The Currie Cup will be in full swing this weekend with the Xerox Golden Lions, EP Kings and Griquas kicking off their Premier Division campaigns, while the six First Division teams will be in action in the opening round of their tournament.
The EP Kings will kick off their season with a clash against Boland at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday, which will be followed by the clash between Griquas and the Cell C Sharks at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban. In Saturday’s matches, defending champions, the Xerox Golden Lions, will meet the Steval Pumas at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein.
DHL Western Province have a bye.
Both the EP Kings and Boland will be looking to build confidence early in the season. The Cavaliers went down 44-16 against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in the opening round, but they will be buoyed by a 37-18 win over Eastern Province in Wellington in their Qualifier in April.Experienced prop Schalk Ferreira will captain the EP Kings, while they will also rely heavily on the experience of centre Waylon Murray and wing Sampie Mastriet, who are on loan from the Cell C Sharks and Xerox Golden Lions respectively.
In Durban, Griquas will look to build on the form that guided them to 11 wins in 14 matches in the Currie Cup Qualifiers. The men from Kimberley defeated the Cell C Sharks in their last two matches played in Durban, but they will brace themselves for a tough challenge on Friday as the home team features a handful of Vodacom Super Rugby players. Cell C Sharks prop Dale Chadwick will earn his 50th provincial cap in the match.
The Xerox Golden Lions will bring some Vodacom Super Rugby momentum into their opening match with a number of players who featured in the final against the Hurricanes last weekend expected to face the Steval Pumas this weekend. The visitors, however, will be charged up to challenge them after going down against the Cell C Sharks last week. History favours the men from Johannesburg, who have only suffered two defeats against the Nelspruit side in Johannesburg since 1996, the last of which was in 2010.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls will be hunting their fifth successive victory against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs when the teams line up in Bloemfontein. The Pretoria side won the last three Premier Division matches against their Bloemfontein counterparts and pipped them in them 20-17 in the Currie Cup Qualifiers earlier this year. Before last year’s defeat at home, however, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs won four and drew one of their last five matches against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein.
Currie Cup First Division
All the action in the Currie Cup First Division will take place on Friday. The Down Touch Griffons will take on the Hino Valke at the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom, while defending champions, the Leopards, face the Border Bulldogs at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom, and SWD will battle it out with the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias at Outeniqua Park in George.
The Hino Valke will be looking to secure their first victory against the Down Touch Griffons in Welkom since 2012. While they have not had much success away in the last few seasons, they registered a well-deserved 57-41 victory against the side in Kempton Park last season, which should give them confidence.
The Border Bulldogs are in a similar situation, with their last victory against the Leopards being in 2013 in Potchefstroom. Since then, they have lost five games in a row against the Highveld side.
In George, 2015 First Division finalists, SWD, will be hoping to repeat the form that saw them outplay the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias 96-5 in Windhoek in the Currie Cup Qualifier. This encounter will mark the Namibians’ first official match in the Currie Cup competition following their re-introduction to the competition this season.
· The clash between Boland and Eastern Province marks the first time the teams will meet in the Currie Cup Premier Division since 2001, when they played to a 22-22 draw in Port Elizabeth.
· Cell C Sharks fullback Joe Pietersen kicked six conversions and a penalty for a personal total of 15 points in the Premier Division match against Griquas last season, which the Sharks won 45-20. However, Griquas defeated the Cell C Sharks in their two previous encounters in Durban.
· The last time the Xerox Golden Lions suffered a defeat against the Steval Pumas in the Currie Cup Premier Division was in 2010. On that day, the teams entered the break tried at 17-17, but the Nelspruit side scored two late tries to win 34-27.
· The Toyota Free State Cheetahs’ discipline cost them dearly in their last three Currie Cup Premier Division matches against the Vodacom Blue Bulls. The Pretoria side slotted over a combined total of 13 penalty goals in those matches, which allowed them to keep the scoreboard ticking, contributing to victories in all three matches.
· The Down Touch Griffons have had the upper hand against the Hino Valke in the last three seasons with the Welkom side winning four of their last five matches due to a superior attacking performance. One of these matches was the Currie Cup First Division final in 2014, in which the Griffons edged their opponents 23-21 in an epic encounter. An extra conversion by Down Touch Griffons flyhalf Louis Strydom proved to be the difference on the scoreboard in that match.
· The Leopards recorded their second highest score in Currie Cup history against the Border Bulldogs in 2014 as they cruised to a 103-15 victory. They scored an impressive 15 tries in the match, while the East London side crossed the tryline only twice.
· The Windhoek Draught Welwitschias will be searching for their first Currie Cup victory when they meet SWD, but they will have to deliver their best performance of the season to achieve this feat as they suffered defeats in all 14 Currie Cup Qualifying matches.
Note: All the fixtures for the Currie Cup are available online, simply follow these links – Premier Division / First Division. Please note that these fixtures are subject to change.
Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:
Friday, 12 August
EP Kings vs Boland
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
Cell C Sharks vs Griquas
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Saturday, 13 August
Xerox Golden Lions vs Steval Pumas
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Stuart Berry
Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Pro Legoete
Currie Cup First Division:
Friday, 12 August
Down Touch Griffons vs Hino Valke
Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Leopards vs Border Bulldogs
Venue: Profert Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: AJ Jacobs
SWD vs Windhoek Draught Welwitschias
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Sindile Ngcese