PREVIEW: Currie Cup, Round Six
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Four of the five Springbok squad members released for Currie Cup duty this weekend will take to the field for their respective provinces in a timely boost as the sides look to build momentum in the competition.
Blue Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant, Western Province wing Dillyn Leyds, and the Free State Cheetahs duo of Francois Venter (centre) and Teboho Mohoje (flank) have all been handed starts as the Currie Cup enters the sixth round.
In a full weekend of action, Western Province will host the Golden Lions in Cape Town on Friday, the Free State Cheetahs will take on the Blue Bulls in Pretoria in a repeat of last year's final on Saturday, and Griquas will take on the Pumas in Kimberley on Sunday.
The Sharks have a bye.
We take a look at all the Round Six action!
Friday, August 18:
Western Province v Golden Lions
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The clash between the Golden Lions and Western Province on Friday in Cape Town is expected to be thrilling as both teams have battled to build momentum this season, while they have developed a solid rivalry over the years.
The last time the Johannesburg team defeated Western Province at Newlands was in 2012, but anything can happen on Friday as the Golden Lions will be desperate to bounce back from two defeats, while the hosts will want to build on their victory at home last week.
There were only two changes to the Capetonians' starting team, with flank Cobus Wiese making his debut and Leyds replacing Bjorn Basson, while the Golden Lions will be led by prop Jacques van Rooyen following the injury to Ryan Kankowski in a team that also shows few changes to last week.
"The Lions I almost think their campaign is starting now in terms of getting their Super Rugby campaign finished and settling in as a new coaching team with Swys [De Bruin] and his assistants," said Western Province assistant coach Dawie Snyman.
"They will definitely be a strong challenge for us on Friday."
Meanwhile, Golden Lions head coach Swys de Bruin is not panicking despite his side's slow start to this year's competition.
"We can't afford, with this group of players, to look too far ahead," said De Bruin, adding: "Many of the players were with us [in Super Rugby].
"Many of these players did not get a lot of game time and now they do get game time.
"They know what we expect of them and they know how the Lions play. It is just a matter of time then things will come right."
2016: Golden Lions won 58-32, Johannesburg
2015: Golden Lions won 32-24, Johannesburg (Final)
2015: Golden Lions won 62-32, Johannesburg
2014: Western Province won 19-16, Cape Town (Final)
2014: Golden Lions won 35-33, Johannesburg
Prediction: It's a tough one to call. Both sides have deadly attackers across the park. However, WP are at home and that is why we think they will edge it by five points.
Western Province: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Eddie Zandberg, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Dan Kriel.
Golden Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Antony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Marco Janse van Vuuren, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Jacques van Rooyen (captain), 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Johannes Jonker, 18 Rhyno Herbst, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Jack Hart, 21 Siya Masuku, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Kwezi Mqomboti
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Saturday, August 19:
Blue Bulls v Free State Cheetahs
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 14.05; 12.05 GMT)
The Free State Cheetahs will be hunting their third successive Currie Cup win against the Blue Bulls. The last time the teams met was in the 2016 Final, which the Free Staters won 36-16.
The defending champions have been bolstered by the return of Francois Venter, who reclaims the captaincy, and Teboho Mohoje, in a team that sees several changes, while Dennis Visser and Ali Mgijima could make their debuts off the bench.
Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais also drafted in Warrick Gelant, while Burger Odendaal will lead the team in the absence of Boom Prinsloo, who is sick.
"We need a strong performance on Saturday," said Marais.
"The two defeats in our last two matches really hurt, but there were some positives signs, especially the way we finished against Western Province last weekend.
"That said, we now know that the bar is set very high in the Currie Cup and everyone is aware that only our very best effort will get us over the line."
Meanwhile, Free State Cheetahs head coach Rory Duncan is happy to have Venter and Mohoje back in the mix.
"I am very happy not just from a playing perspective, but from a leadership perspective as well," said Duncan.
"It is good to have him [Venter], it is good to have Oupa [Teboho Mohoje] back in the line-up.
"They obviously bring something special from their quality of play, but from a leadership perspective they are a calming factor in the team."
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 36-16, Bloemfontein (Final)
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 43-20, Bloemfontein
2015: Blue Bulls won 24-17, Pretoria
2015: Blue Bulls won 57-19, Bloemfontein
2014: Blue Bulls won 31-22, Bloemfontein
Prediction: Both teams will be looking to bounce back from defeats. It will be another close one, but we think the Blue Bulls will win by seven points or less.
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kefentse Mahlo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Nicholas de Jager, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Pierre Schoeman,
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Jano Venter, 19 Marco van Staden/Clyde Davids, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 John Jackson.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Armand Koster, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Retshegofaditswe Niche.
Replacements: 16 Erich de Jager, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Dennis Visser, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Juan-Philip Smith, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Rosko Specman.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Monray Gillbert
TMO: Lesego Legoete
Sunday, August 20:
Griquas v Pumas
(Griqua Park, Kimberley - Kick-off: 14.30; 12.30)
In Kimberley, Griquas will have their sights set on their third win in a row after toppling Western Province and the Free State Cheetahs and their fourth consecutive victory against the Pumas and when they line up in Kimberley.
The visitors from Mpumalanga will have everything to play for as they come off three straight defeats after kicking off the season with a victory against the Golden Lions.
The Kimberley outfit have won the last three matches between the sides since 2014, which should boost their confidence, while they will also look to take advantage of the fact that the Pumas come off a bye.
Pumas flank Chris Cloete will earn his first start after a number of appearances off the bench, in one of four personnel changes to the team, as the coaching staff opted for continuity in selection for the clash.
"We obviously got a big challenge this week against a Griquas team that has got some confidence," said Pumas head coach Brent Janse van Rensburg. "They are a team that really likes to keep the ball in hand and play you to the edge a lot.
"They play wide rugby. It will be very important that we got good width on defence, with good line speed and put them under pressure. They will need to slow the ball down in the collision this week.
"I think if we can contain their play to the edge then we will be in the game. Our catch-up defence is going to have to be really good and we need to be prepared to defend a high phase volume in this game. They have the ability to keep the ball for very long and extended periods and we need to just battle that storm."
2016: Griquas won 41-35, Nelspruit
2015: Griquas won 32-15, Kimberley
2014: Griquas won 31-27, Kimberley
2014: Pumas won 33-15, Nelspruit
2013: Pumas won 33-15, Nelspruit (Promotion/Relegation)
Prediction: Griquas have been fantastic in their last two games and we can't see them losing to the Pumas in Kimberley. Griquas will win by 14 points.
Griquas: 15 Eric Zana, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jonathan Janse Van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr (captain), 5 Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 Marius Fourie, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacements: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Kevin Kaba, 20 Renier Botha, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Koch Marx.
Pumas: 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Jean-Paul Lewis, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Hennie Skorbinski (captain), 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Cameron Lindsay, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Carel Greeff, 21 Reynier Van Rooyen, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Mpho Matsaung
TMO: JJ Wagner