Two big derbies, in Pretoria and Cape Town, will spice up the Currie Cup this weekend as the competition shifts into a new gear when the Premier and First Division tournaments pass the halfway mark and the battle for semi-final spots intensifies.
Only four pool rounds remain in the Premier Division following this weekend’s matches, and two in the First Division, with the Finals set to be played early next month.
On Wednesday afternoon Griquas needed a strong second half performance to beat the EP Kings by 47-24 in their postponed match in the Premier Division of the Currie Cup – brought to you by Nashua and Direct.
In the two main Premier Division match-ups this weekend, the Vodacom Blue Bulls will meet the Xerox Golden Lions in Pretoria on Friday and DHL Western Province will host the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town on Saturday.Currie Cup Premier Division
Boland and the Steval Pumas will kick off the weekend’s Premier Division action in Wellington on Friday, where the Lowvelders will be hunting their first victory of the season, while Boland will look to register their second win.
The last match between these sides, in the Currie Cup Qualifiers, was a thrilling affair with the Steval Pumas edging Boland 12-10, but the men from Nelspruit dominated three of their four matches prior to that in the Currie Cup First Division in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls will have their work cut out for them as they aim for only their second victory in six outings against the defending champions, the Xerox Golden Lions, when the teams meet at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.
Such has been the Johannesburg’s team dominance in the Gauteng derby since 2013, they scored more than 35 points in five of their last six matches. The last time the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat their rivals was in 2014 at Loftus Versfeld – a feat they are hoping to repeat this week.
Olympic bronze medallist Kwagga Smith will run out for the visitors this week, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls have selected a looseforward trio consisting of three former Junior Springbok captains in Hanro Liebenberg, Ruan Steenkamp and Arno Botha.
In Bloemfontein, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs will attempt to register their fourth successive victory in the tournament on Saturday when they face the EP Kings. The Free Staters have won all their home games against the Port Elizabeth side since the 1997 season, and they won the Currie Cup Qualifier in Port Elizabeth in May.
The EP Kings, however, have had fair success against the men from Bloemfontein in the Eastern Cape, where they won three of their four matches in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
In the final match of the weekend, the Cell C Sharks will be aiming to remain unbeaten this season when they meet DHL Western Province in Cape Town, while the hosts will target back-to-back victories after registering their first victory of the season last week against the EP Kings.
Interestingly, the Cell C Sharks have won only two of the last six Premier Division matches between the sides, and both these victories were in Cape Town. The Durbanites have an impressive track record in Cape Town which has seen them suffer only one defeat in their last five matches in the Mother City dating back to 2012.
Currie Cup First Division
In East London, Border will be aiming for their first victory against the Down Touch Griffons since 2011 when the sides meet, while the visitors will target the match to return to winning ways after suffering their first defeat of the season last week against the Leopards.
In the last five seasons, Border have only challenged the Down Touch Griffons twice, losing by five and six points respectively.
The hosts will be confident though, following last weekend’s 61-7 victory against the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias. They will also draw inspiration from the fact that they have leaked five tries in their first two matches compared to the Down Touch Griffons’ 13 in three matches.
The Hino Valke, meanwhile, will have their sights set on their first win against the Leopards since 2014 at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park.
These two teams played in the Currie Cup First Division semi-finals in the last two seasons, with the Leopards winning last season, while the Hino Valke came out tops in 2014.
The Leopards, however, have had the upper hand in their four matches since then, but their last victory was a hard-fought 26-24 win in the Currie Cup Qualifiers.
· Steval Pumas flyhalf Justin van Staden and his Boland counterpart Nico Scheepers scored all the points for their teams in the Currie Cup Qualifier in April. Van Staden kicked four penalty goals, while Scheepers scored a try, penalty goal and conversion. The Steval Pumas won 12-10.
· Penalty goals have been an important source of points for the Xerox Golden Lions in the last two seasons against the Vodacom Blue Bulls. In their last three Premier Division matches, the Johannesburg side kicked a total of 12 penalty goals (four in each match) – six of which were by Marnitz Boshoff, who also slotted two drop goals.
· The Toyota Free State Cheetahs have scored a minimum of four tries in their last three matches against the EP Kings including the Currie Cup Qualifier – and with two bonus points for tries in their first three matches up to now, they will look to replicate this attacking form.
· DHL Western Province may have been more successful against the Cell C Sharks in the last three seasons, but the clashes between the sides have been close, as neither side has registered a victory by more than 10 points since 2013.
· The Down Touch Griffons have scored a minimum of 31 points in their last five matches against Border, and have registered bonus points for tries in each of these encounters.
· Leopards fullback Rhyno Smith was instrumental in the team’s victory against the Hino Valke in the Currie Cup Qualifiers as he kicked four penalty goals, two conversions and scored a try for a personal total of 21 points.
Currie Cup Premier Division log (following Wednesday’s match):
|TEAM||P||W||L||D||PF||PA||PD||TF||TA||LOSS BONUS||TRIES BONUS||POINTS|
|Free State Cheetahs||3||3||0||0||119||61||58||13||6||0||2||14|
Currie Cup Premier Division fixtures:
Friday, 2 September
Boland vs Steval Pumas
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Craig Joubert
Saturday, 3 September
Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs EP Kings
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
DHL Western Province vs Cell C Sharks
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Currie Cup First Division fixtures:
Friday, 2 September
Border vs Down Touch Griffons
Venue: BCM Stadium, East London
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Saturday, 3 September
Hino Valke vs Leopards
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: AJ Jacobs