PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Four
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Round Four of the 2017 Currie Cup sees three intriguing matches being played on Wednesday.
Griquas take on Western Province in Kimberley in the day's first match before the action heads to Nelspruit where the Pumas host the Free State Cheetahs.
The day's final match sees the Blue Bulls host the Sharks in Pretoria.
The Golden Lions have a bye.
We take a look at all the Round Four action:
Wednesday, August 9:
Griquas v Western Province
(Kimberley Stadium, Kimberley - Kick-off: 13.00; 11.00 GMT)
In Kimberley, Griquas will be hunting their first victory of the season, while Western Province will look to build on their first win last weekend.
History favours the Capetonians, who have won all seven matches between the sides dating back to the 2012 season. The hosts, however, have surprised many teams at home in the past, which could boost their confidence.
The match will be particularly significant for Western Province hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni, who will earn his 50th cap off the bench. Both team's coaches made several changes to their sides to manage their players' load after playing on Saturday, with new front rows among the changes.
"I think we need to ensure that we get some victories at home," Griquas head coach Peter Engledow told rugby365,
"To be honest in the four years that I have now been at Griquas, it is the one team that we have not managed to beat, so their coaching staff and players have done very well against us.
"Western Province are always difficult. We had opportunities here in the past, but we haven't taken those and I hope we can do something special tomorrow on Women's day.
"This is Currie Cup now and we've learnt very quickly that it's a different competition and more importantly we have to stand up physically, that's the most important challenge and back ourselves to play against the bigger unions."
Western Province head coach John Dobson says Griquas are always fired up when they play his team.
"The thing with Griquas for some reason they keep a little pool of motivation for when they play Western Province," said Dobson.
"A lot of their guys come from here [Cape Town], who probably haven't got into our system and would like to be playing here, so I think desperation is a very powerful motivational tool.
"Every team that goes to Kimberley knows how tough it is, but I think we got some reasonable experience of winning there over the last few years. I don't think WP, at either Vodacom Cup or Currie Cup level, has stumbled there for a little while."
2016: Western Province won 52-31, Kimberley
2015: Western Province won 33-15, Cape Town
2015: Western Province won 43-19, Kimberley
2014: Western Province won 36-12, Cape Town
Prediction: Griquas are always a force at home, but Western Province is a much stronger side on paper. Province will win by 10 points or less.
Griquas: 15 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Jonathan Francke, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Renier Botha, 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 Marius Fourie, 1 Liam Hendricks.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Stephan Kotzé, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 DeWet Kruger, 20 Tiaan Dorfling, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Eric Zana.
Western Province: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Michal Hazner, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Michael Kumbirai, 18 Jurie van Vuuren, 19 Jaco Coetzee, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Huw Jones, 22 Damian Willemse.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Mpho Matsaung, Nico Schmahl
TMO: JJ Wagner
Pumas v Free State Cheetahs
(Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit - Kick-off: 15.15; 13.15 GMT)
The Pumas will brace themselves for a tough battle against the unbeaten Free State Cheetahs in Nelspruit, but their impressive track record against the defending champions and the fact that the visitors come off a bye will inspire them.
In their last four encounters, the Bloemfontein side have won only one match and drew one.
The Pumas and Free State Cheetahs have made a number of changes to their starting line-ups, with the hosts fielding a new front row and halfback pairing among the changes
Jasper Wiese will debut for the Free Staters at No.8, and Niell Jordaan will lead the team in the absence of Francois Venter who is in the Springbok squad.
The Cheetahs are returning to action from a bye in Round Three.
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 52-10, Nelspruit
2015: 37-all draw, Nelspruit
2014: Pumas won 31-17, Bloemfontein
2014: Pumas won 28-21, Nelspruit
Prediction: The Cheetahs are deadly out wide and they will look to run the Pumas ragged in Nelspruit. The Cheetahs will win by 12 points or more.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Gerrit Smith, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Lambert Groenewald, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jeremy Jordaan, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Kwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Cameron Lindsay, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Neil Maritz.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Specman, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Niell Jordaan (captain), 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Erich de Jager, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Junior Pokomela, 20 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 21 Jacobus Jonker, 22 Malcolm Jaer.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Ricus van der Hoven, Alex Jonker
TMO: Johan Greeff
Blue Bulls v Sharks
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.30; 15.30)
The match-up between the Blue Bulls and Sharks in Pretoria will be exciting as the both sides will enter the match high on confidence.
The hosts come off two 50-point hauls and remain unbeaten, while the Sharks bounced back strongly from their Round-One defeat with back-to-back victories.
Interestingly, the KwaZulu-Natalians have won four of the last five matches between the sides since 2013.
Junior Springbok utility back Manie Libbok will make his Blue Bulls debut, while former Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo returns from injury in the notable changes to coach Nollis Marais' team.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has named Franco Marais, Lubabalo Mtembu and Inny-Christian Radebe as replacements for Mahlatse Ralepelle, Daniel du Preez, and Curwin Bosch, who are in the Springbok squad.
"We have a short turn-around time, having played on Saturday, but we knew about this from a while back. So, we planned our training accordingly," said Blue Bulls coach Marais.
"The two wins in two starts was good, but in this tough competition, results from one week will not guarantee anything in the next match, it is just too competitive. Facing the Sharks will be a massive challenge for us and we need to respond accordingly."
Captain Boom Prinsloo agrees.
"We have seen how clinical the Sharks can be," said Prinsloo. "They have played some great rugby already and comes here with a good deal of momentum. We need to break that rhythm and make sure we dictate the pace, intensity and field position. We are still a work in progress, but it can be done."
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel has noticed a few changes to the Blue Bulls game.
"I think they're [Bulls] trying to change the way they play a bit, they’re trying to be a bit more dynamic and I think playing a different brand of rugby will be down to John Mitchell's influence," said Daniel in an interview on the Sharks website.
"Our test will be on defence because we haven't really been tested for long periods of time during a game. There have been moments but there hasn’t been continuous pressure."
2016: Sharks won 26-19, Durban
2015: Blue Bulls won 17-13, Durban
2014: Sharks won 26-15, Pretoria
2013: Sharks won 18-16, Pretoria
Prediction: It is the match of the round and it should be an exciting encounter. We think the Sharks will sneak it by seven points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Franco Naude, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Andre Warner, 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 Jaco Visagie, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Abongile Nonkontwana, 19 Shaun Adendorf, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Dries Swanepoel, 22 JT Jackson
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Inny-Christian Radebe, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (Captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements - from: Armand van der Merwe, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Cameron Wright, Jean Droste, John-Hubert Meyer, Juan Schoeman, Louis Schreuder, Marius Louw, Mzamo Majola, Odwa Ndungane, Wian Vosloo.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Morné Ferreira
TMO: Lesego Legoete