The pressure is rising drastically in the Currie Cup Premier Division with a handful of teams reaching the halfway stage of their pool rounds this weekend, which could push the tempo to another level.
The weekend’s games will see the return of three Springbok squad members, Golden Lions lock Marvin Orie, Western Province winger Dillyn Leyds and Vodacom Blue Bulls flanker Marco van Staden, following their release from the national squad.
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will go in search of their first victories of the season in Nelspruit in the only match on Friday, while Saturday’s action will see the Free State Cheetahs face Griquas in Bloemfontein and Western Province go up against the Golden Lions in Cape Town. The Sharks have a bye.
In the Currie Cup First Division the heat is on as the competition passes the halfway mark and the teams begin to scramble for places in the top four on the log with an eye on possible semi-final spots.
Pressure rises in Currie Cup Premier Division – Round 3 Preview
The Pumas and Blue Bulls will both go in search of their first victories of the season when they cross paths in Nelspruit in the opening match of the weekend in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The men from Pretoria have earned only one log point in the opening two rounds and the Pumas three, and with both sides already under pressure to turn the corner to keep alive their hopes of sneaking into the top four with only four pool games remaining, the match could be gripping.
The Blue Bulls have won the last two matches between the sides, but the Pumas emerged victorious in their last outing in Nelspruit. With both teams coming off encouraging attacking displays in their last two matches, they will be hoping they can make it count this week.
The Pumas made three personnel changes to their starting team, with Francois Kleinhans (flanker) being named in a reshuffled loose trio, while Ashlon Davids (scrumhalf) and Chris Smith (flyhalf) form a new halfback pairing.
The Blue Bulls included Van Staden at flanker following his release from the Springbok squad, while Marnitz Boshoff has been handed the flyhalf duties in the only changes to the starting XV.
The Free State Cheetahs and the table-topping Griquas will enter their clash at the Toyota Stadium on Saturday unbeaten, paving the way for an exciting clash. The home side started their campaign on a winning note last week, and they will go up against opposition high on confidence after two bonus-point wins.
Griquas have had the upper hand between the sides in the last three matches – with one of their wins being in Bloemfontein – meaning the Toyota Free State Cheetahs will go in search of their first win against the Kimberley outfit since 2016.
Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith made only one change to the starting lineup for their first home game, with Darron Adonis taking over from Louis Fouche at fullback, with the latter being named among the replacements.
The Griquas team showed three staff changes, with the inclusion of Johan Momsen (lock) being the only change among the forwards, while Tinus de Beer (flyhalf) and Bjorn Basson (winger) have been named in the backline, which sees captain George Whitehead switch to fullback.
In Cape Town, the Golden Lions will face a DHL Western Province side committed to bouncing back from a narrow defeat last week, while they will want to build on their winning start to the competition.
The Capetonians will draw inspiration from the fact that they won their last six home matches against the Jozi side, but they will also be wary of the fact that the Xerox Golden Lions scored nine points fewer in their first game than that which they have scored in both their matches up to now. They will, however, back their defence after conceding the same number of points (37) in two matches to the visitors’ one.
Western Province coach John Dobson made a number of changes to his side, which features a new halfback pairing of Paul de Wet (scrumhalf) and Josh Stander (flyhalf), while Leyds starts at fullback, which sees SP Marais take over on the left wing. The changes up-front see Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8) and Carlu Sadie (tighthead prop) earn starts.
The Golden Lions team feature a new lock pairing of Orie and Ruben Schoeman, among the six changes to the starting side. Sti Sithole (prop) and Pieter Jansen (hooker) will pack down in a new-look front low, with Hacjivah Dayimani coming in at No 8, while the only change among the backs sees Jan-Louis la Grange starting at centre.
Currie Cup Premier Division Round 3 fixtures:
Friday, 26 July
All kick off times are local
Pumas v Blue Bulls
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Eduan Nel and Johra Botha
TMO: Johan Greeff
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (capt), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Christ Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (capt), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima. Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adri Smit, 20 Wihan Vosloo, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Jade Stighling.
Saturday, 27 July
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys and Eon van Zyl
TMO: JJ Wagner
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Darron Adonis, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (capt), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Louis Fouche.
Griquas – 15 George Whitehead (capt), 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Eduan Keyter, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona. Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Moxili, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Zandre Jordaan, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Michal Haznar, 22 Grant Hermanus, 23 Ruan Kramer.
DHL Western Province v Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen and Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Western Province – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie. Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Edwill van der Merwe, 23 Sergeal Petersen.
Golden Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jan-Louis la Grange, 11 Stean Pienaar; 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (capt), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass.