PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Three
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Four of the six teams taking to the field in the Currie Cup Premier Division will kick off a challenging stretch in the competition in which they will play three matches within eight days.
In an exciting weekend's action, the Sharks will meet Griquas at Kings Park on Friday, while Western Province take on the Pumas at Newlands and the Blue Bulls host the Golden Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Log-leaders and defending champions, the Free State Cheetahs, have a bye.
Friday, August 4
Sharks v Griquas
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00)
In Durban, the Sharks will look to build on their first victory of the season when they meet the Griquas, but with two defeats in a row to their name, the Kimberley side will be equally determined to register a victory.
The KwaZulu-Natalians boast a good win record against Griquas in the last two seasons as they won three of the four matches between the sides. However, the visitors registered a narrow three-point victory at Kings Park in 2014, which will inspire them.
While the Sharks opted for continuity in selection with only two changes to their side which sees lock Tyler Paul replace the injured Hyron Andrews (shoulder) and flank Jacques Vermeulen take over from Jean-Luc du Preez, who has been rested, the Griquas made nine personnel changes to their starting team.
A backline reshuffle will see George Whitehead start at fullback and Andre Swarts at flyhalf in a halfback combination with scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen.
"I was happy with the effort from the team to bounce back after a frustrating first half against the Pumas and the fact that we managed to stop them from scoring was even more pleasing," said Sharks head coach Robert du Preez on his side's 29-0 win over the Pumas last week.
"It is important to carry that momentum into this match and for the players to perform before we head on the road for two tough away matches.
"The Griquas are a good team and are always competitive. We know what we can expect on Friday."
After coming close to winning on two occasions now, Griquas head coach Peter Engledow has pinpointed a few areas where his side need to improve.
"We have done reasonably well with regards to our attack and scoring tries," Engledow told rugby365.
"I think we scored 11 tries. Unfortunately, we conceded 14 in the first two games. So. it's our defence and weak moments in defence and then also our kick chase - teams have counter-attacked against us pretty well and again they have broken our line there.
"There is a lot of good positive things happening, but we have to look at our defence and we have to make sure that we play in the right areas of the field and stop them from attacking us and scoring against us."
2016: Sharks won 46-24, Durban
2015: Sharks won 45-20, Kimberley
2014: Griquas won 21-18, Durban
Prediction: The Sharks are at home again and they have a lot of continuity in terms of selection. The Sharks will win by 15 points.
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Inny-Christian Radebe.
Griquas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Jonathan Francke, 11 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Abraham le Roux, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Wandile Putuma, 19 DeWet Kruger, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Renier Botha, 22 Eric Zana.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Vusi Msibi, Blake Beattie
TMO: Willie Vos
Saturday, August 5:
Western Province v Pumas
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 13.00; 11.00 GMT)
Western Province and the Pumas will both look to bounce back from defeats last week when they meet at Newlands, with the hosts hunting their first victory of the season after a bye in the opening round.
The Capetonians have won all three matches between the sides in the last three seasons, but the Mpumalanga side put up a decent fight in two of those outings, which they will draw comfort from. They will, however, have to step up their attack after finishing their match against the Sharks last week scoreless.
Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse will make his Currie Cup debut alongside a number of his Super Rugby teammates, including centre EW Viljoen, No.8 Nizaam Carr, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and replacement prop Jacobus Janse van Rensburg in a team that shows seven staff changes.
Replacement lock Michael Kumbirai also stands to make his debut if he runs onto the field.
Experienced Pumas flanker Brian Shabangu, meanwhile, has been handed the captaincy in a new-look team, which features several players who will make their debut for the Mpumalanga side. They are lock Cameron Lindsay and flank Stefan Willemse, who are new recruits from the EP Kings, No.8 Willie Engelbrecht and flyhalf Kobus Marais.
Replacement scrumhalf Theo Maree and flank Chris Cloete will also make their debuts if they take to the field.
The match will also be significant for prop De-Jay Terblanche, as it will mark his 165th game for the Pumas, making him the Union's second most capped player.
"It is a very important game," said Western Province assistant coach Dawie Snyman. "You can't afford to slip in this competition.
"Obviously after the weekend we need to get going as a team and we need to perform. We will use this as an opportunity to get our game going and get everything right that we thought wasn't good over the weekend against the Free State.
"I wouldn't say the Pumas is a small Union in terms of what they bring. They will be very physical. They are well-coached and they can put you under pressure if you are not 100 percent on your game and they have had time to prepare."
2016: Western Province won 31-23, Cape Town
2015: Western Province won 50-19, Cape Town
2014: Western Province won 37-23, Nelspruit
Prediction: Western Province look a lot stronger on paper, but it will still be a hard game. Province will win by 14 points.
Western Province: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Stephan de Wit, 5 John Shickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Johan du Toit, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Michal Hazner.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Jean-Paul Lewis, 13 Gerrit Smith, 12 Sias Ebersohn, 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Brian Shabangu (captain), 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Jacques Kotze, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 De-Jay Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Louis Albertse, 18 Jannie Stander, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Theo Maree, 21 Justin van Staden, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Divan Uys, Kwezi Mqomboti
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
In Pretoria, the Gauteng derby between the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions is expected to be exciting given the balanced results between the sides in the last few seasons.
Each of the teams have won two of their last four encounters, with both the Blue Bulls' victories being at home.
The hosts come off a bye last week after a victory in the opening round, while the Golden Lions recovered from their first-round defeat to beat Griquas last week, meaning both sides will enter the match with confidence.
Blue Bulls wing Kefenste Mahlo and replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar and prop Matthys Bason will make their debuts, along with flyhalf Tony Jantjies, who has played Super Rugby.
In total coach Nollis Marais made five personnel changes to his starting team, two of which were injury enforced as Jaco Visagie and Conrad van Vuuren are injured.
The Golden Lions also made six changes to their team, which sees hooker Michael Willemse, prop Andrew Beerwinkel, flanker Fabian Booysen and centre Nicolaas Hannekom being promoted from the bench to the starting team.
Bulls coach Marais admitted that they want to cash in on the momentum gained in Kimberley.
"We played well against a very competent opponent and at a tough venue to win. That was pleasing, to say the least. One of the things we are looking for in this campaign is consistency and improvement in our play. So, if we can keep the good things we showed in Kimberley and improve on the weaker areas, we will be on the right track," Marais said.
Bulls captain Johannes Prinsloo added: "We are facing a very able opponent. Forget the fact that they are without a number of star players, they will come here to beat us and are good enough to do that if we don't pitch.
"We did prepare well though, and there is something special developing in this squad. We are getting amazing input from the coaching staff as well, so I cannot wait for us to go out there and test our new approach."
2016: Blue Bulls won 31-17, Pretoria
2015: Golden Lions won 36-28, Pretoria
2014: Blue Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
Prediction: The Blue Bulls are a more experienced and settled side and they should win by 10 points or less.
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Franco Naude, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Abongile Nonkontwana, 19 Shaun Adendorff, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Tinus de Beer, 22 JT Jackson.
Golden Lions: 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Madosha Tambwe, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Marco Janse van Vuren, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Fabian Booysen, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Andrew Beerwinkel, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Nico du Plessis, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Jano Venter, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Jaco, Kotze, Christopher Allison
TMO: Johan Greeff