Currie Cup preview: Teams looking to build momentum

The Currie Cup trophy. (Supplied)
The Currie Cup trophy. (Supplied)

Cape Town - Gaining valuable momentum will be the focus for all the teams in action in the Currie Cup this weekend, as some sides reach the halfway stage of their campaigns and others edge closer to the final stages of their pool games.

The Free State Cheetahs and Golden Lions - who are both unbeaten - will kick off the action in Bloemfontein on Friday evening, while the Pumas host the Sharks in Nelspruit and the Blue Bulls take on Griquas in Pretoria on Saturday.

Western Province have a bye. 

The battle for places in the top four on the standings in the Currie Cup First Division will intensify this weekend as the teams face the realisation that there are only three pool rounds remaining, including this weekend, to earn semi-final spots.

The Boland Cavaliers and Valke will kick off the action at Esselen Park in Worcester on a jam-packed Saturday, which will also feature matches between the Jaguares XV and SWD Eagles in Potchefstroom, the Border Bulldogs and Eastern Province in Mthatha, and the Griffons and Leopards in Welkom.

Winning momentum becomes vital in Currie Cup

The Cheetahs and Golden Lions - who are the only two unbeaten teams in the Currie Cup Premier Division - will be hunting their third victories in a row when they meet in the city of roses.

Both sides have been impressive on attack, scoring 30 points or more in both their matches this season, while the Free Staters boast the best defence in the competition, which is expected to set the scene for an exciting encounter.

The Johannesburg outfit won the last two matches between the sides, but they will be wary of the fact that the last time they toppled the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein was way back in 2015.

The Golden Lions opted for continuity in selection with the only change to the starting team that defeated Western Province being the inclusion of lock Wilhelm van der Sluys in place of Marvin Orie, who has joined the Springbok squad.

The Free State Cheetahs team shows three personnel changes, with Tapiwa Mafura (wing), Marnus van der Merwe (flank) and Ox Nche (prop) earning starts, while a notable inclusion on the bench is former Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar.

In Nelspruit, thePumas and Sharks will enter their encounter under pressure to win, with an eye on the semi-final stages. The hosts have lost all three of their matches so far and need to win all their remaining games with bonus points to salvage any hope a possible place in the top four, while the KwaZulu-Natalians have won one of their two games and will determined to build momentum after coming off a bye.

Should the Pumas succeed in earning their first win of the season, it would mark their first victory against the Sharks since 2015. But they will have to step up their defence significantly to achieve this after conceding 100 points in the last three matches.

The Pumas named the same starting team that faced the Blue Bulls last week, while the only change to the Sharks starting XV was the inclusion of Junior Springbok captain Phendulani Buthelezi on the side of the scrum, which saw Jacques Vermeulen being included among the replacements.

The battle between the Blue Bulls and Griquas is also expected to be a tight tussle as they both take to the field in their third-last pool matches.

The Kimberley outfit will be determined to return to their winning ways after suffering their first defeat last week, while their Pretoria counterparts - who are second last on the log - will be keen to build on their first win last week to power their way up the standings.

The Blue Bulls have dominated the encounters between the sides for the last six years, but this will have no significance this weekend as a slip-up for either team could come at a big price in the next few weeks as the pool stages nears its conclusion.

In the only change to the Blue Bulls starting team, former Junior Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok returns to pivot, while Marnitz Boshoff has been named among the replacements. Springbok Sevens player Stedman Gans has also been drafted in among the replacements.

The Griquas team, in turn, shows a few changes, with Victor Sekekete (lock), Andre Swarts (centre) and Anthony Volmink (fullback) earning starts.

Currie Cup Premier Division Round 4 fixtures:

Friday, August 2

Free State Cheetahs v Golden Lions

Kick-off: 19:15

Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen and Griffin Colby

TMO: Lourens van der Merwe

TV: SS1

Free State Cheetahs

15 Darron Adonis, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sitno Manjesi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Ruan Pienaar, 23 Louis Fouche

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 (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass

Saturday, August 3

Pumas v Sharks

Kick-off: 15:00

Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni

Assistant Referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron and Stephan Geldenhuys

TMO: Christie du Preez

TV: SS1

Pumas

15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (captain), 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

Substitutes: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude

Sharks

15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Phendulani Buthelezi, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman

Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Aphelele Fassi

Blue Bulls v Griquas

Kick-off: 17:15

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Divan Uys

Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs and Griffin Colby

TMO: Pro Legoete

TV: SS1

Blue Bulls

15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima

Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adri Smit, 20 Wihan Vosloo, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Stedman Gans

Griquas

15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Khwezi Mona

Substitutes: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Johan Momsen, 19 Zandre Jordaan, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Chris Smit, 22 Bjorn Basson, 23 Ruan Kramer

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