Some of the country’s established and emerging rugby players will come up against each other during the eagerly anticipated Currie Cup campaign which starts on Friday with the Pumas hosting the Lions in Mbombela.
It is expected to be 12 weeks of non-stop and exciting action during the campaign that will run parallel with the Springboks taking on Georgia in two Tests and the hugely anticipated British and Irish Lions series.
Coaches of the more established franchises like the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Western Province and Cheetahs will have to do give fringe players a chance to show what they can do as some of their key players are in camp with the Springboks.
The Bulls will defend their Premier Division title against the same six teams Sharks, Lions, Western Province, Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas that they faced during the Covid-19 interrupted 2020 season.
There will also be interest in the lower First Division, which did not take place last season due to Covid-19, where a new champion will be crowned from the Boland Kavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Eastern Province, Griffons, Leopards, South Western Districts Eagles and Valke.
Pumas vs Lions
The Lions will travel to Mbombela to take on the Pumas in the opening match of this season’s Currie Cup campaign.
In announcing his squad for the clash that will be captained by Francke Horn after he recovered from injury, Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen went for a good mixture of experience and youth.
Notable inclusions sees exciting players like Morne Brandon, Banele Mthenjane, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka and Aidynn Cupido given chances to make an impact on what is a rare opportunity with the senior team.
The younger and inexperienced players will rely on the guidance of the likes of Jamba Ulengo, Dan Kriel, Rabz Maxwane, Fred Zeilinga, Dillon Smit, captain Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka and Willem Alberts among others.
Over the years, the Pumas have proved to be difficult to beat and it will be the same this season as they have players like Ali Mgijima, Erich Cronje, Wayne van der Bank, Phumzile Maqondwana, Brandon Valentyn and Kwanda Dimaza.
Pick: Lions Wins at 0.30 at BetXChange
Griquas vs Sharks
Newly appointed Sharks Currie Cup captain Phepsi Buthelezi will lead a formidable side in their Currie Cup opener against the Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon as an exciting new chapter awaits the Durbanites.
There were no surprises in the largely experienced team that was named by coach Sean Everitt with some of the players like Thembelani Bholi, Fez Mbatha, Anthony Volmink, Werner Kok, Manie Libbok and Jeremy Ward having played during the recently concluded Rainbow Cup SA competition.
Everitt has excluded experienced flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who missed out of Springboks selection for the Tests against Georgia and the Brtish and Irish Lions series, because he has played a lot of rugby in recent months.
Sharks are firm favourites to win this match but they are not going to have it all their way against this unpredictable Griquas side that will be led by Ruan Steenkamp and has exciting players like Janco Uys, Mzwanele Zito, George Whitehead, Daniel Kasende and Sibabalo Qoma.
Pick: Sharks Wins at 0.40 at BetXChange
Bulls vs Western Province
With the senior team in Italy for the Pro14 Rainbow Cup final against Benetton Treviso on Saturday, Bulls stand-in coach Pine Pienaar has named a young, hungry and exciting side for the start of the Currie Cup against rivals Western Province at Loftus.
Pienaar will be in charge on Saturday in the absence of coach Jake White and will be assisted by Hayden Groepes and Edgar Marutlulle who are no strangers to this talented young group as they have been working in the junior structures over the last few years.
The team that will be captained by Sango Xamlashe at outside center, sees the return of Loftus prodigy and prop Simphiwe Matanzima from long injury lay-off and Pienaar has also included the likes of Francois Klopper, Werner Fourie, JJ Scheepers, Tiaan de Klerk and Kefentse Mahlo in the squad.
Just like the Bulls, Western Province will also be without key players like Salmaan Moerat and JD Schickerling who are injured and Marvin Orie, Bongi Mbonambi) and Scarra Ntubeni who are with the Springboks.
Pick: Western Province Wins at 0.02 at BetXChange