucial, with the Free Staters travelling to Pretoria with a strong pack. This is one area where the Vodacom Blue Bulls struggled against The Sharks last week.

“It was a poor start and we all know that,” said Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar. “The Free State will require a great effort and we will have no choice but to respond. No one can afford losing at home in this competition.

“Our set phase play will improve as we spend more time together and I think it will be better by this weekend. It is our first home game and it is important to us as a side to we do well this coming weekend.”

Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs

Date: Saturday, 23 July

Kick-off: 17:05

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 11 September 2010, Toyota FS Cheetahs won by 20-14 in Bloemfontein

Absa Currie Cup First Division

In the Absa Currie Cup First Division, Regent Boland Cavaliers and the EP Kings will be looking to build on their victories from the first round when they hit the road for the first time this season. Both games are on Friday.

Welkom is the destination for Boland, where they face the Tasol Solar Griffons. The team from the Cape winelands lost badly on their last visit to the Free State’s Gold Fields (52-13), a result they would like to turn around this season.

The Griffons lost their opening game this season when the Valke beat them in Kempton Park last weekend, but any team visiting the Northern Free State will tell confess that it’s one of the more difficult venues to play at.

The only other game in the Absa Currie Cup First Division this weekend is the Eastern Cape derby between the Border Bulldogs and the EP Kings in East London.

The Kings have been the pace setters in the First Division since last year, when they won the title. They beat the Bulldogs twice last season and will probably go into the game as favourites after their victory last weekend over the SWD Eagles in PE.

Tasol Solar Griffons vs Regent Boland Cavaliers

Date: Friday, 22 July

Kick-off: 15:00

Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom

Referee: Lourens van der Merwe

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 1 October 2010, Boland won by 40-25 in Wellington

Border Bulldogs vs EP Kings

Date: Friday, 22 July

Kick-off: 19:00

Venue: Buffalo City Stadium, East London

Referee: Sindile Mayende

Last time these teams met in Absa Currie Cup: 27 August 2010, EP Kings won by 49-6 in Port Elizabeth

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