Preview: Rising stars in action

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:55
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The Vodacom Cup competition kicks off on Friday with two former South African Schools players looking to shine at senior provincial level.

The Vodacom Cup competition kicks off on Friday with two former South African Schools players looking to shine at senior provincial level.
Last year's champions, the Golden Lions, and runners-up, the Pumas are both in action on Friday - with the later opening the tournament against the Falcons in Kempton Park. 
The Leopards XV then host the Golden Lions in Potchefstroom with both these matches being played in the North Section, while the South Section opener will see the Sharks XV travel to East London to take on the Border Bulldogs.
This year sees the inclusion of Kenyan team, the  Simba XV, who will be taking on the EP Kings at their official home ground, City Park in Cape Town on Saturday, following this City Park will see another match when Western Province, champions in 2012, and neighbours from Wellington, the Boland Cavaliers, clash at this stadium in Athlone.
The Golden Lions and Western Province have handed opportunities to two rising stars in promising hooker Malcom Marx and flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe respectively, both of who represented South Africa at school boy level.
At only 19 Malcolm Marx is not far off incumbent Springbok hooker Bismark du Plessis build, standing only one cemtimetre shorter than the Sharks captain at 1.88m  and weighing in at one kilogram heavier at 113kgs he is a hugely imposing figure.
Marx has already rubbed shoulders with du Plessis when the Golden Lions Under-19 side helped the national team out at a number of training sessions in Johannesburg.
The Golden Lions hooker attended King Edward VII School which has a pedigree of producing Springboks such as Bryan Habana and Joe van Niekerk. He was named the Golden Lions’ Under-19 Forward of the Year in 2013 after a number of very strong performances for the runners up in the U19 provincial competition, where he scored a try in the final against the Blue Bulls Under-19s.
Marx is also part of the Lions’ wider Super Rugby squad and could make their tour squad as third hooker early in May. 
The physically strong ball carrier also brings leadership qualities to the table and is on the radar of the national selectors, a couple of strong performances in the Vodacom Cup will put him in line as a strong contender for the Junior Springbok squad for the Junior World Championships, which takes place in New Zealand in June.
Moving down towards the Cape, 20-year-old Western Province flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe will also be looking to shine against Boland on Saturday. 
Born in King William’s Town and matriculating at Wynberg Boys’ High School Notshe represented WP at the Under-18 Craven Weeks in 2010 and 2011. He made his senior debut last year in the Vodacom Cup before starring in the Capetonians’ Under-21 side, which won the junior provincial series in 2013.
Notshe, who was one of the stars in the Under-21 Final against the Blue Bulls U21s, is an excellent ball-carrier, has superb skills and is very fast. Similar in size to current Springbok loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee, he is 1.90m tall, tips the scales at 100kg and can play blindside flank or No 8. 
Notshe capped a great season in 2013 when he was voted Western Province’s most promising Under-21 player. He was duly included in the Stormers’ wider training squad earlier this season, but with loose forward stocks pretty solid in Cape Town, he will get another opportunity to shine in the Vodacom Cup in the coming weeks.
Competition format for 2014:
South Africa’s 14 provincial unions, as well as the Limpopo Blue Bulls and Kenyan debutants, the  Simba XV, will play in two sections, North and South, with eight teams in each of the groups. All the teams will play in a single round within their own section after which the top eight sides, four from each section, will progress to the play-offs.
Northern Section: Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Down Touch Griffons, Griquas, Leopards XV, Pumas, Falcons, Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls.
Southern Section: Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, EP Kings, Free State XV, Sharks XV, SWD Eagles,  Simba XV, Western Province.
Round 1 fixtures:
Friday, 7 March
Falcons v Pumas
Kick-off: 15.00
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Border Bulldogs v Sharks XV
Kick-off: 19.00
Venue: BCM Stadium, East London
Referee: Francois Pretorius
Leopards XV v Golden Lions
Kick-off: 19.10
Venue: Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Saturday, 8 March
Blue Bulls v Griquas
Kick-off: 14.30
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Simba XV v EP Kings
Kick-off: 15.00
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
Griffons v Limpopo Blue Bulls
Kick-off: 15.00
Venue: Bultfontein High School
Referee: Jaco Kotze
Free State XV v SWD Eagles
Kick-off: 16.00
Venue: Clive Solomon Stadium, Heidedal, Bloemfontein
Referee: Marius Jonker
Western Province v Boland Cavaliers
Kick-off: 16.40
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Pro Legoete