Absa Currie Cup log-leaders, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, travel to Kimberley this weekend where they face a potentially difficult away fixture against the ORC Griquas side, while second placed Xerox Golden Lions make the trip to Mpumalanga to face the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit.
Griquas are still searching for their first win, but the Blue Bulls travel to the Diamond City with the full knowledge that a visit to Kimberley is always a testing, bruising affair for any visiting team.
After suffering their first loss in three matches against the Blue Bulls last Saturday in Pretoria, DHL Western Province on Friday face a stern challenge in Bloemfontein against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.
In the remaining fixture the Eastern Province Kings will be hoping to continue with their recent improvement when they host the Cell C Sharks in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The Kings lost by two points against the Pumas in round three after giving good account of themselves especially during a spirited second half display.
Xerox Golden Lions head coach, Johan Ackermann, has made several changes to his team for the Steval Pumas clash. There is however major concern regarding the fitness of their captain, Jaco Kriel, who sustained a quadriceps injury in the captain’s run on Thursday morning.
Wing Kobus van Wyk is back in the DHL Western Province starting line-up for Friday’s Absa Currie Cup clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at the Free State Rugby Stadium in Bloemfontein. Kick-off is at 19h10. The defending champions will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to the Blue Bulls and Van Wyk’s inclusion is one of three changes to the starting line-up.
The Cheetahs, who lost to WP by six points in the rain two weeks ago, bounced back to form last weekend with a bonus point victory over Griquas, sending a clear warning to WP that a tough challenge awaits them in Bloemfontein.
The return of lock Giant Mtyanda to the Steval Pumas run-on side is the only change for their clash against the Xerox Golden Lions in Nelspruit on Friday. The Mpumalanga side face a difficult examination against the in-form visitors in this battle which starts at 19h00.
Kwagga a menace at breakdown
Golden Lions flanker Kwagga Smith proved his worth last year already as an impact player of note, often coming off the bench to make some telling turnovers. Now a more regular starter, he has repaid the faith of coach Ackerman, with even more stellar performances at the crucial breakdown area where he is a real menace with his ball poaching abilities.
On Friday night he returns in Golden Lions colours to the province where he starred as a schoolboy for HTS Middelburg and Pumas’ Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week sides in 2010 and 2011.
A round-up of the most important team news:
DHL Western Province – Big wing Van Wyk comes in for Dillyn Leyds on the right-wing, scrumhalf Godlen Masimla replaces Nic Groom, who is on Barbarians duty in London this weekend, and Alistair Vermaak starts at loosehead prop in place of the injured Oli Kebble (hamstring). Exciting talent Masimla will make his first start for WP in the absence of both Groom and Jano Vermaak, who injured his finger against the Bulls. Fit-again Louis Schreuder is the new scrumhalf replacement and he will be joined on the bench by debutant JP Smith – the new prop replacement – and lock Jan de Klerk, who comes in for the injured Chris van Zyl (knee). Leyds moves to the bench.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Coach Franco Smith has made one change to his starting team from the one which beat Griquas 31-9 in Kimberley. BG Uys starts at loosehead prop, while Caylib Oosthuizen moves to the bench in place of Maks van Dyk, who has been released to play for the Barbarians against Samoa in London. Meanwhile, Tertius Kruger moves in on the bench in place of the injured Tienie Burger.
Xerox Golden Lions – Ackermann has made four personnel changes to the starting forward group, which defeated the Cell C Sharks 31-16 last weekend. In the front row, Jacques van Rooyen will start at loosehead prop, with Ruan Dreyer shifting to tighthead. Martin Muller will start at lock while Fabian Booysen returns to the eighthman berth as a result of the injury to Ruaan Lerm. As a result of the injury to Jaco Kriel, Stephan de Wit was included as a flank option. In the backline Sampie Mastriet starts at wing, shifting Ruan Combrinck out to fullback.
Steval Pumas – Lock Mtyanda is back in the starting line-up after his stint on the replacement bench in their narrow 15-13 victory over the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend. Mtyanda will replace Marius Coetzer at No 5 lock where he will partner with Rudi Mathee in the second row, while Jannie Stander will take his place on the bench.
Eastern Province Kings – Captain and lock Steven Sykes is available to play this weekend after he received two yellow cards in their clash against the Pumas last Friday in Port Elizabeth. He appeared before a disciplinary committee earlier in the week, where it was decided to impose no further sanctions.
Cell C Sharks – Coach Gary Gold has made just one change to the starting side that lost to the Xerox Golden Lions at home last time out, with Gerhard Engelbrecht replacing Thomas du Toit in what can be seen as a rotational switch at tighthead prop.
ORC Griquas – Good news for the Griquas is that they have No 8 Carel Greeff available for the match after he was cited last weekend for alleged foul play. He and three other stalwarts will however start from the bench in an effort to combat the team’s tendency to fade in the last 20 minutes, according to coach, Hawies Fourie. Flanker Hilton Lobberts and centre pairing Jonathan Francke and Ruhan Nel were all named as replacement for the home match against the Bulls. Stephan Kotze and Danie Mienie are both out injured so the new front rankers are Steph Roberts and Ewald van der Westhuizen. RJ Liebenberg starts at No 8 while Jonathan Adendorf moves from lock to flank to make way for Hugo Kloppers.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – They will be without influential scrumhalf Francois Hougaard for the Kimberley clash. He has been given permission to attend his sister’s wedding in Cape Town this weekend. The log leaders will also be without Junior Springbok captain, Hanro Liebenberg, who is recovering from a ruptured intestine in hospital, and is set to be out for most of the competition. However, they welcome back Springbok Arno Botha, who returns from a knee injury to take his place at No 8. Jannes Kirsten replaces flanker Roelof Smit who is also injured. Recent signing Nick de Jager is on the bench for a possible debut, while Corniel Els and Andre Warner were also added to the bench. Warner comes in for Ivan van Zyl who is starting and Els will take over from Jaco Visagie, who is unavailable due to a personal bereavement.