Currie Cup 2019: DHL Western Province vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Date: Saturday, 13 July 2019
As this is the first game of the new season there isn’t really much to go on in terms of looking at the form of the two sides involved.
One thing that will make the Currie Cup interesting this year is how much game time the coaches are allowed to get from Springboks who will be on the plane to Japan for the World Cup this autumn. Western Province were the beaten finalists in the competition last year, but players such as Siya Kolisi – who is still recovering from an injury – will be in and out of the team this time around.
Western Province coach John Dobson will be taking the reigns at the Stormers next season and he will be looking to this competition to progress through some of the younger players in his side to play at the Super Rugby level. The injury-hit Stormers pack at the back end of 2019 meant that some of those players had a head start on their development and help explains why Western Province are the 2.20 favourites to win the Currie Cup with BetXChange.
The Blue Bulls are going to be an interesting team to watch because they are basically in a rebuilding year. World Cup call-ups and a host of high profile names leaving for Europe and Japan has left this squad reeling and needing fringe players to step up immediately.
Handre Pollard, Schalk Brits, Duane Vermeulen and more will all be missing due to their international commitments, while players such as Eli Snyman and Hanro Liebenberg are no longer on the books. It will be a big year for fly-half Manie Libbok to prove that he can play at this level, while the choices at scrum-half and in the back row will be fascinating to watch.
Dobson and his team will take an aggressive approach to the Currie Cup this season. With just six games to be played before the semi-finals, this is a complete sprint where a two weeks worth f bad results could doom a team’s chances of making it to the knockout rounds.
Western Province have been talking up their approach, looking to treat every game as a final and playing with the intensity that would be required for a game of that nature each week. They will also be looking to create chaos out on the pitch, using players in their back three such as Dillyn Leyds and Sergeal Peterson to thrive in the broken field.
The most interesting team news coming out of the Bulls camp prior to Round 1 is that we are likely to see the return of Springbok lock Lood de Jager for the first time since March. De Jager, the Bulls Super Rugby captain, injured a shoulder early on in the competition, but he is expected to return soon and could be in the squad for the opener on Saturday.
Marnitz Boshoff has also recovered from a knee injury, though flank forward Nic de Jager will miss the entire Currie Cup campaign, and more, after tearing his Achilles tendon in a preseason match against the Pumas.
This is a matchup that Western Province has dominated in recent years. They have won five in a row against the Blue Bulls, with the success being even greater at home where they have won eight of nine against the Pretoria rivals with the other game ending in a draw. It is always hard to get a read on a competition before a ball is kicked, but the history and the squad that Western Province can put on the pitch gives them the advantage here.