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Currie Cup, Round One - teams and predictions

PREVIEW: The teams – players and coaches alike – will tell you the Currie Cup remains South Africa’s premier domestic competition.

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They claim it still holds the same ‘values’ and prestige that made it one of the world’s most prestigious domestic competitions.

However, a careful analysis of their comments and team selections makes it clear the Currie Cup has been reduced to a ‘development’ competition.

The absence of United Rugby Championship and Springbok players makes it obvious that ‘development’ is the focus.

While the betterment and metamorphosis of the wider squads are what the URC franchises home in on, the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas are having gold fever.

Sharks coach JP Pietersen admitted that Director of Rugby Neil Powell spoke about ‘blooding youngsters’.

“We want to see if they are capable of playing URC,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “We also want to give the URC players that did not play much this year some game time.

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“There’s the protocol of having to rest player and our Springboks are also out.”

While the Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas are very focused on winning the Currie Cup, Pieterse admitted they have ‘additional’ priorities.

“We want to win every game.

“It is a great opportunity for them to put their hand up,” Pietersen said, adding that the Bok selectors will also keep a keen eye on the domestic stage.

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“That’s what it was when I played – you played in the Currie Cup to show the Springbok coach what you are capable of.

“The Currie Cup is still valuable for South Africa.”

(Article continues below the Pietersen interview …)

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Izak van der Westhuizen, coach of the defending champion Cheetahs, said the Currie Cup is the ‘livelihood’ of their players and a massive opportunity to showcase their skill and talent.

“The Currie Cup, for us, is still a big competition,” Van der Westhuizen told @rugby365com.

“We take pride in playing in the Currie Cup competition and the guys are motivated for this.”

Victor Sekekete said the Currie Cup is “still the most” important competition in South Africa.

“It is a base for players to launch their careers from.

“We embrace it and look forward to it.

“It is a very special competition and everyone knows it.

“A lot of other opportunities can come through the Currie Cup.”

Western Province assistant coach Labeeb Levy admitted the URC franchises will look at the ‘bigger picture’ and look to build some depth ahead of the new URC season in September.

“We have a few Under-21 players [in our group] and would like to see if they can take this opportunity.”

With the Currie Cup Final scheduled to coincide with the opening round of the URC, on September 21, the WP coaches will have to be ‘creative’ with their selections.

“We are living in interesting times,” Levy said, adding: “We are also looking to blood new players.

“We will look to see which players we can call up to the URC and this is an opportunity to see them in a pressured environment.”

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The Currie Cup kicks off on Friday and will reach its climax with the Final on September 21.

In an exciting new feature, the competition will be staged over one-and-a-half rounds, followed by two semifinals and the Final.

This season, the eight teams are divided into two groups of four each by last year’s standings.

The one group will consist of the Cheetahs (No.1 ranked last year), the Bulls (No.4), Western Province (No.5) and the Griffons (No.8),.

The second group includes the Sharks (ranked No.2), Pumas (No.3), Lions (No.6) and Griquas (No.7).

Teams will play home and away matches within their respective groups plus a single round of games against sides in the opposite group.

In the end, the top four sides on the combined log will progress to the semifinals on the weekend of September 14 (one plays four and two plays three), with the two winners set to battle it out for the famous Currie Cup.

To kick off matters, Griquas and the Pumas meet on Friday in Kimberley in a repeat of the recently held SA Cup Final, which the Northern Cape side won to capture the crown.

Friday afternoon’s early match will be followed by the game in Durban between the Sharks and Lions.

Following Friday’s two matches, the action then moves to Bloemfontein on Saturday, when the defending champions, the Cheetahs, open their campaign against the Griffons in a big Free State derby.

Nowadays without their former talisman and skipper Ruan Pienaar, who retired a few months ago, the Bloemfontein outfit still runs out as slight favourites to open their season with a win, even though the team from Welkom beat their neighbours to the south in the SA Cup.

The first-round action concludes on Sunday with the traditional South-North derby between hosts Western Province and arch-rivals the Bulls in Cape Town.

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WP playmaker Jean-Luc du Plessis said he can’t wait to get going again as they look to add to their record 34 Currie Cup titles.

“The Currie Cup and the WP jersey still means a lot to the players and this union,” Du Plessis said, adding: “I think everyone was relieved that a decision was made and we get to play.

“WP has a lot of history in this competition and the players are hungry for game time and to get out on the field and play the game we love.

“The end goal is to lift the trophy yet that’s still a long way down the line and we’ll definitely take it week by week. But we’re definitely going out there to perform well.”

Turning his attention to the challenge the Bulls will present this weekend, Du Plessis expects a fierce contest against a team that WP beat home and away in the Currie Cup last season.

“Every time you get to put on the famous blue and white hooped jersey there’s a lot of inspiration to perform well.

“And to have our competition opener at the Cape Town Stadium against the old foes the Bulls, we don’t need any added motivation.

“It’s going to be a good game and I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully we do right by our supporters and the union and get a good result.”

All the weekend’s teams and predictions follow below

Friday, July 5

Griquas v Pumas
(Griqua Stadium, Kimberley – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Griquas by five points

Griq v Pumas prediction

Teams

Griquas: 15 Cameron Hufke, 14 Marcqiewn Titus, 13 Sango Xamlashe, 12 Mnombo Zwelendaba, 11 Sako Makata, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Thomas Bursey, 8 Hanru Sirgel, 7 Marco de Witt, 6 Stephan Smit (captain), 5 Albert Liebenberg, 4 Dylan Sjoblom, 3 Janu Botha, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Leon Lyons
Replacements: 16 Gustav du Rand, 17 Eddie Davids, 18 Cebo Dlamini, 19 Athenkosi Khetani, 20 Carl Els, 21 Bobby Alexander, 23 Lubabalo Dobela, 23 Tertius Kruger.

Pumas: 15 Stefan Coetzee, 14 Lundi Msenge, 13 De-an Ackermann, 12 Wian van Niekerk, 11 Phiko Sobahle, 10 Clinton Swart, 9 Ross Braude, 8 Kwanda Dimaza, 7 Ruwald van der Merwe, 6 Ntsika Fisanti, 5 Shane Kirkwood, 4 Malembe Mpofu, 3 Sampie Swiegers, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Etienne Janeke.
Replacements: 16 Darnell Osuagwu, 17 Stephan de Jager, 18 Dewald Maritz, 19 Deon Slabbert, 20 Marvelous Mashimbyi, 21 Richman Gora, 22 Danrich Visagie, 23 Tino Swanepoel.

Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Ben Crouse

Sharks v Lions
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Lions by seven points

Sharks v Lions prediction

Teams

Sharks: 15 Hakeem Kunene, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Diego Appollis, 12 Murray Koster, 11 Jaco Williams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Bradley Davids, 8 Nick Hatton (captain), 7 Jannes Potgieter, 6 Tino Mavesere, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Coetzee Le Roux, 3 Khwezi Mona, 2 Daniel Jooste, 1 Abraham Reyneke.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Phatu Ganyane, 18 Mawande Mdanda, 19 Reinier Viljoen, 20 Siya Ningiza, 21 Tiaan Fourie, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Muller du Plessis.

Lions: 15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Boldwin Hansen, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Zander du Plessis, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Izan Esterhuizen, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Jarod Cairns, 5 Ruben Schoeman, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 RF Schoeman, 2 Jaco Visagie (captain), 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 SJ Kotze, 18 Heiko Pohlmann, 19 Ruhan Straeuli, 20 Renzo du Plessis, 21 Layton Horn, 22 Rynhardt Jonker, 23 Tapiwa Mafura.

Referee: AJ Jacobs
TMO: Christie du Preez

Saturday, July 6

Cheetahs v Griffons
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 13.00; 11.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Cheetahs by 18 points

Cheetahs v Griffons prediction

Teams

Cheetahs: 15 Litha Nkula, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Munier Hartzenberg, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Daniel Kasende, 10 Ethan Wentzel, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacement: 16 Vernon Paulo, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Pierre Uys, 20 Neels Volschenk, 21 Jandré Nel,22 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 23 George Lourens.

Griffons: 15 Qamani Kota, 14 Gilroy Philander, 13 Keanu Vers, 12 Jandre de Beer, 11 Gurshwin Wehr, 10 Duan Pretorius, 9 Keegan Schaefer, 8 Orateng Koikanyang, 7 Wikus Nieuwenhuis, 6 Thato Mavundla, 5 Curtly Thomas, 4 Rian Olivier, 3 Moango Ngundue, 2 Chadley Wenn, 1 Xolani Jacobs.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Mthokozisi Gumede, 18 Buhle Nojekwa, 19 Joshua Paris, 20 Jared Kruger, 21 Siphamandla Mingo Piti, 22 Cheslin Arendse, 23 Robbie Petzer.

Referee: Paul Mente
TMO: Ben Crouse

Sunday, July 7

Western Province v Bulls
(Cape Town Stadium – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: TBC

Teams

Western Province: 15 Luke Burger, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Jurie Matthee, 9 Imad Khan, 8 Willie Engelbrecht (captain), 7 Connor Evans, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 Gary Porter, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Vernon Matongo, 18 Corne Weilbach, 19 Hendre Stassen, 20 Paul de Villiers, 21 Louw Nel, 22 Labib Kannemeyer, 23 Damian Markus.

Bulls: 15 Boeta Chamberlain, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 12 Chris Barend Smit, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Nizaam Carr (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Corné Beets, 5 Sintu Manjezi, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Jope van Zyl, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Juann Else, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Merwe Olivier, 20 Celimpilo Gumede, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Cornal Hendricks.

Referee: Griffin Colby
TMO: Egon Seconds

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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