The cut-throat nature of the Currie Cup this year means no place for slip-ups and the Blue Bulls and Sharks will be acutely aware of that when they host the Free State Cheetahs and Western Province this weekend.
At the same time, Griquas will be aiming to forge ahead on the log of the Currie Cup Premier Division: sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services: when they take on the dangerous Pumas in Kimberley.
Two matches: in Kimberley and Pretoria: are scheduled for Friday, while the big clash in Durban, a replay of last year’s superb final, will kick off at 14h00 on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Lions have a bye.
For Springbok wing Bjorn Basson the Currie Cup Premier Division match at Park in Kimberley will be a homecoming of sorts, as that is where he took his first strides in senior rugby, 11 years ago.
The speedy winger scored 47 tries in 56 matches for Griquas between 2008 and 2010, before his travels took him to Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
The 21 Currie Cup tries Basson scored in the peacock-blue jersey in 2010 is still the record for the most five-pointers by a player in one season.
Griquas will be hoping he can build on this when he gets a run off the bench against the Pumas on Friday afternoon, as a win will strengthen their position at the top of the standings.
After their heartbreaking defeat in Johannesburg last weekend, the Pumas have made only one personnel change to their team, with Henko Marais starting at inside centre. They also welcome back the experienced front row duo of Simon Westraadt and De-Jay Terblanche on the bench.
In Pretoria, the Blue Bulls will put the disappointment of last weekend’s defeat in Cape Town behind them as they look for their first log points against the Free State Cheetahs, who started with a bye in the opening round.
The home team were bolstered with the arrival of Springbok loose forward Marco van Staden, who has been included on the bench, while Wiehahn Herbst’s return to the front row: he missed last weekend’s match due to family commitments: will bolster their scrum.
The Free Staters will rock up at Loftus Versfeld with four former Blue Bulls players in their backline, which has a dangerous look to it. Louis Fouche (fullback), William Small-Smith (wing), Dries Swanepoel (centre) and Tiaan Schoeman (flyhalf) will all have a point to prove in front of their former home crowd.
Three players will also be making their debuts in the colours of the Free State Cheetahs: locks Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi, and Darren Adonis (replacement back).
The Sharks side named to take on Western Province in Durban on Saturday has just one change as the coaching staff look to grow and develop the team without disruption.
Rhyno Smith moves up from the bench and will start at fullback, while Aphelele Fassi has been named amongst the replacements.
WP have also decided not to tweak their team too much, and as such Springbok tourist JD Schickerling will start on the side of the scrum in the only change to their team.
Schickerling comes into the starting line-up at blindside flank, with Ernst van Rhyn shifting to openside and Jaco Coetzee at No 8 in place of the injured Juarno Augustus.
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