There will be a rejuvenated sense of energy this weekend as the local rugby season switches to the next chapter with the opening round of the Carling Currie Cup, with three matches to be broadcast live on SuperSport.
The Sharks and Pumas will kick off the competition in Durban at 19h00 (all times local) on Friday. The action continues on Saturday with Tafel Lafel Lager Griquas hosting the Xerox Lions in Kimberley at 16h30 and the North-South derby between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town at 19h00. The defending Carling Currie Cup champions, the Cheetahs, have a bye.
With the entire Super Rugby Unlocked log being carried over into the Carling Currie Cup, the Vodacom Bulls will enter the competition with a four-point lead over Western Province and the Sharks, who have each earned 19 points.
The Cheetahs trail by a further two points (17) and the fifth-placed Lions are on 12 points. But the real pressure will be on the Pumas and Griquas, who are at the foot of the standings on seven and three points respectively.
Click on the links for the full team announcements.
Sharks hunt fourth victory in a row
The Sharks, who come off an enforced break after their match was cancelled last week due to COVID-19 protocols, will be hunting their fourth successive victory this season when they take the field against the Phakisa Pumas in Durban.
However, they will be wary of the visitors who won the Currie Cup match-up between the sides last year, and who have shown promise in their performances this season.
Jeremy Ward will lead the Sharks, while the inclusion of Thomas du Toit – an RWC winner with the Springboks last year who has been out of action due to injury since late last month – is one of a number of changes to their pack.
Former Junior Bok JJ van der Mescht moves from lock to the side of the scrum for this encounter, while Thembelani Bholi moves to No 8. There is only one change in the backline where Manie Libbok comes in for Anthony Volmink at fullback.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse made six changes to his starting team, one of which was a positional switch, while he picked five new players in his starting team from the side that went down 21-5 against the Vodacom Bulls last week.
There are three new starters in the backline, and three changes upfront, one of which is a positional switch for Francois Kleinhans.
Sharks: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 JJ van der Mescht, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Daniel Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Zain Davids, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Sbu Nkosi.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Theo Boshoff, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 HP van Schoor, 1 Liam Hendricks. Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Heath Backhouse, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Wayne van der Bank, 22 Tapiwa Mafura, 23 Dewald Maritz.
Match information – Sharks v Pumas
Date: Friday, 27 November 2020
Time: 19h00 (SA Time), 17h00 (UK)
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Paul Mente
TMO: Marius Jonker
TV: SuperSport Rugby and Grandstand, Sky Sports
Lions target win to claw their way up the standings
The Lions will be determined to close the gap between themselves and the top four teams on the Carling Currie Cup log with an eye on playing their way into contention for a semi-final spot later in the season when they face Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday.
The Johannesburgers have a favourable track record against the Kimberley outfit in the Carling Currie Cup, losing only nine matches against them since 1997 – the last of which was in 2016.
Griquas, however, will draw inspiration from the fact that seven of those nine wins were on their home patch.
In fact, they went down by a single point against the Lions in the competition in Kimberley last season, while they also tested the Sharks and Phakisa Pumas thoroughly at home in the last few weeks during Super Rugby Unlocked.
Zak Burger will make his Carling Currie Cup debut as captain for Griquas after leading the side in a number of Super Rugby Unlocked matches.
James Verity-Amm (fullback), Daniel Kasende (wing), Adre Smith (lock) and HJ Luus (hooker) will all make their debuts, while Johan Momsen – who has made his mark at lock in the past – will start at No 8 in a bold move by coach Scott Mathie who himself makes his coaching debut in the competition.
The Lions bulked up their forward pack with Springboks Jaco Kriel (flanker), Willem Alberts (lock) and Ruan Dreyer (prop) for their first match in three weeks. The only change in the backline was at fullback where EW Viljoen fills the void left by Gianni Lombard, who ruptured knee ligaments.
“We’re excited to take the senior guys to Kimberley this week,” said Xerox Lions captain Elton Jantjies. “We all grew up with the Currie Cup, so there’s a nice energy around it.
“It is exciting starting with a new competition. The group has improved quite a lot, and there is an excitement to just get back out there and play again.”
Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Johan Momsen, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli. Replacements (from): 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Carl Els, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Andre Swarts, 23 Enver Brandt, 24 Bandisa Ndlovu, 25 Ewan Coetzee, 26 Masixole Banda.
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements (from): 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ross Cronjé, 21 Dan Kriel, 22 Tiaan Swanepoel, 23 Jannie du Plessis, 24 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 25 Manuel Rass.
Match information – Tafel Lager Griquas v Xerox Lions
Date: Saturday, 28 November 2020
Time: 16h30 (SA Time), 14h30 (UK)
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper and Griffin Colby
TMO: Aimee Barrett-Theron
TV: SuperSport Rugby and Grandstand, Sky Sports
Bulls look to change fortunes against arch-rivals
The Bulls, who claimed Super Rugby Unlocked honours last weekend, will have their sights set on their first Currie Cup victory against their southern rivals, Western Province, since 2016 when the sides meet in Cape Town on Saturday.
The visitors will have all the motivation they need to win with a four-point lead at the top of the standings, confidence from a comprehensive 39-6 victory against the Capetonians in October and a four-match winning streak counting in their favour as they switch their focus to securing their first Carling Currie Cup title since 2009.
However, they will be bracing themselves for a physical onslaught from a fresh Western Province team who won their last two matches and who will be well aware of the fact that a bonus-point victory could push them to the top of the log.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is back from injury and will lead a strong Western Province starting line-up featuring seven Springboks, Springbok Sevens wings and a number of former Junior Springboks.
“We cannot think of a better way to start this competition than against the Bulls at Newlands,” said DHL WP head coach John Dobson.
“We are happy to welcome some key players back from injury and will be going all-out to make a positive start in the Western Province jersey.”
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White tweaked his match day squad with the inclusion of Johan Grobbelaar at hooker, while Chris Smith retains the No 10 jersey after an impressive showing last week.
"We achieved our first goal of the post-pandemic season and now we shift our focus to securing the Currie Cup with a massive target on our backs," said White.
"There are a few teams that can travel to Newlands as favourites, which makes our job harder. Couple that with the fact that Western Province are always a difficult team to face, home or away, and fans can expect a true old school North-South Derby."
Western Province: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Kwenzo Blose, 19 Neethling Fouche, 20 David Meihuizen, 21 Chris van Zyl, 22 Jaco Coetzee, 23 Marcel Theunissen, 24 Godlen Masimla, 25 Tim Swiel, 26 Ruhan Nel.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Match information – Western Province v Bulls
Date: Saturday, 28 November 2020
Time: 19h00 (SA Time), 17h00
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Divan Uys
Television Match Official: Rasta Rasivhenge
TV: SuperSport Grandstand and Rugby, Sky Sports
Carling Currie Cup competition format
The Currie Cup champion will be the team that wins the final on 23 January 2021 – the top four teams on the log will progress to the semi-finals (the top-placed will host the team that finishes fourth and the second placed team, the team finishes third), with the final hosted by the winning semi-finalist who finished highest on the log.
In the event of two or more teams being equal on log points for any position on the standings, either during or at the end of the season, such position will be decided upon using the following steps until the tie is broken:
- a) Highest aggregate points difference from all matches;
- b) Highest aggregate tries difference from all matches;
- c) Highest points difference with team tied on the log from matches between those sides;
- d) Most points scored in all group matches;
- e) Most tries scored in all group matches;
- f) Coin toss.
Win: 4 points
Draw: 2 points
Loss: 0 points for loss by more than 7 points
Bonus: 1 point for loss by 7 points or fewer
Bonus: 1 point for scoring 3 tries or more than opponent