A look ahead to this weekend’s match-ups in the Currie Cup, including the big battle between the Free State Cheetahs and Golden Lions in Bloemfontein.
FREE STATE CHEETAHS vs GOLDEN LIONS (Friday, 7:15pm)
The current log leaders open this weekend’s round of fixtures hoping to maintain their unbeaten run against a resilient Golden Lions side. Franco Smith’s team has been aided by not having to split player resources between the Currie Cup and Pro14 competitions, and as such a sense of continuity has developed within the squad. This has seen the Bloemfontein team produce resounding victories against the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Griquas in recent weeks.
Former Springbok Ruan Pienaar will make his highly-anticipated debut for the Free State Cheetahs via the bench, providing backup to captain Tian Meyer. Another debutant, Tapiwa Mafura, is set to start at left wing in place of the injured William Small-Smith.
Having lost several senior players to overseas clubs after Vodacom Super Rugby this year, combined with numerous injuries to key players, the Golden Lions have endured a challenging campaign thus far. After tight comeback wins over the Pumas and Western Province, Ivan van Rooyen’s young side has certainly gained confidence going into what he believes to be the team’s toughest fixture to date.
Marvin Orie’s call-up to the Springbok squad in Auckland sees Wilhelm van der Sluys get a start. The rest of the starting lineup is unchanged with Jan-Henning Campher and Rhyno Herbst providing forward cover form the bench.
The clash between the two remaining unbeaten sides in the competition should be an intriguing affair, with the Golden Lions hoping to assert dominance early and avoid having to come from behind on the scoreboard once again. The Free State Cheetahs will look to continue their strong start to the campaign with another good performance at home.
FS Cheetahs – 15 Darren Adonis, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Ruan Pienaar, 23 Louis Fouche.
Golden Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jan-Louis la Grange, 11 Stean Pienaar; 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass.
PUMAS vs SHARKS (Saturday, 3pm)
After a narrow defeat last weekend and having missed out on a losing bonus-point, the Pumas head into Saturday’s clash with the Sharks as certain underdogs. The Nelspruit side is rooted to the bottom of the log with three losses from three games played and are in need a morale-boosting victory. The Pumas named an unchanged squad for this weekend’s matchup.
Fresh off a bye, the Sharks will look to build further momentum — after beating Western Province two weeks ago — when they head to the Mbombela Stadium. The Durbanites have a record of one win and one loss from their first two games and a win this weekend against tricky opposition will only add to their chances of winning the competition for the second year running.
Junior Springbok captain Phendulani Buthelezi has been selected to start at flank with Jacques Vermeulen shifting to the bench. The rest of the squad remains unchanged from the side who won at Kings Park before the bye weekend.
Despite being the favourites to take the victory, the Sharks can expect a tough encounter, but will be desperate to come away with valuable log points.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (c), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Christ Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
Sharks – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (c-c), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c-c), Phendulani Buthelezi, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
VODACOM BLUE BULLS vs GRIQUAS (Saturday, 5:15pm)
After consecutive defeats to begin their campaign, the Blue Bulls secured their first win of the competition last weekend against the Pumas, which has given the team a much needed confidence boost according to coach Pote Human.
The Bulls have stuck with a relatively settled squad with the exception being Manie Libbok starting at flyhalf. Marnitz Boshoff reverts to the bench, while Blitzbok Stedman Gans looks set to make his first appearance of the season as a replacement. Human’s team is looking to improve their current log position against a tough Griquas side with only three matches remaining before the semi-finals of this years truncated competition.
The visiting Griquas head to Loftus after starting the season positively with comfortable victories over the Sharks and Pumas. The men from Kimberley were then humbled by the Free State XV 68-14 last weekend.
Changes made to the Griquas team sees Bjorn Basson and Tinus de Beer being replaced in the starting lineup by Eduan Keyter and George Whitehead, respectively. Michal Hazner and Andre Swarts form the midfield pairing while in the pack, Johan Momsen has been replaced by Victor Sekekete.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge champions will be seeking an improved performance to avoid another heavy loss and to return to winning ways.
Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (c), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adri Smit, 20 Wihan Vosloo, 21Andre Warner, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Stedman Gans
Griquas – 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 André Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (c), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Niell 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.
Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Johan Momsen, 19 Zandré Jordaan, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Chris Smit, 22 Bjorn Basson, 23 Ruan Kramer.
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