The scramble for places in the top four on the Currie Cup Premier Division log will heat up even more this weekend as the countdown to the end of the pool stages intensifies with only five rounds of matches remaining, including this weekend.
And Friday night in Nelspruit will mark a very special occasion for two Springbok loose forwards, when DHL Western Province No 8 Nizaam Carr reaches his 50th Currie Cup cap, and Steval Pumas replacement looseforward Hilton Lobberts could make his 150th first-class appearance if he gets a run off the bench.
The Steval Pumas will look to end their eight-year losing run against the Capetonians in the competition – sponsored by DirectAxis and Nashua – when they cross paths at the Mbombela Stadium. Both sides have struggled to build winning momentum this season, but with the visitors within range of working their way into second place on the log standings, and the Steval Pumas still in the running for a possible place in the top four on the log, it promises to be an exciting clash.
Adding to the hosts’ motivation to win, they come off back-to-back defeats by two and one point respectively, while the visitors will want to build on their morale-boosting 57-14 victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs last week.
In the DHL Western Province team prop Michael Kumbirai replaces Wilco Louw who joined the Springboks in one of three personnel changes, with winger Seabelo Senatla and prop JC Janse van Rensburg also starting.
The Steval Pumas in turn made five changes, which sees the return of centre Gerrit Smith, scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer and lock Hugo Kloppers in the run-on team.
In the first match of the weekend earlier on Friday in Kimberley, the Cell C Sharks will be determined to register their eighth victory of the season when they meet Tafel Lager Griquas, while the hosts will be desperate to bounce back after four successive defeats.
The KwaZulu-Natalians have a solid track record against their Kimberley counterparts with the side having won five of their last six matches dating back to 2013. However, they will be wary of the fact that Tafel Lager Griquas have toppled them a few times on their home patch.
The Cell C Sharks team shows five personnel changes, with prop Juan Schoeman and hooker Franco Marais starting a new-look front row, while winger Odwa Ndungane and centre Marius Louw have also been handed starts.
Tafel Griquas also made five changes, which includes George Whitehead starting at flyhalf, while prop Stephan Kotze and lock Jonathan Adendorf are drafted into the run-on team.
The Xerox Golden Lions will be hunting their third successive victory on Saturday when they take on the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The Pretoria side have won three of the last four match-ups between the teams since 2014, although the Xerox Golden Lions won their last two home games, meaning it could be a thrilling clash.
The visitors, however, will have to hit the ground running as they come off a bye, which the hosts will would want to capitalise on. Fit-again Vodacom Blue Bulls centre Burger Odendaal returns to captain the side in one of seven changes, which also sees Warrick Gelant reclaim the No 15 jersey and flanker Nic de Jager and No 8 Jano Venter being included in the loose trio.
The Xerox Golden Lions, in turn, made only one personnel change to the starting team as lock Andries Ferreira returns following the birth of his child, while a notable inclusion on the bench is that of prop Dylan Smith, who last played in March due to injury.
Currie Cup Round 10 fixtures:
Friday, 15 September:
Tafel Lager Griquas v Cell C Sharks
Tafel Lager Griquas – AJ Coertzen (captain), Ederies Arendse, Kyle Steyn, Johnathan Francke, Enver Brandt, George Whitehead, Renier Botha, DeWet Kruger, Sias Koen, Wendal Wehr, Pieter JV Vuren, Jonathan Adendorf, Stephan Kotze, AJ le Roux, Nicolaas Oosthuizen. Replacements: Wilmar Arnoldi, Liam Hendricks, Sintu Manjezi, Shaun McDonald, Tiaan Dorfling, Andre Swarts, Eric Zana.
Cell C Sharks – Garth April, Odwa Ndungane, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, S’bu Nkosi, Curwin Bosch, Louis Schreuder, Tera Mtembu, Tyler Paul, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Botha (captain), Jean Droste, Ross Geldenhuys, Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman. Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Thomas du Toit, Hyron Andrews, Wian Vosloo, Michael Claassens, Tristan Blewett, Inny Radebe.
Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs & Mpho Matsaung
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Steval Pumas v DHL Western Province
Steval Pumas – Justin van Staden, Jerome Pretorius, Gerrit Smith, Hennie Skorbinski (captain), Ruwellyn Isbell, Kobus Marais, Stefan Ungerer, Willie Engelbrecht, Lambert Groenewald, Thembelani Bholi, Hugo Kloppers, Stefan Willemse, Pieter Scholtz, Mark Pretorius, Khwezi Mona. Replacements: Frank Herne, De-Jay Terblanche, Cameron Lindsay, Brian Shabangu, Hilton Lobberts, Reynier van Rooyen, Selom Gavor.
DHL Western Province – Craig Barry, Seabelo Senatla, EW Viljoen, Huw Jones, Ruhan Nel, Damian Willemse, Jano Vermaak, Nizaam Carr, Cobus Wiese, Jaco Coetzee, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (captain), Michael Kumbirai, Ramone Samuels, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: Chad Solomon, Ali Vermaak, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dewaldt Duvenage, Robert du Preez, Werner Kok.
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Ricus van der Hoven & Shemea Mushiribindi
TMO: Pro Legoete
Saturday, 16 September:
Xerox Golden Lions v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Xerox Golden Lions – Jaco van der Walt, Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Anthony Volmink, Ashlon Davids, Marco Janse van Vuren, Ryan Kankowski, Cyle Brink, Kwagga Smith, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Jacobie Adriaanse, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen (captain). Replacements: Pieter Jansen, Dylan Smith, Johannes Jonker, Robert Kruger, Fabian Booysen, Shaun Reynolds, Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Burger Odendaal (captain), JT Jackson, Rabs Maxwane, Marnitz Boshoff, Andre Warner, Jano Venter, Jannes Kirsten, Nic De Jager, Aston Fortuin, Ruben van Heerden, Matthys Basson, Edgar Marutlulle, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl, Manie Libbok, Johnny Kotze.
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden & Damon Murphy
TMO: Willie Vos