PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round One
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The 2019 Currie Cup kicks off this weekend as six of the seven participating teams take to the field in the first of nine weekends of rugby.
The Sharks and Griquas will kick off South Africa’s premier domestic competition in Durban on Friday,
On Saturday the Golden Lions and the Pumas will meet Johannesburg, but the north-south derby between Western Province and the Blue Bulls in Cape Town will take centre stage on the same day.
Meanwhile, the Free State Cheetahs have a bye.
We take a closer look at all Round One’s fixtures:
Friday, July 12
Sharks v Griquas
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 19.15, 17.15 GMT)
The clash between the Sharks and Griquas could be a good showcase with the visitors high on confidence after winning the SuperSport Rugby Challenge combined with the upsets the Kimberley side have caused against the KwaZulu-Natalians in the past.
The hosts have won their last five matches against the Griquas, but they have suffered a few shock defeats both at home and in Kimberley against them in the last few years, meaning they will not underestimate the opposition.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt named a settled starting team featuring 10 players who played in the Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Brumbies, while the notable inclusion in his team is experienced Springbok JP Pietersen, who returned from France and will start at outside centre.
Junior Springboks Phendulani Buthelezi (loose forward) and Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf) have been included on the bench and will make their Currie Cup debuts if they take to the field.
The Griquas starting team bears a resemblance the one that defeated the Pumas in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, with the side being guided by their experienced flyhalf and captain George Whitehead.
“They [Griquas] are a close-nit group after being together for the last six months,” said Everitt. “We know we are in for a helluva game on Friday.
“We will never underestimate the Griquas. My experience of the Currie Cup is that they have been a bit of a nemesis.
“They got some really good individual players and they got an experienced flyhalf. They also got a fullback that is playing good rugby.”
2018: Sharks won 41-11, Kimberley
2017: Sharks won 40-22, Kimberley
2017: Sharks won 41-3, Durban
2016: Sharks won 46-24, Durban
2015: Sharks won 45-20, Kimberley
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Griquas: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Moxili, 18 NJ Oosthuizen, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Zandre Jordaan, 21 Chriswell September, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Eduan Keyter.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Vusi Msibi and Archie Sehlako
TMO: Christie du Preez
Saturday, July 13:
Golden Lions v Pumas
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
SuperSport Rugby Challenge runners up, the Pumas, will have a point to prove against the Golden Lions when they cross paths at Ellis Park.
The Lowvelders will be determined to put the disappointment of going down in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge final behind them, especially after winning all of their matches en route to the final, and to make a strong statement early in the competition.
They are, however, expected to face tough competition from the hosts, who are equally determined to show that they can be a force to reckoned with after a disappointing Super Rugby campaign.
Golden Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen named a team featuring a good mix of young players who have made a strong statement in the last two seasons and experienced players, with Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje leading their charge.
The Pumas, under the captaincy of Ryan Nell (centre), feature nine players who started in the Challenge final, which will give them confidence going into the clash.
“They [Pumas] had a good [Rugby Challenge] campaign,” said Van Rooyen. “They are a settled team and they got some good old heads, so they are a good rugby side.”
2018: Golden Lions won 33-21, Nelspruit
2017: Golden Lions won 29-28, Johannesburg
2017: Pumas won 43-36, Nelspruit
2016: Golden Lions won 68-26, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 41-11, Nelspruit
Prediction: Golden Lions
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 James Venter, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Ruben Schoeman, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Jan-Louis la Grange.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Jacobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Hermanus Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Cornelius Els, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ashlon Davids, 21 Christopher Smith, 22 Henko Marais, 23 Morgan Naude.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Eduan Nel
TMO: Lesego Legoete
Western Province v Blue Bulls
(Newlands Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
In Cape Town, Western Province will be hunting their fifth Currie Cup victory in a row against the Blue Bulls when the teams meet in a repeat of last year’s semifinal on Saturday. They will also look to maintain their good track record at home against their Pretoria rivals.
But both teams will be acutely aware that Western Province have won eight of their last nine home matches against the visitors from Pretoria, while the other match ended in a draw.
Western Province flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis and Edwill van der Merwe (wing) will make their Currie Cup debuts, while Corne Fourie (prop) will make his Western Province debut in a settled team featuring youth and experience.
The Blue Bulls welcome back Springbok lock Lood de Jager following his recovery from a shoulder injury and he will slot into a familiar team, featuring only one new face in Wian Vosloo (flank), who was at the Sharks last season.
Vosloo will make his Currie Cup debut for the team alongside De Jager, Cornal Hendricks and Rosko Specman (wings) and Wiehahn Herbst (prop).
Western Province head coach John Dobson knows that they can’t afford to let the Bulls get a lot of quality ball with their dangerous backline.
“They got five Springboks in their team and we’ve got one – It’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Dobson.
“Our packs is going to have to dominate and work. Our pack has to get ascendancy in this game because if we let them get on top of us then Burger [Odendaal] and Johnny [Kotze] will get momentum all the time and we will be under pressure.”
Blue Bulls head coach Pote Human said they are expecting a massive match against their Cape Town opponents.
“What a way to start this competition – against Province in Cape Town. It does not come tougher than this,” Human said.
The coach said De Jager’s return to action will be a good boost for their chances.
“Lood played very well before his injury and worked really hard to get back onto the field. I am sure he is ready to give it a good go. We have some form players in the team at the moment, but playing at Newlands against such a formidable team is always a tough start,” Human said.
Blue Bulls captain Burger Odendaal said they will need to make every opportunity count.
“With only one round in this year’s competition, we need to take every chance that comes our way. I expect this year’s Currie Cup to be very, very competitive and every result will be crucial. We need to start well and keep up the pressure in order to have a chance this weekend,” Odendaal said.
2018: Western Province won 35-32, Cape Town (semifinal, extra time)
2018: Western Province won 34-7, Pretoria (abandoned at half-time)
2017: Western Province won 46-45, Pretoria
2017: Western Province won 45-34, Cape Town
2016: Blue Bulls won 36-30, Pretoria (semifinal)
Prediction: Blue Bulls
Western Province: 15 SP Marais, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Josh Stander, 23 Craig Barry.
Blue Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Ruan Nortjie, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Dylan Sage.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Jabian Jeftha
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans