The Cell C Sharks and Xerox Golden Lions will look to maintain their early dominance in the Currie Cup by stretching their winning runs to three matches in what marks the halfway stage of their pool rounds this weekend.
Both teams won their opening two games with bonus points, although they trail DHL Western Province on the standings on points’ difference, and with the competition – sponsored by Nashua and DirectAxis Financial Services – nearing the business end, the men from Durban and Johannesburg will be determined to remain at the top-end of the log for possible home semi-finals. The Capetonians, who are also unbeaten, have a bye this week.
The Cell C Sharks will host the iCOLLEGE Pumas on Friday at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban, where the visitors will look to end a losing run stretching over more than 22 seasons, and to bounce back from a 57-28 defeat against the Capetonians last week.
Interestingly, the men from Mpumalanga have scored more points than the Durbanites, but they will have to tighten up their defence, as they have conceded 37 more points in the same number of matches.
Cell C Sharks coach Robert du Preez made only two changes to his starting team, with Luke Stringer and Aphelele Fassi earning their first starts, while Springbok hooker Akker van der Merwe makes his first appearance of the season among the replacements.
The iCOLLEGE Pumas made three changes to their side, which sees Marko Janse van Rensburg, Hugo Kloppers, and Ruwellyn Isbel being drafted into the starting team.
In Kimberley, Tafel Lager Griquas will have their sights set on earning their first victory of the season when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday, but they will expect a tough challenge from the visitors who come of back-to-back defeats.
The last time the Kimberley outfit defeated their Pretoria counterparts was in 2012, but with Tafel Lager Griquas under pressure to win to remain in the semi-final race, they will not be short on motivation.
Both teams made three personnel changes with Eital Bredenkamp, Enver Brandt and Andre Swarts being promoted to Tafel Lager Griquas’ starting line-up, while Duncan Matthews, Franco Naude and Nick de Jager will all earn their first starts for the Vodacom Blue Bulls, with former Blitzbok, Dylan Sage, starting on the bench.
The Xerox Golden Lions and Toyota Free State Cheetahs will battle it out in Johannesburg in the closing match of the weekend on Saturday, where the visitors will be desperate for a win after defeats in their last two outings.
The Free Staters may have won three of their last four matches against the Xerox Golden Lions, but with the team having scored far less points than the opposition, and conceding more in their first two matches, they will have to deliver a solid performance all around to earn a victory.
The Xerox Golden Lions team shows three changes with Pieter Jansen and Jacobie Adriaanse starting in a new-look front row, while Madosh Tambwe starts on the wing to allow Andries Coetzee a rest.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs also opted for continuity in selection, with the only change to the run-on team being the inclusion of former Junior Springbok looseforward, Abongile Nonkontwana, who fills the void left by Gerhard Olivier’s call-up to the Guinness PRO14 squad.
Currie Cup First Division
In the Currie Cup First Division – also sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services and Nashua – the pressure is set to rise significantly with some teams also striking the halfway mark in their campaigns.
In George, the SWD Eagles will be hunting their first victory against the Down Touch Griffons since 2015 when the sides meet at Outeniqua Park on Friday.
However, they will enter the clash wary of the fact that all but one of their matches since 2014 have been won by no more than seven points. The men from Welkom, however, will be driven by their desire to earn their first win of the season after going down against the Hino Valke last week.
On Saturday, the Leopards will target their third victory in a row when they meet Eastern Province in Port Elizabeth, but with the hosts determined to bounce back from their disappointing 70-12 defeat in the opening round, it could be an exciting clash. The teams met in the competition for the first time in four years last season, and the Leopards registered a convincing 57-20 victory.
The clash between the Boland Cavaliers and Border Bulldogs in Bredasdorp also has all the ingredients to make it an exciting affair, with hosts determined to keep up with the top sides for a possible semi-final spot, while Border will be determined to avoid their successive third defeat. Boland won the last match between the sides convincingly, but Border beat them twice in 2015, which will give them confidence.
Currie Cup Premier Division Round 4 fixtures:
Friday, 7 September
Cell C Sharks v iCOLLEGE Pumas
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Archie Sehlako and Graciano Pienaar
TMO: Christie du Preez
Saturday, 8 September
Tafel Lager Griquas v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Jaco Kotze and Nico Schmahl
TMO: JJ Wagner
Xerox Golden Lions v Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys and Eduan Nel
TMO: Pro Legoete
Currie Cup First Division Round 3 fixtures:
Friday, 7 September
SWD Eagles v Down Touch Griffons
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Bulelani Naka and local appointment
Saturday, 8 September
Boland Cavaliers v Border Bulldogs
Venue: Glaskasteel, Bredasdorp
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Viv-Richard Adams and local appointment
Eastern Province v Leopards
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Paul Mente
Assistant Referees: Rodney Boneparte and local appointment