The Cell C Sharks and Toyota Free State Cheetahs will go head-to-head for the top spot on the log in the Currie Cup – sponsored by Nashua and DirectAxis – on Saturday in a match that could give the winning side a vital nudge as the second half of the competition kicks off.
The clash in Durban is expected to be the match-up of the weekend as both sides have won five of their six matches up to now.
After starting the season with a defeat in the first round against the Free Staters, the Cell C Sharks are on a winning run of five matches. The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will in turn be hunting their third victory in a row.
The Cell C Sharks have had an edge over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in recent years in Durban, where they won four of their last five matches dating back to 2012, but the defending champions will draw inspiration from their victory in Durban last season.
The Cell C Sharks made five personnel changes to their run-on team – three of which were injury-enforced – which sees a new front row selected, while Keegan Daniel returns to the loose trio and winger Tythan Adams, a former Gold Cup star, will make his debut.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs in turn have named a completely new team with the Guinness PRO14 side also in action, with Springbok Sevens player Chris Dry leading the side, while former Junior Springbok looseforward Junior Pokomela also earns a start.The first match of the weekend takes place in Pretoria on Friday evening, when Tafel Lager Griquas will be looking to end a five-year Currie Cup losing run against the Vodacom Blue Bulls when they cross paths at Loftus Versfeld. The hosts will be desperate to bounce back after four back-to-back defeats.
The last time the men from Kimberley beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls was in 2012, but with both sides having won only two matches this season, the clash could prove to be a tight tussle.
Vodacom Blue Bulls coach John Mitchell made wholesale changes to his team with only six players – Lizo Gqoboka, Ruben van Heerden, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, JT Jackson and Warrick Gelant – retaining their places in the stating team that went down against the Steval Pumas, while the Tafel Lager Griquas retained their key combinations in starting XV that showed five personnel changes.
The Xerox Golden Lions, meanwhile, will look to bounce back from three successive defeats when they take on the Steval Pumas in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon. But they will face tough competition as the visitors are high on confidence after two wins – one of which was a 51 point score against the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
The Xerox Golden Lions team shows a number of personnel changes, amongst them the return of Ryan Kankowski and Madosh Tambwe to the starting team, while the bench has been boosted with the inclusion of Springbok Sevens player Branco du Preez.
The Steval Pumas, meanwhile, made only two injury-enforced changes with looseforward Willie Engelbrecht and flyhalf Kobus Marais replacing Francois Kleinhans and Justin van Staden respectively.
Currie Cup Premier Division Round 8 fixtures:
Friday, 1 September:
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Tafel Lager Griquas
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Johnny Kotze, JT Jackson, Rabs Maxwane, Marnitz Boshoff, Ivan van Zyl, Nic de Jager (captain), Jannes Kirsten, Shaun Adendorff, Ruben van Heerden, Aston Fortuin, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Edgar Marutlulle, Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Jano Venter, Tim Agaba, Andre Warner, Tony Jantjies/Tinus de Beer, Stedman Gans/Franco Naude.
Tafel Lager Griquas – AJ Coertzen (captain), Ederies Arendse, Tertius Kruger, Johnathan Francke, Koch Marx, Andre Swarts, Christiaan Meyer, Jonathan JV Rensburg, Sias Koen, Wendal Wehr, Pieter Janse van Vuren, FP Pelser, Stephan Kotze, Wilmar Arnoldi, Liam Hendricks. Replacements: AJ Le Roux, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Jonathan Adendorf, De Wet Kruger, Renier Botha, George Whitehead, Eric Zana.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Ruhan Meiring & Jaco Kotze
TMO: Willie Vos
Saturday, 2 September:
Xerox Golden Lions v Steval Pumas
Xerox Golden Lions – Sylvian Mahuza, Madosh Tambwe, Manual Rass, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Ashlon Davids, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Ryan Kankowski, Fabian Booysen, Cyle Brink, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen (captain). Replacements: Pieter Jansen, Corné Fourie, Jacobie Adriaanse, Robert Kruger, Hacjivah Dayimani, Branco du Preez, Jaco van der Walt.
Steval Pumas – Gerrit Smith; JP Lewis, Jerome Pretorius, Hennie Skorbinski (captain), Ruwellyn Isbell; Kobus Marais, Stefan Ungerer; Willie Engelbrecht, Lambert Groenewald, Thembelani Bholi, Hugo Kloppers, Stefan Willemse, Pieter Scholtz, Mark Pretorius, Kwezi Mona. Replacements: Frankie Herne, De-Jay Terblanche, Cameron Lindsay, Brian Shabangu, Chris Cloete, Reynier van Rooyen, Neil Maritz.
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Ruhan Meiring & Eduan Nel
TMO: Johan Greeff
Cell C Sharks v Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Cell C Sharks – Inny Radebe, Tythan Adams, Jeremy Ward, Lukhanyo Am, S’busiso Nkosi, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Louis Schreuder, Tera Mtembu, Jacques Vermeulen, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Botha (captain), Tyler Paul, John-Hubert Meyer, Akker van der Merwe, Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Franco Marais, Mzamo Majola, Jean Droste, Wian Vosloo, Michael Claassens, Marius Louw, Garth April.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Reinhardt Erwee, Carel-Jan Coetzee, JW Jonker, Stephan Janse van Rensburg, Luther Obi, Ryno Eksteen, JP Smith, Jasper Wiese, Chris Dry (captain), Junior Pokomela, Dennis Visser, Nicolaas Immelman, Luan de Bruin, Reinach Venter, Gert Kotze. Replacements: Elandre Huggett, Andrew Kuhn, Sibabalo Qoma, Ntokoza Vidima, Daniel Maartens, Dian Badenhorst, Marco Mason.
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Ben Crouse & Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker