PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Three
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The pressure is rising drastically in the Currie Cup Premier Division with a handful of teams reaching the halfway stage of their pool rounds this weekend, which could push the tempo to another level.
The weekend’s games will see the return of Springboks Marvin Orie (Golden Lions) and Dillyn Leyds (Western Province) following their release from the national squad.
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will go in search of their first victories of the season in Nelspruit in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Free State Cheetahs face Griquas in Bloemfontein and Western Province go up against the Golden Lions in Cape Town.
The Sharks have a bye.
We take a closer look at all Round Three’s fixtures!
Friday, July 26:
Pumas v Blue Bulls
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit – Kick-off: 19.15; 17.15 GMT)
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will both go in search of their first victories of the season when they cross paths in Nelspruit in the opening match of the weekend.
The men from Pretoria have earned only one log point in the opening two rounds and the Pumas three, and with both sides already under pressure to turn the corner to keep alive their hopes of sneaking into the top four with only four pool games remaining, the match could be gripping.
The Blue Bulls have won the last two matches between the sides, but the Pumas emerged victorious in their last outing in Nelspruit. With both teams coming off encouraging attacking displays in their last two matches, they will be hoping they can make it count this week.
The Pumas made three personnel changes to their starting team, with Francois Kleinhans (flank) being named in a reshuffled loose trio, while Ashlon Davids (scrumhalf) and Chris Smith (flyhalf) form a new halfback pairing.
The Blue Bulls included Marco van Staden at flank, while Marnitz Boshoff has been handed the flyhalf duties in the only changes to the starting XV.
“We are in trouble with no wins after two rounds and so are the Pumas,” said Blue Bulls head coach Pote Human.
“They were unlucky in both their losses as they were pipped at the end, while we were outplayed in both our defeats and given that the match is on their home turf, they must be favourites.
“I know it is very early in the competition, but the reality is that another defeat could be a killer-blow for our chances to win the Currie Cup in 2019. We need to play with the urgency brought about by that reality and make sure we get our campaign back on track.”
Blue Bulls captain Ruan Steenkamp said they will have to show they are capable to go all the way.
“It is almost like the slogan for the tournament, it is effort re-loaded for us. We need a strong showing and we need a win. We are going into a venue where the Pumas have beaten us in the past, so they will come at us. We are all playing for the Blue Bulls to show that we are the best team in the competition and that starts on Friday.”
2018: Blue Bulls won 39-29, Pretoria
2017: Blue Bulls won 52-32, Pretoria
2017: Pumas won 51-15, Nelspruit
2016: Blue Bulls won 41-14, Nelspruit
2015: Blue Bulls won 25-24, Nelspruit
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Ryan Nel (captain), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleynhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Jacobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adri Smit, 20 Wihan Vosloo, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Jade Stighling.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Eduan Nel, Johre Botha
TMO: Johan Greeff
Saturday, July 27:
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
The Free State Cheetahs and the table-topping Griquas will enter their clash at the Free State Stadium on Saturday unbeaten, paving the way for an exciting clash.
The home side started their campaign on a winning note last week, and they will go up against opposition high on confidence after two bonus-point wins.
Griquas have had the upper hand between the sides in the last three matches – with one of their wins being in Bloemfontein – meaning the Free State Cheetahs will go in search of their first win against the Kimberley outfit since 2016.
🎥 Franco Smith on the changes to the team.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will take on the log leaders this Saturday at 15:00.
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) July 25, 2019
Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith made only one change to the starting line-up for their first home game, with Darron Adonis taking over from Louis Fouche at fullback, with the latter being named among the replacements.
“I have huge respect for Brent [Janse van Rensburg] and what he has done at the Griquas. They have always been a very tough side with a lot of players with more than 50 caps. It means that there is continuity,” said Smith.
“Going out on Saturday against them, we know that the Griquas will be a very determined side. I think that they might be the favourites, coming from a SuperSport Challenge Cup victory and two Currie Cup wins.
“We as a team will not be focusing on the team we face, but on our own objectives – to be the best team we can be. There are still a lot of improvements that we can make from last week. We look forward to playing our brand and to make a step up.”
The Griquas team showed three changes, with the inclusion of Johan Momsen (lock) being the only change among the forwards, while Tinus de Beer (flyhalf) and Bjorn Basson (wing) have been named in the backline, which sees captain George Whitehead switch to fullback.
2018: Griquas won 52-24, Kimberley
2017: Griquas won 59-24, Kimberley
2017: Griquas won 30-25, Bloemfontein
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 63-26, Bloemfontein
2015: Free State Cheetahs won 44-24, Bloemfontein
Prediction: Free State Cheetahs
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Darron Adonis, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Louis Fouche.
Griquas: 15 George Whitehead (captain), 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Eduan Keyter, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Moxili, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Zandre Jordaan, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Michal Haznar, 22 Grant Hermanus, 23 Ruan Kramer.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Eon van Zyl
TMO: JJ Wagner
Western Province v Golden Lions
(Newlands Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
In Cape Town, Golden Lions will face a Western Province side committed to bouncing back from a narrow defeat last week, while they will want to build on their winning start to the competition.
The Capetonians will draw inspiration from the fact that they won their last six home matches against the Jozi side.
The last meeting between the two sides in the competition was in Johannesburg last year, which Province won 68-35.
The home side will back their defence this week after conceding the same number of points (37) in two matches to the visitors’ one.
Western Province coach John Dobson made a number of changes to his side, which features a new halfback pairing of Paul de Wet (scrumhalf) and Josh Stander (flyhalf), while Leyds starts at fullback, which sees SP Marais take over on the left wing.
The changes up-front see Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No.8) and Carlu Sadie (tighthead prop) earn starts.
The Golden Lions team feature a new lock pairing of Orie and Ruben Schoeman, among the six changes to the starting side. Sithembiso Sithole (prop) and Pieter Jansen (hooker) will pack down in a new-look front low, with Hacjivah Dayimani coming in at No.8, while the only change among the backs sees Jan-Louis la Grange starting at centre.
Western Province captain Chris van Zyl said his team’s defeat to the Sharks in Round Two was a big learning curve.
“I think last week was completely out of character,” said Van Zyl. “There is a desperation that the guys really want to do well for each other and not sticking to the plan last week put us under pressure and I think we have fixed that.
“One of the bigger learnings was how important sticking to the plan was.”
2018: Western Province won 68-35, Johannesburg
2017: Western Province won 19-5, Cape Town (semifinal)
2017: Golden Lions won 29-20, Johannesburg
2017: Western Province won 39-3, Cape Town
2016: Golden Lions won 58-32, Johannesburg
Prediction: Western Province
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Edwill van der Merwe, 23 Sergeal Petersen.
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jan-Louis la Grange, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Jabian Jeftha
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
First Division, Round Four
Defending First Division champions, the SWD Eagles, will look to continue their dominance against the Boland Cavaliers and maintain their unbeaten run in the competition when the teams meet at Outeniqua Park.
The hosts, who come off two draws and a win in the first three rounds, will be determined to build winning momentum, but they will face a side hurting from a one-point defeat last week and who are desperate to build momentum after only one win.
SWD won their last two matches against the Wellington outfit, scoring over 50 points in the process, while they played to a 28-28 draw at this venue in 2015.
The clash between the Falcons and the Griffons in Brakpan is also expected to be thrilling as the home side goes in search of their third successive victory against a Welkom team hoping to build their performance.
The last match between the sides proved to be a proper showpiece with 108 points scored in the match – with the Falcons winning 56-52 – and with both teams determined to remain on the higher end of the log standings, it could prove to be another tight tussle.
The EP Elephants will be bracing themselves for a big battle against the Jaguares XV in Port Elizabeth after the Argentineans got their campaign off to flying start with three bonus-point wins in a row.
The hosts will draw inspiration from their first win last week – albeit by one point. They will, however, have to deliver a solid performance all around and be rock-solid on defence in particular, to contain the Argentineans, as the side has been hot on attack, scoring 182 points so far.
In Potchefstroom, the Leopards and Border Bulldogs will both have their sights set on a victory after a slow start to the competition, which has seen them languishing at the foot of the log standings.
Border have yet to win a match, while Leopards have struggled to gain momentum, although they will be inspired by their competitive performance last weekend in which they tested the Falcons thoroughly. With the Leopards having won all the match-ups between the sides in the competition dating back to 2014, they will enter the match with a mental edge.
First Division Round Four Fixtures:
Friday, July 26:
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT
Referee: Griffin Colby
Saturday, July 27:
Leopards v Border Bulldogs
Venue: Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT
Referee: Pablo Deluca
Falcons v Griffons
Venue: Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT
Referee: Quinton Immelman
EP Elephants v Jaguares XV
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT
Referee: AJ Jacobs