The Vodacom Blue Bulls will be aiming to maintain their perfect start to the Currie Cup when they take on the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs
The Bulls romped to their fourth successive bonus-point win last weekend, with Nollis Marais’s team impressively averaging 46 points scored per fixture up until now.
It’s been an impressive start to the season for the enterprising Bulls, and this week they have been further boosted by the return of Springboks Marcel van der Merwe, Francois Hougaard and Jan Serfontein.
Although the Bulls began their season with a 57-19 win over the Cheetahs, the Bloemfontein-based side has improved significantly since then, and recorded their best win of the season so far when they overcame Western Province last weekend.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Sharks vs Pumas
The Sharks remain a work in progress, but have a golden opportunity to secure a second successive win that could quite possibly elevate them into the top four for the first time.
In the opening round of the competition, the Pumas shocked the Sharks in Nelspruit, but it’s unlikely the Durban-based side will be caught out again, especially playing at home this time.
Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach will provide the Sharks with a much needed boost, and he is one player who surely has a point to prove.
Sharks – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Dan du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 JC Astle, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Stefan Ungerer, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.
Western Province vs Griquas
It’s been a challenging start to the season for Province, with the defending champs having played three of their first four games away from home, while they’ve recently suffered back-to-back defeat against the Bulls and Cheetahs.
However, they now have an opportunity to start rebuilding some lost momentum, particularly against a battling Griquas side that has yet to record a victory this season.
This week Western Province have been boosted by the availability of prop Steven Kitshoff and scrumhalf Nic Groom. Kitshoff will join forces with fellow Bok Scarra Ntubeni in the front row, while Groom will form a new-look halfback combination with Kurt Coleman.
Western Province – Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Rob du Preez, 22 Dillyn Leyds.
Griquas – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Sandile Ngcobo, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ruhan Nel, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Carel Greeff, 7 RJ Liebenberg, 6 Hilton Lobberts, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jaco Nepgen, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Jonathan Adendorf, 20 Leon Karemaker, 21 Gouws Prinsloo, 22 Jacquin Jansen.
Golden Lions vs EP Kings
This match has been shrouded in some doubt as a result of the wage dispute that’s seen the Kings players opt out of training this week, while emergency resolution talks have been underway.
There was some speculation that the clash might not even go ahead, and although the issue was eventually resolved on Thursday, it remains to been seen just how motivated the Kings will be for the match, and how this week’s disruptions may have affected them.
After four successive bonus-point wins that have taken them to the top of the log, the Lions have looked to keep it business as usual this week, with coach Johan Ackermann once again making a number of rotational selections.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi (c), 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Lohan Jacobs, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Fabian Booysen, 6 Stephan de Wit, 5 Martin Muller, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Lourens Erasmus, 19 TBA, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Jacques Nel.
EP Kings – 15 Hansie Graaff, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Tim Whitehead (c), 11 Sylvian Mahuza, 10 Karlo Aspeling, 9 Dwayne Kelly, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Tazz Fuzani, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Basil Short, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Eital Bredenkamp, 20 Enrico Acker, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 JP du Plessis.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix