Currie Cup, Round One - Teams and Predictions
RETURN OF THE OLD FRIEND: South Africa’s oldest premier domestic competition returns this weekend.
The opening round of the Currie Cup season has been overshadowed with the inaugural ProRugby Rainbow Cup final in Italy and the Springboks alignment camp in Bloemfontein.
However, for the die-hard South African rugby fans, this weekend is another chance to enjoy what local rugby has to offer.
Defending champions, the Bulls have the honour of hosting the Western Province in the big north-south derby.
Both camps know the significance of the trophy having been two of the most successful teams in the tournament.
Pine Pienaar will take the role of head coach for the Bulls’ round one match. Pienaar will be assisted by Hayden Groepes and Edgar Marutlulle.
The stand-in coach faces a major challenge as the Pretoria side field a ‘second-string’ side, having sent a 28-man squad to Treviso in a quest for a Rainbow Cup title.
For Western Province, this will be an ideal chance to kick off their campaign on a positive note with a rare win at Loftus.
The weekend’s drama starts when the Pumas and Lions go head-to-head in Nelspruit on Friday.
On Saturday the Griquas host the Sharks in Kimberly, followed by the North-South derby between Bulls and WP in Pretoria.
The Cheetahs have a bye.
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We look at all the Round One matches!
Friday, June 18
Pumas v Lions
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Lions may have won the last two Currie Cup catfights against the Pumas, but on both occasions, the men from Mbombela were in it, with each team scoring three tries apiece when they last met, on January 2 last year.
The Lowvelders have been boosted by the return of No.8 Willie Engelbrecht, who was on loan to the Stormers during the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA competition and who will add some real grunt upfront.
Experienced lock Pieter Janse van Vuren will yet again lead the Pumas in the Currie Cup, while prop Corné Fourie’s return to Nelspruit, after stints in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Japan and England, will add to their depth in the front row.
However, the Lions have unearthed a slew of brilliant young loose forwards recently, and all of them will be keen to build on their Rainbow Cup form in the Currie Cup. Former Junior Springbok No.8 Francke Horn, who returns from injury to lead the team, will start next to Vincent Tshituka and Sibusiso Sangweni this weekend.
Speaking to @rugby365com, Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse could not contain his excitement for the upcoming fixture.
“Happy to be back in action and happy to again play in the Currie Cup,” Stonehouse told @rugby365com
“I think the Lions are a lethal team. They have lost just one player in the shape of Wandisile Simelane to the Springboks and have the luxury of having all their players available,”
He added: “We as a team are very excited to open our Currie Cup campaign with a fixture at home.”
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team will be eager to build momentum.
“The Pumas are going to be tough opposition, they had some time to prepare their senior squad,” Van Rooyen said.
“We are under no illusion that Friday’s fixture is going to be easy, we know it is going to a tough game. I think we just want to build momentum and focus on the campaign and enhance the brand we playing.
“We have a couple of debutants and some guys returning,”
Van Rooyen added: “We are excited.”
Last 10 Currie Cup outings
2011: Lions won 31-27, Johannesburg
2011: Lions won 34-20, Nelspruit
2014: Lions won 29-15, Johannesburg
2015: Lions won 44-27, Johannesburg
2015: Lions won 41-11, Nelspruit
2016: Lions won 68-26, Johannesburg
2017: Pumas won 43-36, Nelspruit
2018: Lions won 33-21, Nelspruit
2019: Lions won 38-37, Johannesburg
2021: Lions won 33-25, Nelspruit
It is always difficult to go to Nelspruit and face the Pumas, but the Lions should be too strong for a win.
@rugby365com: Lions by 12 points
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouché, 9 Chriswil September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Dewald Maritz, 17 Eduan Swart, 18 Ignatius Prinsloo, 19 Brandon Valentine, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Ginter Smuts, 22 Matt Moore, 23 Liam Hendricks.
Lions:15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 11 Dillon Smit, 8 Francke Horn (captain), 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Replacements: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Banele Mthenjane, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruhan Straeuli, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Aidynn Cupido, 23 Duncan Matthews.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
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Saturday, June 19
Griquas v Sharks
(Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 13.30; 11.30 GMT)
Fresh from a morale-boosting pre-season win over the Cheetahs, the Griquas will be out to produce yet another upset against the Sharks.
Griquas last recorded a win over the Sharks was in 2019.
Both sides will be led out by new captains, both of whom led the Junior Springboks earlier in their careers.
Ruan Steenkamp, a former Bulls loose forward who made the move to Kimberley a few months ago, will captain the men from the Northern Cape, while the 22-year-old Phepsi Buthelezi has been handed the reins for the Sharks.
Curwin Bosch, who has played a lot of rugby, has been given a rest.
Centre Marnus Potgieter, who joined the Sharks from the Bulls, has been named on the bench for the match.
“We had the same opening fixtures since 2013,” Sharks coach Sean Everitt said when quizzed about the round one fixture.
“The Griquas will obviously pose a challenge to us. We have a Currie Cup coming up without our international players.
“However it is exciting for our youngsters who are getting an opportunity.”
He added: “They have a massive pack of physical forwards, so we need to go down there and squeeze them in a corner.”
Commenting on the appointment of his new captain who will lead his troops out onto the field on Saturday, Everitt said that it was Buthelezi’s leadership and maturity that made the decision an easy one.
“Phepsi was head boy at his school and captained the teams he played for at DHS and he’s a player mature beyond his years. He came to The Sharks at Under-19 level and excelled as a captain in the unbeaten team that won the trophy in 2018.
“Due to this and the performances, and his impressive leadership he became the national Under 20 captain in 2019, representing South Africa at the Junior World Cup.
“He has been playing exceptionally well, he’s a guy who has come through the ranks and we believe he is someone who can use this Currie Cup experience as a leader to take the Sharks forward in an exciting future.”
Last 10 Currie Cup outings
2013: Griquas won 32-20, Durban
2013: Sharks won 25-24, Kimberley
2014: Sharks won 31-24, Kimberley
2014: Griquas won 21-18, Durban
2015: Sharks won 45-20, Kimberley
2016: Sharks won 46-24, Durban
2017: Sharks won 41-3, Durban
2018: Sharks won 41-11, Kimberley
2019: Griquas won 37-13, Durban
2020: Sharks won 47-19, Durban
Despite missing a vast majority of their first-choice players, and Curwin Bosch on the sidelines, the Sharks are just too strong for Griquas.
@rugby365com: Sharks by 15 points.
Griquas: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Ederies Arendse, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 7 Sibabalo Qoma, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Andries Schutte, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements – from: Tiaan van der Merwe, Andrew Kuhn, Ewald van der Westhuizen, Jeandré Leonard, Hanru Sirgel, Raegan Oranje, Theo Boshoff, Christopher Hollis, Tijde Visser, Enver Brandt, Ashlon Davids.
Sharks: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Mpilo Gumede, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Marnus Potgieter.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Mpho Matsaung, Franco de Bruin
TMO: AJ Jacobs
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Bulls v Western Province
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT)
The last time these two met, the Bulls snuck home by 22-20 thanks to a late converted try during the Currie Cup clash in Cape Town.
Both unions will field depleted teams in Pretoria on Saturday. In the Bulls’ case, 44 players cannot be considered for Saturday’s clash.
While Western Province will be without 28 players.
Sango Xamlashe (centre), who led Tuks to the 2021 Varsity Cup title, will captain the Bulls side, which also features a return to action for promising prop Simphiwe Matanzima.
The Bulls’ depth will certainly be tested against the WP side.
However, Bulls stand-in coach Pienaar revealed there is no extra pressure and the side will try a couple of new things.
“We have nine guys from club rugby and there will be 22 debutants in the squad,” Pienaar said.
“Think Monday was just an introduction session. The atmosphere inside the squad is unbelievable, the players are eager to make an impression and just want to go out and express their talent.
“They are playing against a very impressive WP team, and there are loads of talent to look out for.”
He added: “We will try a couple of new things which will suit this team.
“We have a good combination between forwards and backs they will want to play with ball in hand.”
Last 10 meetings in the Currie Cup
2015: WP won 29-14, Cape Town
2015: WP won 23-18, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 45-26, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 36-30, Pretoria
2017: WP won 45-34, Cape Town
2017: WP won 46-45, Pretoria
2018: WP won 34-7, Pretoria
2018: WP won 35-32, Cape Town
2019: WP won 20-5, Cape Town
2020: Bulls won 22-20, Cape Town
The teams have met 47 times in the Currie Cup, with WP having a narrow edge – 23 wins to 22. There have been two draws. Aside from the incredible history, the Loftus Versfeld record is also on the line.
@rugby365com: Western Province by five points
Bulls: 15 Richard Kriel, 14 Sebastiaan Jobb, 13 Sango Xamlashe (captain), 12 Louritz van der Schyff, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Jandré Burger, 9 Johan Mulder, 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout, 7 Jaco Labuschagne, 6 Henco Beukes, 5 Tiaan de Klerk, 4 JJ Scheepers, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Werner Fourie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements – from: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Donald, 18 Mhleli Dlamini, 19 Adolph Visser, 20 Eduan Lubbe, 21 Tiaan Fourie, 22 Kabelo Mokoena, 23 Niel Beukes, 24 Uzile Tele.
Western Province: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Sihle Njezula, 13 Rikus Pretorius, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Niel Otto, 5 David Meihuizen, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements (from): 16 Sazi Sandi, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Cornel Smit, 24 Jason Alexander, 25 De Wet Marais, 26 Chris Schreuder.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Local appointments
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks