Four of the six teams taking to the field in the Currie Cup Premier Division, proudly brought to you by DirectAxis and Nashua, will kick off a challenging stretch in the competition in which they will play three matches within eight days in a real treat for rugby fans.
In an exciting weekend’s action, the Cell C Sharks will meet Tafel Lager Griquas at Growthpoint Kings Park on Friday, while DHL Western Province take on the Steval Pumas at DHL Newlands and the Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Xerox Golden Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening. Log-leaders and defending champions, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, have a bye.
In Durban, the Cell C Sharks will look to build on their first victory of the season when they meet the Tafel Lager Griquas, but with two defeats in a row to their name, the Kimberley side will be equally determined to register a victory.
The KwaZulu-Natalians boast a good win record against Tafel Lager Griquas in the last two seasons as they won three of the four matches between the sides. However, the visitors registered a narrow three-point victory at Growthpoint Kings Park in 2014, which will inspire them.While the Cell C Sharks opted for continuity in selection with only two changes to their side which sees lock Tyler Paul replace the injured Hyron Andrews (shoulder) and flanker Jacques Vermeulen take over from Jean-Luc du Preez, who has been rested, the Tafel Lager Griquas made nine personal changes to their starting team. A backline reshuffle will see George Whitehead start at fullback and Andre Swarts at flyhalf in a halfback combination with scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen.
DHL Western Province and the Steval Pumas, meanwhile, will both look to bounce back from defeats last week when they meet at DHL Newlands, with the hosts hunting their first victory of the season after a bye in the opening round.
The Capetonians have won all three matches between the sides in the last three seasons, but the Mpumalanga side put up a decent fight in two of those outings, which they will draw comfort from. They will, however, have to step up their attack after finishing their match against the Cell C Sharks last week scoreless.
DHL Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse will make his Currie Cup debut alongside a number of his Vodacom Super Rugby team-mates, including centre EW Viljoen, No 8 Nizaam Carr, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and replacement prop JC Janse van Rensburg in a team that shows seven staff changes. Replacement lock Michael Kumbirai also stands to make his debut if he runs onto the field.
Experienced Steval Pumas flanker Brian Shabangu, meanwhile, has been handed the captaincy in a new-look team, which features several players who will make their debut for the Mpumalanga side. They are lock Cameron Lindsay and flanker Stefan Willemse, who are new recruits from the EP Kings, No 8 Willie Engelbrecht and flyhalf Kobus Marais. Replacement scrumhalf Theo Maree and flanker Chris Cloete will also make their debuts if they take to the field.
The match will also be significant for prop De-Jay Terblanche, as it will mark his 165th game for the Steval Pumas, making him the union’s second most capped player.
In Pretoria, the Gauteng derby between the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Xerox Golden Lions is expected to be exciting given the balanced results between the sides in the last few seasons. Each of the teams have won two of their last four encounters, with both the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ victories being at home.
The hosts come off a bye last week after a victory in the opening round, while the Xerox Golden Lions recovered from their first-round defeat to beat Tafel Lager Griquas last week, meaning both sides will enter the match with confidence.
Vodacom Blue Bulls winger Kefenste Mahlo and replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar and prop Matthys Bason will make their debuts, along with flyhalf Tony Jantjies, who has played Vodacom Super Rugby. In total coach Nollis Marais made five personnel changes to his starting team, two of which were injury enforced as Jaco Visagie and Conrad van Vuuren are injured.
The Xerox Golden Lions also made six changes to their team, which sees hooker Michael Willemse, prop Andrew Beerwinkel, flanker Fabian Booysen and centre Stokkies Hannekom being promoted from the bench to the starting team.
Currie Cup Round 3 fixtures:
Friday, 4 August:
Cell C Sharks v Tafel Lager Griquas
Cell C Sharks: Garth April, Garth April, Jeremy Ward, Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi, Curwin Bosch, Michael Claassens, Daniel du Preez, Jacques Vermeulen, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Botha (captain), Tyler Paul, Ross Geldenhuys, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Jean Droste, Tera Mtembu, Cameron Wright, Inny Radebe.
Tafel Lager Griquas: George Whitehead, Ederies Arendse, Tertius Kruger, Johnathan Francke, AJ Coertzen (captain), Andre Swarts, Rudi Van Rooyen, Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, Shaun McDonald, RJ Liebenberg, Pieter JV Vuren, Mzwanele Zito, Ewald van der Westhuizen, AJ Le Roux, Devon Martinus. Replacements: Wilmar Arnoldi, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Wandile Putuma, DeWet Kruger, Sias Koen, Renier Botha, Eric Zana.
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Vusi Msibi & Blake Beattie
TMO: Willie Vos
Saturday, 5 August:
DHL Western Province v Steval Pumas
DHL Western Province: SP Marais, Dillyn Leyds, EW Viljoen, Dan Kriel, Seabelo Senatla, Damian Willemse, Justin Phillips, Nizaam Carr, Kobus van Dyk, Steph de Wit, JD Shickerling, Chris van Zyl (capt), Frans van Wyk, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, JC Janse van Rensburg, Michael Kumbirai, Johan du Toit, Jaco Coetzee, Jano Vermaak, Michal Hazner.
Steval Pumas: Devon Williams, Jean-Paul Lewis, Gerrit Smith, Sias Ebersohn, Ruwellyn Isbell, Kobus Marais, Reynier van Rooyen, Willie Engelbrecht, Stefan Willemse, Brian Shabangu (captain), Cameron Lindsay, Stephan Greeff, Jacques Kotze, Mark Pretorius, De-Jay Terblanche. Replacements: Frank Herne, Louis Albertse, Jannie Stander, Chris Cloete, Theo Maree, Justin van Staden, Jerome Pretorius.
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Divan Uys & Kwezi Mqomboti
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Xerox Golden Lions
Vodacom Blue Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Franco Naude, Burger Odendaal, Kefentse Mahlo, Tony Jantjies, Piet van Zyl, Nic de Jager, Jannes Kirsten, Boom Prinsloo (captain), Ruben van Heerden, Irne Herbst, John-Roy Jenkinson, Jan-Henning Campher, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Abongile Nonkontwana, Shaun Adendorff, Andre Warner, Tinus de Beer, JT Jackson.
Xerox Golden Lions: Ashlon Davids, Madosha Tambwe, Stokkies Hanekom, Jarryd Sage, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Shaun Reynolds, Marco Janse van Vuren, Ryan Kankowski, Fabian Booysen, James Venter, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Andrew Beerwinkel, Michael Willemse, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Pieter Jansen, Nico du Plessis, Bobby de Wee, Hacjivah Dayimani, Jano Venter, Morne van den Berg, Jan-Louis la Grange.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Jaco Kotze & Christopher Allison
TMO: Johan Greeff