The heat is on in the Currie Cup Premier Division as three teams reach the halfway mark in the pool stages, which is expected to spice up the competition.
The action gets underway in Nelspruit on August 31, when the iCOLLEGE Pumas will go in search of only their third Currie Cup victory in 21 years against DHL Western Province. Both sides kicked the competition off with high-scoring bonus-point victories, which makes this a top-of-the-table clash. And with only four pool games remaining for them following this round, there will be no love lost.
DHL Western Province made four personnel changes for the clash, with Springboks Damian de Allende and Wilco Louw, as well as Sergeal Petersen and former Junior Springbok captain Ernst van Rhyn.
iCOLLEGE Pumas prop Khwezi Mona will earn his 50th cap for the team after being named in an unchanged starting line-up. Jimmy Stonehouse’s bench shows two changes as Hilton Lobberts and Nardus van der Walt were drafted in.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will be determined to make the most of their home ground advantage on Saturday after suffering defeats in their last two matches, which has left them at the foot of the log without a point. With the Cell C Sharks coming off a bonus-point win, and the Durbanites’ having won the last three outings between the sides, the hosts will be tested mentally and physically.
The Toyota Free State Cheetahs made wholesale changes to their side with their Guinness PRO14 team also in action, which sees only three players retain their places in the starting team, namely Dennis Visser (lock), Gunther Janse van Vuuren (prop) and Louis Fouche (flyhalf). The Cell C Sharks, in turn, named an unchanged team.
In the Gauteng derby, the Vodacom Blue Bulls will be hunting their first win against the Xerox Golden Lions since 2015 when the sides meet at Loftus Versfeld.
The Johannesburg outfit registered a convincing win in their opening game last week, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls were unable to build on their winning start to the competition against the Cell C Sharks last week. That result and the fact that they have only won one of their last four home games against their neighbours, is expected to fuel their motivation going into the clash.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls made four personnel changes, with Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane making his first Currie Cup appearance among three changes up-front, while the only backline change sees JT Jackson returning to midfield.
The Xerox Golden Lions also made minor changes, with lock Marvin Orie taking over the captaincy from Ross Cronje, who is replaced by Dillon Smit, while Howard Minisi and Lionel Mapoe will form a new centre pairing.
Currie Cup First Division
In the Currie Cup First Division defending champions, the Down Touch Griffons, will look to build on their success last season when they take to the field in their opening match, while the other five teams will target momentum after kicking off their campaigns last week.
The Border Bulldogs and SWD Eagles will kick off the action at the BCM Stadium in East London on Friday, with the Leopards and Boland Cavaliers taking to the field in Potchefstroom later that evening, while the Down Touch Griffons will host the Hino Valke in Welkom on Saturday.
In East London, Border and SWD will both be hunting their first wins of the season after going down in their opening matches, but the hosts will have to step up their defence significantly to achieve this after leaking more than 60 points last week.
The situation will be vastly different for the Boland Cavaliers and 2017 finalists, the Leopards, in Potchefstroom, as one of them could suffer their first defeat of the season. The Western Cape outfit was in top form last week scoring 70 points and leaking only 12, while the Leopards come off a narrow two-point victory, which means their defence will have to be solid to continue their winning ways.
The Down Touch Griffons will have to hit the ground running against the Hino Valke in Welkom after the men from Kempton Park racked up an impressive score of 66 points last week, which will boost their confidence going into the clash. The hosts, however, have won the last three encounters between the sides, which sets the scene for an exciting match.
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