Preview: Currie Cup, Round One
CURRIE CUP PREMIER DIVISION: The North-South derby between Blue Bulls and Western Province will headline the opening round of this year's Currie Cup Premier Division.
The old foes will meet at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday in what will be the first match in Round One.
The other Friday match sees the Sharks travelling to Nelspruit to face the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium.
There is only one match on Saturday. Boland will start their campaign at home against the Free State Cheetahs.
Eastern Province's scheduled fixture against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday has been postponed. EP will play their first game in round two on August 13.
The Golden Lions, who are the reigning champions, will also have a bye in Round One
We take a look at all the Round One action!
Blue Bulls v Western Province
The two most successful Currie Cup sides ever clash in what is expected to be a thrilling encounter, as the Blue Bulls look to make the most of their home ground advantage against the 2014 champions, who in turn will be determined to pick up where they left off last season, when they finished as runners-up to the Golden Lions.
This match is a repeat of the 2015 semifinal, when the Cape side emerged 23-18 victors in Pretoria.
Earlier this season, Western Province beat the Blue Bulls by 30-16 in Cape Town, which means they will be going for a third successive win over the men in light blue.
Penalties proved to be a key source of points for in last year's Currie Cup semifinal. Blue Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman kicked six penalties for his team's 18 points, while Western Province flyhalf Robert du Preez kicked three penalties for all his team’s first half points.
Prediction: The Blue Bulls have a more settled team featuring a number of Super Rugby campaigners. Western Province's team is brimming with some exciting young talent, but they look like a team that will need a few games together to gel. Expect the Bulls to win by 10 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Bjorn Basson, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Entienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 Eli Snyman, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Dan Kriel.
Western Province: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Khanyo Ngcukana, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Daniel du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Jacques Vermeulen, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 JP Smith, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Brandon Thomson, 22 Johnny Kotze.
Date: Friday, August 5
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17.10 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Vusi Msibi, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff
Pumas v Sharks
The clash between the Pumas and Sharks should also be exciting given the hard-fought encounters between the sides last season.
The teams also met in the opening match of their campaigns last season at the Mbombela Stadium, which the Lowvelders won 33-24, but the Durbanites pipped them by a point in their second outing later in the season (27-26).
In the last two outings between the Pumas and Sharks, the kicking battle between Pumas flyhalf JC Roos and Sharks fullback Joe Pietersen proved to be a key battle. Roos kicked 26 points and Pietersen 21 for their teams in those matches.
Prediction: The Pumas are always tough to beat in Nelspruit. However, the Sharks have Robert du Preez as their coach now, so they should be a more educated bunch. The Sharks will win by 10 points or less.
Pumas: 15 Justin van Staden, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Hennie Skorbinski, 12 Marlou van Niekerk, 11 JP Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Brian Shabangu, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 De Jay Terblanche, 2 Frankie Herne, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Jacques Kotze, 18 Wiehan Hay, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Deon Helberg, 22 Devon Williams.
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Neil Maritz, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Ruan Botha, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Stefan Ungerer, 21 Inny-Christian Radebe, 22 Heimar Williams.
Date: Friday, August 5
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 19.20 (17.20 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Pro Legoete, Ricus van der Hoven
TMO: Willie Vos
Boland Cavaliers v Free State Cheetahs
Boland will be determined to make a good impression in what will be their first appearance in the Currie Cup Premier Division since 2009.
In fact, the last match Boland played in the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2009 was against the Free State Cheetahs in Wellington. The Free State side won the clash 55-10, with flyhalf Danré Gerber scoring all of the home team's points on the day, compliments of a try, penalty goal and conversion.
Boland will face a seasoned Free State Cheetahs team that will have their sights set on a strong start to the season with the hope of advancing to the semifinal again this season.
Prediction: Even though Boland are at home for this fixture, the Free State Cheetahs will have too much firepower for them. The Cheetahs will win by at least 15 points.
Boland: 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Sergio Torrens, 13 Ryan Nell (captain), 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Adriaan Carelse, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Zandre Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Kenan Cronje, 5 Johannes Kitshoff, 4 Shaun McDondald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Clemen Lewis, 1 Stephanus Wessels.
Replacements: 16 Chadley Wenn, 17 Francois Hanekom, 18 Joubert Horn, 19 Chaney Willemse, 20 Jovelian de Koker, 21 William van Wyk, 22 Craig Pheiffer.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Date: Saturday, August 6
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Sinethemba Mrulwa
TMO: Shaun Veldsman