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The Currie Cup Premier Division, proudly sponsored by DirectAxis and Nashua, will step into a new gear this weekend, with DHL Western Province kicking off their campaign, while three teams will look to bounce back from first round defeats.

DHL Western Province, who were losing semi-finalists last season, will meet the defending champion Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday in their opening match of the season after having a bye last week, while the Xerox Golden Lions, Tafel Lager Griquas and the Cell C Sharks will be determined to make up for disappointing starts to the season.

The Xerox Golden Lions will host Tafel Lager Griquas at Emirates Airline Park in the opening match of the weekend at 12h00 on Saturday, while the Cell C Sharks will meet the Steval Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park later in the day at 17h00. The Vodacom Blue Bulls have a bye.

Tafel Lager Griquas will field a vastly different side to the one that went down in a high-scoring match at Loftus Versfeld last week, with seven new personnel – experienced flyhalf George Whitehead starts and captain AJ Coertzen switches from fullback to wing, while the efficient Eric Zana takes over the No 15 jumper.The Xerox Golden Lions team also shows six changes from last week’s run-on side, which sees scrumhalf Dillon Smit replace the injured Marco Jansen van Vuren and flanker Robert Kruger return from injury, while centre Jacques Nel, fullback Jaco van der Walt, winger Anthony Volminck and prop Justin Ackerman were drawn into the starting team with.

After going down at home last week, the Northern Cape side is expected to bounce back with intent, but they will expect tough competition from a Xerox Golden Lions side also licking their wounds after their narrow seven-point defeat last week.

Steval Pumas coach Brent Janse van Rensburg, meanwhile, was forced to make three injury-enforced changes to his team, which will see a new flanker combination of Thembelani Bholi and Lambert Groenewald start, while the absence of centre Ryan Nell has resulted a backline reshuffle and the inclusion of winger JP Lewis.

The coach expected a hard-fought forward battle against the Cell C Sharks, who have loaded their team with Vodacom Super Rugby players following the conclusion of their campaign last week, with flyhalf Curwin Bosch, prop Thomas du Toit, hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, and looseforward-twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, among others being named in their run-on side.

Their return is expected to inspire the KwaZulu-Natalians to register their first victory of the season and to build momentum early on in the series after losing out on a semi-final berth last year.

Defending champions, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, on the other hand will be determined to use the winning momentum they built up in the opening round when they meet DHL Western Province on Sunday.

The hosts have won the last two matches between the sides – one in Cape Town and the other in Bloemfontein – and interestingly, both of these victories have been by only seven points, meaning Sunday’s clash could be another nail-biting encounter.

Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan made four personnel changes to his team, which sees Springbok looseforward Oupa Mohoje join forces in the loose trio with Uzair Cassiem and Neill Jordaan, while winger Makazole Mapimpi and replacement back Malcolm Jaer will make their Currie Cup debut’s for the Bloemfontein side.

DHL Western Province will announce their team on Friday, but with their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign over, their side is expected to feature several players who were in action in the quarter-final last week.

Currie Cup Round 2 fixtures:

Saturday, 29 July:

Xerox Golden Lions v Tafel Lager Griquas

Xerox Golden Lions: Jaco van der Walt, Madosha Tambwe, Jacques Nel, Jarryd Sage, Anthony Volminck, Shaun Reynolds, Dillon Smit, Ryan Kankowski (captain), Robert Kruger, James Venter, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Justin Ackerman, Pieter Jansen, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Mike Willemse, Andrew Beerwinkel, Bobby de Wee, Hacjivah Dayimani, Bradley Thain, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Stokkies Hannekom.

Tafel Lager Griquas: Eric Zana, AJ Coertzen (captain), Tertius Kruger, Clinton Swart, Enver Brandt, George Whitehead, Christiaan Meyer, Jonathan JV Rensburg, Sias Koen, Wendal Wehr, Pieter JV Vuren, FP Pelser, Ewald van der Westhuizen, Marius Fourie, Liam Hendricks. Replacements: AJ Le Roux, Devon Martinus, Mzwanele Zito, RJ Liebenberg, Renier Botha, Andre Swarts, Johnathan Francke.

Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 12h00
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius & Vusi Msibi
TMO: Marius Jonker

Cell C Sharks v Steval Pumas

Cell C Sharks: Garth April, Kobus van Wyk, Jeremy Ward, Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi, Curwin Bosch, Michael Claassens, Daniel du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Botha (captain), Hyron Andrews, Ross Geldenhuys, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, Tyler Paul, Tera Mtembu, Jacques Vermeulen, Cameron Wright, Inny Radebe.

Steval Pumas: Gerrit Smith, Ruwellyn Isbell, Jerome Pretorius, Hennie Skorbinski (captain), JP Lewis, Justin van Staden, Stefan Ungerer, Carel Greeff, Lambert Groenewald, Thembelani Bholi, Hugo Kloppers, Jeremey Jordaan, Pieter Scholtz, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Kwezi Mona. Replacements: Frank Herne, De-Jay Terblanche, Jannie Stander, Chris Cloete, Reynier van Rooyen, Sias Ebersohn, Devon Williams.

Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17h00
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Archie Sehlako & Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans

Sunday, 30 July:

Toyota Free State Cheetahs v DHL Western Province

Toyota Free State Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Rosco Specman, Francois Venter, William Small-Smith, Makazole Mapimpi, Niel Marais, Shaun Venter, Neill Jordaan, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Reniel Hugo, Justin Basson, Tom Botha, Joseph Dweba, Charles Marais. Replacements: Ox Nche, Reinach Venter, Rynier Bernardo, Henco Venter, Zee Mkhabela, Ryno Benjamin, Malcolm Jaer.

DHL Western Province: TBA

Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 14h30
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Jaco Kotze & Griffin Colby
TMO: JJ Wagner

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