Currie Cup, Round One - teams and predictions
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS: It is with acknowledgement to the American heavy metal band Metallica that I document the build-up to the opening round of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
Argentina and New Zealand will disagree vehemently and have every right to suggest their Tri-Nations encountered is the match of the weekend.
Wales and England will make an equally vigorous argument that their Nations Cup face-off deserves top billing.
However, for South African fans ‘nothing else matters’.
The Currie Cup is back and it has a vast cast of Springboks on show!
Newlands will get top billing this week, as it hosts the big north-south derby – Western Province at home to their arch rivals the Blue Bulls.
Province coach John Dobson, like his Bulls counterpart Jake White, is a self-proclaimed ‘traditionalist’.
Dobson emphasised the significance and value of the competition when he said the Currie Cup is as much part of the South African fabric as Newlands is.
“For players like Siya [Kolisi], Frans [Malherbe] and Kitsy [Steven Kitshoff] to get a chance to wear the blue-and-white hoops [WP colours] in our last season at Newlands is very special for us,” Dobson told a virtual media briefing.
“We want to make sure there is a game played here [at Newlands] on January 16 [semifinal] and January 23 [Final].
“That journey [to get into the play-offs] starts this weekend and we are really excited,” Dobson added.
Kolisi echoed his coach’s sentiments when he said putting on the Province jersey is special to him, because he made his senior debut for Western Province against the Golden Lions as a 19-year-old in 2011.
In the last decade he has made only 30 Currie Cup appearances for WP, but has well over 100 games for the Stormers and played his 50th Test for the Springboks when he lead then to a 32-12 victory over England in the World Cup Final in Japan on November 2 last year.
“I have never won a trophy as a Western Province player,” he said, speaking of the desire for WP to make their last campaign at Newlands a successful one.
“There is no better way to start the Currie Cup campaign than against the Bulls,” Kolisi told a virtual media briefing.
The weekend’s drama starts when the Sharks and Pumas go head-to-head in Durban on Friday.
Saturday Griquas host the Golden Lions in Kimberley then follows and the North-South derby between WP and the Bulls in Cape Town.
The defending Currie Cup champions, the Cheetahs, have a bye.
We look at all the Round One matches below the video!
Friday, November 27
Sharks v Pumas
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Sharks have made their intentions clear. They are going to use brute force to squash the Pumas.
Jeremy Ward will lead a team that includes World Cup-winning Springbok prop Thomas du Toit and has former Junior Bok Juan van der Mescht – a regular lock – on the flank.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, who was forced into making six changes, believes the conditions are playing a big part in the hosts’ team selections.
He said the prospect of rain in Durban on Friday is the reason why the Sharks named such a gargantuan pack – with Du Toit and Van der Mescht adding significant muscle.
“They are clearly going to try and put us under pressure in the scrums, get penalties and launch mauls from the line-outs,” Stonehouse told @rugby365com.
“We all know they are not an attacking team.
“They prefer the territorial game and use the boot to get out of their half.
“We have some significant injuries, especially the forwards. Our lack of depth is busy catching up with us.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said it was good to have his World Cup-winning Springbok prop in the pack, after his team struggled in the set pieces in Super Rugby Unlocked.
The decision to move Van der Mescht to the side of the scrum – in a Pieter-Steph du Toit type role – is an “experiment”.
“We still see JJ [van der Mescht] as a lock,” Everitt said, adding: “If it works and it goes well, he will be an option in that position.
“That [the trial being a success] will be great for the Sharks.”
Everitt said the team’s long-term goal is to win trophies.
“It is a home game and an opportunity for the team to perform.
“We haven’t lost a game at home yet this year, so it is important for us to get points on the standings.”
Last 10 meetings in the Currie Cup
2011: Sharks won 33-20, Durban
2014: Sharks won 34-17, Durban
2014: Pumas won 32-22, Nelspruit
2015: Pumas won 33- 24, Nelspruit
2015: Sharks won 27-26, Durban
2016: Sharks won 33-10, Nelspruit
2017: Sharks won 29-0, Durban
2017: Sharks won 27-25, Nelspruit
2018: Sharks won 28-12, Durban
2019: Pumas won 27-20, Nelspruit
The two teams have met 27 times in Currie Cup matches, with the Sharks winning 22 time. The Pumas won their last encounter, in Nelspruit last year, but the men from Nelspruit have never won in Durban.
@rugby365com: Sharks to win by 16 points.
Sharks: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 Juan van der Mescht, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Daniel Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Zain Davids, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Sibusiso Nkosi.
Pumas: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Devon Williams, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willem Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Brendon Snyman, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Hendrik van Schoor, 1 Liam Hendriks.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Heath Backhouse, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Wayne van der Bank, 22 Theo Boshoff, 23 Dewald Maritz.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Paul Mente
TMO: Marius Jonker
(Continue below …)
Saturday, November 28
Griquas v Golden Lions
(Griqua Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 16.30; 14.30 GMT)
Griquas – despite not winning a single match in their Super Rugby Unlocked campaign – have a fearsome reputation on their home ground.
The Sharks were rather fortunate to escape with a one-point (34-33) win from Kimberley a fortnight ago.
Their opponents, the Lions are determined to close the gap between themselves and the top four teams on the Currie Cup log – with points from the Unlocked leg being carried over into the Currie Cup.
However, the Lions also escaped Kimberley with a fortuitous one-point (27-26) in their last visit to Kimberley – August last year.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen wasted no time in drafting in some heavy hitters – Springboks Jaco Kriel (flank), Willem Alberts (lock) and Ruan Dreyer (prop) – into the starting line-up.
There are three more Boks on the bench to call on – Roelof Smit (loose forward), Jannie du Plessis (prop) and Ross Cronjé (scrumhalf).
“It is nice having some of the senior guys back,” Van Rooyen told a virtual media briefing.
With their Round Six match cancelled as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Pumas camp and the Lions having a bye in Week Seven, several players recovered from their injury niggles.
Van Rooyen said the Boks are excited to be involved in the Currie Cup again.
“Elton [Jantjies, the captain] played two Currie Cup games in the last five years,”the coach said.
“Someone like Willem [Alberts], his last Currie Cup game was in 2013. There is a lot of excitement in the group for the start of the Currie Cup.
“We all grew up with the Currie Cup, watching it for years and year. There is a nice energy in our camp about the competition.”
Van Rooyen said his team has been improving steadily during Unlocked – before the two-week break – so they are “excited” and looking forward to the trip to Kimberley.
“We are ready to go play our brand and live the energy of the Currie Cup.
“We have to hit the ground running. We were very clear to the players about our expectations.”
Last 10 meetings in the Currie Cup
2012: Griquas won 37-21, Kimberley
2013: Lions won 38-32, Kimberley
2013: Lions won 35-28, Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 46-8, Kimberley
2015: Lions won 29-19, Johannesburg
2016: Griquas won 30-24, Kimberley
2017: Lions won 48-43, Johannesburg
2017: Lions won 34-17, Kimberley
2018: Lions won 62-41, Johannesburg
2019: Lions won 27-26, Kimberley
The Lions and Griquas have met 35 times in the Currie Cup, with the Lions winning 26 of those. All but two of Griquas’ victories over the team from Johannesburg were in Kimberley. Griquas’ last win in this head-to-head was in 2016.
@rugby365com: Lions by 12 points
Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Johan Momsen, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Hendrick Luus, 1 Nqobisizwe Mxoli.
Replacements – from: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Carl Els, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Andre Swarts, 23 Enver Brandt, 24 Bandisa Ndlovu, 25 Ewan Coetzee, 26 Masixole Banda.
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen; 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel, 24 Jannie du Plessis, 25 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 26 Manuel Rass
Referee: Marius van der Westerhuizen
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Griffin Colby
TMO: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Western Province v Blue Bulls
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
Both camps have been talking up the opposition and seemed desperate to claim the ‘underdog’ tag.
It suggests we are in for a typical north-south arm-wrestle in which no quarter will be asked or given.
The Bulls, who claimed the Super Rugby Unlocked title, start with a handy four-point lead on the standings.
However, in Western Province they have a formidable foe and a Springbok-laden side.
The Bulls 39-6 demolition of the Stormers in Pretoria last month has come up repeatedly this week and the Bulls have made no secret of the fact that they expect a physical onslaught from a team determined to exact retribution.
WP coach John Dobson said he feels his team is in much better shape than what they were at Loftus.
“We were well beaten by the Bulls,” Dobson said, adding: “We feel we are certainly a different team and want to do the jersey proud.”
Bulls coach Jake White pointed to his team’s poor Currie Cup record at Newlands.
They have not won in Cape Town in this competition for more than a decade – with a 24-all draw in 2013 the closest they came and they last win a two-point (21-19) in 2009.
“Province also had two weeks to prepare,” he said of their cancelled match (against the Sharks) last week.
White also felt the Bulls should not read too much into their Unlocked Round Four win over the Stormers in Pretoria last month.
“This [WP] coaching panel has been together for some time and this group of players have been together for a long time.
“We should not get ahead of ourselves.
“This is going to be a massive challenge for us. I have no doubt they [WP] will be up for it. That [loss] will drive them.
“They have several World Cup winners in their team and have everything in their favour.”
As for the matchday tactics, White hinted that WP may rely on the boot and their gargantuan pack to get them over the line.
“Everyone thinks we [the Bulls] kick a lot, but I have looked at the stats. We kick a lot less than most of the other teams.
“Province kick more than any other team.”
He added the Newlands factor – and the likelihood that it’s the last north-south derby – also plays a big role.
“This time next year Newlands is no more,” White said, adding: “I have spoken to the players about the history and the players who played on that pitch.
“We must pay homage to the venue and ensure the game is remembered for the fact that we were at our best and give it a worthy farewell.”
Last 10 meetings in the Currie Cup
2015: Bulls won 47-29, Pretoria
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
The teams have met 46 times in the Currie Cup, with WP have a narrow edge – 23 wins to 21. There have been two draws.
@rugby365com: Western Province by five points
Western Province: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 John Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements – from: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Kwenzo Blose, 19 Neethling Fouche, 20 David Meihuizen, 21 Chris van Zyl, 22 Jaco Coetzee, 23 Marcel Theunissen, 24 Godlen Masimla, 25 Tim Swiel, 26 Ruhan Nel.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Divan Uys
TMO: Rasta Rasivhenge
* Statistics provided by Eddie Grieb