After the cancellation of last weekend’s matches, the Currie Cup returns to action on Wednesday with two matches between Lions and Griquas in Johannesburg and the Cheetahs and Western Province in Bloemfontein.
Unfortunately, it will not be a full round of matches as the match between the Sharks and the Bulls, that was scheduled to be played in Durban, was cancelled due to safety concerns in KwaZulu-Natal.
SA Rugby has said that a decision on the result of this match between the Sharks and the Bulls and log points will be made at a later stage.
When they take on the fourth placed Griquas, second from the bottom Lions will be looking to move a few places up on the log but their mission is not going to be an easy one as their visitors showed recently beating fancied Cheetahs and Western Province.
The last time the Lions and Griquas met, lightning over Kimberley brought an early end to the clash and the visitors were awarded the win (20-17) after the weather conditions forced players off the field.
It happened in the opening round of the 2020 season and Griquas led by 17-13 at the break, but early in the second half they conceded a penalty try at a scrum, which was enough to secure the win for the Lions.
There was similar drama in Bloemfontein when Western Province travelled north in the 2020 season and managed to sneak a victory over the Cheetahs thanks to a Tim Swiel penalty goal on the stroke of full-time to steer the Capetonians to a 31-29 win in round six.
Swiel’s seventh penalty goal came a few minutes after the home team launched a stunning comeback with two quick late tries, by Wilmar Arnoldi (hooker) and Rosko Specman (wing), to draw level late in the game.
Lions VS Griquas
Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has made several changes to the side that to host the Griquas at Ellis Park on Wednesday afternoon.
In the squad, the front row sees Sti Sithole, Jaco Visagie and Jannie du Plessis all get their first start of the Currie Cup season while MJ Pelser will also make his first appearance.
In the backline, Morne van den Berg move up from the bench, Jordan Hendrikse makes his Currie Cup debut while Burger Odendaal and Stean Pienaar also return to the fray.
On the bench, Andre Warner returns from a cheekbone injury and FP Pelser will also await his return to Lions rugby and U21 captain Travis Gordon will make his debut if he gets the opportunity to run on to the field.
“It’s great being back home for this Currie Cup match. We’ve missed out on one or two matches this season, so we are all just very excited to get the season back on track,” said Van Rooyen.
For visiting coach coach Scott Mathie, he is going to rely on the likes of key players like Mox Mxoli, captain Ruaan Steenkamp, Gideon van der Merwe, George Whitehead, Johnathan Francke and Ashlon Davids.
Cheetahs VS Western Province
The Cheetahs will be looking to register only their second win of the campaign after three starts and get off the bottom of the standings when they take on top of the log Western Province in Bloemfontein.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie knows better than anyone that a win at this stage of the competition is crucial as they are looking to get their campaign back on track because they are not completely out of the running for a place in the knockout states.
To get the much needed win at home, Fourie will pin his hopes of key players like Ruan Pienaar, Junor Pokomela, Clayton Blommetjies, Alulutho Tshakweni, Jean Droste, Jeandre Rudolph and Aidon Davis in the starting line-up.
For the visiting coach, coach John Dobson has made just one change to the tight five that fronted up for the Stormers against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday with young Andre-Hugo Venter starting at hooker with JJ Kotze dropping to the bench.
Elsewhere, captain Ernst van Rhyn will lead his teammates for the trip to Bloemfontein in this key Currie Cup clash against the Cheetahs which will be followed by a bus trip to Nelspruit to play the Pumas on Sunday.
In other team news, Marcel Theunissen has been brought into the starting XV to join Evan Roos and Nama Xaba in the loose trio while Johan du Toit will be able to provide fresh impetus from the bench later in the contest.
Another player who impressed against the British and Irish Lions, centre Juan de Jongh, will start alongside Cornel Smit in the blue and white hoops with De Jongh’s experience expected to play a crucial role against the physical Cheetahs.
Tristan Leyds makes a return to the run-on side on the wing with Leolin Zas and Junior Springbok Sacha Mngomezulu is in line for his debut after being named among the replacements.