It's that time of the year again - when provincial battle lines are drawn and the only thing that matters is the trophy that has defined South African rugby for more than a century.

Senior rugby correspondent Liam Del Carme looks at who's hot and who's not ahead of this year's Currie Cup.


Founded: 1938

Home ground: Loftus, Pretoria

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 18

    Last year: 2nd in Bankfin Cup

    Biggest win: 147-8 v SWD, 1996

    Biggest defeat: 13-57 v Tvl, 1994

    Most points in a career: 1 699 - Naas Botha

    Most points in a season: 268 by Johan Heunis, 1989

    Most points in a match: 38 by Lance Sherrell v SWD, 1996

    Most appearances: 128 Burger Geldenhuys

    Coach: Heyneke Meyer

    Captain: Chris le Roux

  • Prospects:

    The Bulls' success this season may depend on coach Heyneke Meyer's ability to blend his talented Vodacom Cup team with the men who took a pounding in the Super 12. Meyer at least has a sound base after his team took the honours in the Vodacom Cup but how he integrates his Super 12 players will determine how far his team takes their challenge this season. "We have a long way to go because we finished ninth last year," he said succinctly.

    Meyer may be a little over cautious but the Bulls, in many quarters, are tipped to be serious contenders for the trophy.

  • Squad: (from)

    Casper Steyn, Johan Roets, Hannes Venter, Keegan Fredericks, Ryno Hendriks, McNeil Hendricks, JP Nel, Tiaan Joubert, Danie van Schalkwyk, Giscard Pieters, Gavin Passens (still injured), Boeta Wessels, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Coenraad Groenewald, Norman Jordaan, Anton Leonard, Christo le Roux (captain), Johan Wasserman, Piet Joubert, Denzil Frans, Danie Rossouw, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Francois van Schouwenberg, Richard Bands, Piet Boer, Sias Wagner, Wessel Roux, Jannie Brooks, Danie Coetzee.

  • Players to watch:: Johan Roets, JP Nel, Johan Wasserman


    Founded: 1939

    Home ground: Boland Stadium, Wellington

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 5th in Top 8

    Biggest win: 59-9 v E FS, 1990

    Biggest defeat: 0-82 v FS, 1999

    Most points in a career: 492 - Pierre Schoeman

    Most points in a season: 144 - Pieter O'Neill

    Most points in a match: 25 - Pieter O'Neill v NFS, 1997

    Most appearances: 137 - Chris van der Merwe

    Coach: Rudy Joubert

    Captain: Jannie Coetzee

  • Prospects:

    Boland were unlucky not to make the semi-finals of last year's competition. This year their task has been complicated by their inclusion in the same group as the Sharks, the Lions and the Cheetahs. "That's going to be really tough," coach Rudy Joubert admitted. "Having to travel to Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban will be a big test for us."

    Boland will be without scrumhalf JP du Plooy who injured his back earlier this season and utility back Robert Markram who injured his knee. He's expected back in September.

    They'll do well to finish in the top four in their group.

  • Squad: (from)

    Lean van Dyk, John Daniels, Marius Joubert, Wayne Julies, Jan Ackermann, Riaan van Jaarsveld, Cassie Carstens, Carel van der Merwe, Martin van Schalwyk, Andries Human, Jannie Coetzee, (captain), Heino Senekal, Randile Julies, Hannes de Kock, Chris Potgieter, JP Strauss, Rudi Keil, Connie Malherbe, Niel Papier, Fabian Brandt, Dale Santon, Vion Wuim, Henry du Plessis, Ashwin Willemse, Quinn Hough, Henk Eksteen, Charlton April, Pieter Terblanche

  • Players to watch: Wayne Julies, Marius Joubert, Rudi Keil


    Founded: 1891

    Home ground: Absa Park, East London

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 2

    Last year: 5th in Cup

    Biggest win: 56-23 v N FS, 1997

    Biggest defeat: 14-87 v Griq, 1998

    Most points in a career: 623 - Seamus Sergeant

    Most points in a season: 114 - Greg Miller, 1996

    Most points in a match: 21 - Greg Miller v Pumas, 1997

    Most appearances: 177 - Wayne Weyer

    Coach: Kobus van der Merwe

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    Border Bulldogs coach Kobus van der Merwe returned from Super 12 duty at the Sharks a wiser man. He was assistant to Rudolf Straeuli in the three nation event and his team is likely to benefit immeasurably from his experience in that tournament.

    Border hit the deck running at the start of last year's competition when they shocked Western Province at Newlands but their campaign imploded thereafter. As a result they never reached the heights they had intended and finished fifth in the Bankfin Cup. They can surely better that benchmark with more consistent performances this year. The loss of Deon Carstens to the Sharks will be a big blow.

  • Squad:

    Greg Miller, Tobela Mdaka, David Maidza, Fergus Kennedy, Ryan Pickering, Werner Coetzer, Ian Fihlari, Adwa Ndugane, Solly Goosen, Josh Fowles, Vido Nako, Richard Bennett, Graham Carlson, Derek Henry, Bennie Jacobs, Blackie Swart, Rob Rushmere, Johan Brink, Andre Fox, Paul Barker, Phillip Schutte, Bandile Neunyane, Tjoepie van den Heever, Ondila Kiva, Jannie du Toit

  • Players to watch: Graham Carlson, Solly Goosen, Tobela Mdaka


    Founded: 1888

    Home ground: Telkom Park, Port Elizabeth

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 1st in Cup

    Biggest win: 50-0 v FS, 1993

    Biggest defeat: 3-65 v N Tvl, 1984

    Most points in a career: 755 - Giepie van Zyl

    Most points in a season: 152 - Morris Olivier, 1990

    Most points in a match: 29 - Bertus Kruger v N West, 1996

    Most appearances: 123 - Andrew Johnson

    Coach: Alistair Coetzee

    Captain: Chad Alcock

  • Prospects:

    The recent Sail tournament in Port Elizabeth was the ideal preparation for the Currie Cup according to Eastern Province coach Alistair Coetzee.

    Coetzee will be in his second season in charge of the Elephants after taking the team to first position in the Bankfin Cup last year.

    "It was really helpful in the sense that I could gauge the depth in my team and I was able to experiment in several areas. Some of the teams were not at full strength but the standard remained quite high," Coetzee said.

    If the Elephants' forwards play to their potential they'll be in the Top 8.

  • Squad:

    Jacques Greeff, Barry Pinnock, Wayne van den Heever, Heinrich Stride, Sean Plaatjies, Wayne Boardman, Julian Barnard, Nicky Smit, Cardo Jantjies, Pierre Durandt, Marius Mostert, Tjaart Coetzee, Vorster Venter, Wayne Bennett, Owen Lenz, Chad Alcock, Chris Jonk, Monwabisi Ndyesha, Hein van Vuuren, Sam Gerber, Rhys Botha, Ronnie Fourie, Tobie de Jager, Wonga Joka, Fabian Juries, Nardi Lombard, Andries Fourie, Ricardo Loubscher, Justin Peach

  • Players to watch: Ricardo Loubscher, Sean Plaatjies, Rhys Botha


    Founded: 1947 (E Tvl until 1997)

    Home ground: Bernhard Stadium, Kempton Park

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 3rd in Cup

    Biggest win: 65-15 v N West, 1999

    Biggest defeat: 28-83 v FS, 1996

    Most points in a career: 732 - Hendrik Labuschagne

    Most points in a season: 141 - Hendriks Labuschagne, 1989

    Most points in a match: 27 - Gert Peens v Border, 1997

    Most appearances: 157 - Tjaart van der Walt

    Coach: Phil Pretorius

    Captain: James Dalton

  • Prospects:

    The Falcons' main aim this season will be to gain entry into the competition's Top Eight. According to Falcons chief executive Denis van Staden they last year missed that benchmark after a "few last minute hiccups'.

    "I think we've got a really strong pack of forwards that will be competitive in the competition. In fact, we've got a pretty well balanced team," Van Staden declared.

    One area they may struggle in initially is at flyhalf where they'll miss the composure of Louis van Rensburg who has opted to play in Italy. His place is expected to go to the inexperienced Lappies Labuschagne.

  • Squad:

    Dawie du Toit, Jan Cloete, Turtius Douw, Wynand Lourens, Adrian Jacobs, Ettienne Botha, Wim Meyer, John Nelson, Joe Esterhuizen, Lappies Labuschagne, Deon de Kock, Freddy Roberts, Naas Rossouw, Lodewyk Hattingh, Jaco Booysen, Gustav Japhta, Nicky van der Walt, Braam Els, Nico Wegner, Ralf Schroeder, Stephan Britz, Matthew Proudfoot, Os Fourie, James Dalton, Skipper Badenhorst, Gunder Willamson, Japie Barnard.

  • Players to watch:: Lodewyk Hattingh, Adrian Jacobs, Wim Meyer


    Founded: 1895

    Home ground: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 1

    Last year: 4th in Top 8 (losing semifinalists)

    Biggest win: 106 v N FS, 1997; 113-11 v SWD, 1996

    Biggest defeat: 50-0 v EP, 1993

    Most points in a career: 1 101 - De Wet Ras

    Most points in a season: 200 - Jannie de Beer, 1997

    Most points in a match: 46 - Jannie de Beer, N FS, 1997

    Most appearances: 140 - Helgard Muller

    Coach: Peet Kleynhans

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    The Cheetahs start every competition as genuine contenders. Coach Peet Kleynhans typically underplayed his team's chances, instead focusing on the number of injuries in key areas.

    "Kennedy Tsimba is back and there's an outside chance of him playing in our opening game. MJ Smith, De Wet Oelschig and Friedrich Lombard have also been unavailable but the rest of the guys seem fine," Kleynhans said.

    Rassie Erasmus is back from a stint with the Lions but changes to the

  • Squad: have been kept to the minimum. "We've kept the changes down and the same goes for opur playing style." Kleynhans said.

  • Squad:

    Conrad Barnard, Joe Beukes, Germaine Brinkhuis, Gorrie Britz, Lodie Britz, Christmas Dumazweni, Boela du plooy, JP du Toit, Rassie Erasmus, Dirkie Groenewald, Daan Human, Wylie Human, Isak Job, Tokkie Kasselman, Frederich Lombard, Gromingo Mzunga, De Wet Oelschig, Jimmy Powell, Neil Powell, Ashwell Rafferty, William Rorich, Danie Saayman, Hendro Scholtz, MJ Smith, Gurtho Steenkamp, Kennedy Tsimba, Leon van den Heever, CJ van der Linde, Andre van Niekerk, Andre Venter, Andre Wessels, Ferdie Wesso, Attie Winter, Vorster Zellinga.

  • Players to watch: Friedrich Lombard, Wylie Human, Tokkie Kasselman


    Founded: 1886

    Home ground: Absa Park, Kimberley

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 3

    Last year: 8th in Top 8

    Biggest win: 87-14 v Border, 1998

    Biggest defeat: 9-72 v N Tvl, 1974

    Most points in a career: 649 - Kriek Erasmus

    Most points in a season: 161 - Franco Smith, 1996

    Most points in a match: 33 Piet Visagie v Rhodesia, 1968

    Most appearances: 160 - Andre van Wyk

    Coach: Swys de Bruyn

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    Griquas underperformed grossly once they reached the Top Eight of last year's competition. They propped up the bottom of that section of the competition and all their hard graft earlier in the tournament came to nought.

    Griquas have a lot going for them this season. They have an upwardly mobile coach in Swys de Bruyn and there is every prospect of them making being a major stake holder in the fifth South African Super 12 franchise should it come to pass.

    As usual their combative pack will be complemented by some hard and straight running backs and if they play to their potential they will make the Top Eight again.

  • Squad:

    Corrie Avenant, Arno Barnard, Jaco Barnard, George Binikos, Matt Botha, FJ Dalhouzie, Johann de Kock, Tom Drewett, Dennis du Plessis, Charl Els, Jaco Erwee, Anda Gcilitshana, Bertus Heunis, Jean Isaks, Mynhardt Koen, Lee Kotze, Daan Liversage, Christoff Lotter, Willem Lauwrens, Edrich Lubbe, Bok Markram, Hanu Nel, Jearus Nicholas, Reginald Nutt, Riaan Olckers, Poon Pieterse, Naude Rademan, Ashley Raman, Herchel Roman, Slang Roux, Attie Stander, Dries Scholtz, Scholla Schotlz, Dirkie Strydom, Japie Swart, Nelis Swart, Dawie Theron, Solly Tyibilika, Quinton van Tonder, Henri van Niekerk, Chappie van Vliet, Kosie van Wyk, De Waal Venter, Lourens Venter, Andre Vermeulen, Bok Wessels, Hedley Wessels, Garth Zanberg.

  • Players to watch: Dries Scholtz, Jearus Nicholas, Dirkie Strydom


    Founded: 1920

    Home ground: Olien Park, Potchefstroom

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 4th in Cup

    Biggest win: 103-9 v E FS, 1988

    Biggest defeat: 25-89 v FS, 1998

    Most points in a career: 703 - Tjaart Marais

    Most points in a season: 200 - Chris Maree, 1989

    Most points in a match: 31 - Tjaart Marais v E FS, 1988

    Most appearances: 176 - Eugene Hare

    Coach: Nico Serfontein

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    The Leopards are expected to mount a greater challenge than the one that brought them fourth place in the Cup competition last year. The main reason - coach Nico Serfontein has more depth in his

  • Squad: than his predecessor. At flyhalf for instance, two new faces will challenge for a starting berth. Long term Springbok prospect Francois Swart who has now officially joined the Leopards' ranks, will contest that position with Potchefstroom University's Danie de Beer.

    Among the forwards one of the key men will be tighthead Tenk Hendriks but he is yet to recover from a knee surgery.

  • Squad:

    Hennie Pieterse, George van der Walt Hannes Human, Pierre du Toit Sampie Hendriks, Tenk Hendriks Werner Lessing, Willem Stoltz Bloues Volschenk, Diaan Kruger Isaac Treurnicht, Johann Smith Andre Ceaser, Brian Christians, Francois Janse van Rensburg, Francois Swart, John Cooper, Danie de Beer Ian Noble, Johan Calitz, Nico Rohrs Rudi Muller, Mark Johnson, Laurence Nkosi, Patrick Pietersen, Riaan van der Berg, Pieter Jordaan

  • Players to watch:

    Tenk Hendriks, Francois Swart, Diaan Kruger


    Founded: 1889

    Home ground: Ellis Park, Johannesburg

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 9

    Last year: 3rd in Top 8

    Biggest win: 99-9 v Far North, 1973

    Biggest defeat: 9-54 v FS, 1984

    Most points in a career: 521 - Gerlad Bosch

    Most points in a season: 263 - Gavin Lawless, 1996

    Most points in a match: 36 - Gerald Bosch, 1973

    Most appearances: 91 - Dries Maritz

    Coach: Frans Ludeke

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    The Lions have been severely disrupted in the build-up to their Currie Cup season. Coach Frans Ludeke said he missed 22 players because of national commitments and injury.

    The Lions have eight players in the Springbok group, while four others were involved with the Under-23 team. "It has been difficult but you have to deal with it," he said.

    In the absence of their Springboks other coaches have been loathe to tinker with their winning line-ups but Ludeke insists he'll use his Springboks whenever they become available. "They make out a huge part of my strategy. I'll play them," he said.

  • Squad:

    Johan Ackermann, Grant Bartle, Thinus Delport, Delarey du Preez, Daniel Muller, Grant Esterhuizen, Dean Hall, Heinrich Kok, Bennie Nortje, Louis Koen, Piet Krause, Jannes Labuschagne, Clinton van Rensburg, Eugene Marx, Pietie Meyer, Willie Meyer, Walter Minnaar, Nick Moore, Baksteen Nell, Japie Mulder, Andre Pretorius, Wikus van Heerden, Chrisjan van der Westhuizen, Kleinjan Tromp, Werner Swanepoel, Jannie van der Walt, Gareth Wright, Wikus Venter, Andre Vos, Russell Winter, Johann van Niekerk, Leon Boshoff, Fergus Pringle, Barend Pieterse, Pietman van Niekerk, Conrad Jantjes, Eugene Meyer, Khaya Molatana, Clarke Roberts, Lawrence Sephaka, Jaco Booysen, Gcobani Bobo, Mac Masina, Oginga Siwundla, Jaco Pretorius

  • Players to watch:

    Andre Pretorius, Conrad Jantjes, Johann van Niekerk


    Founded: 1969

    Home ground: Johann van Riebeeck Stadium, Witbank

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 7th in Top 8

    Biggest win: 62-17 v N West, 1998

    Biggest defeat: 9-90 v Sharks, 1996

    Most points in a career: 869 - Harry Muller

    Most points in a season: 106 - Jacques Benade, 1996

    Most points in a match: 31 Andries Fourie, 1997

    Most appearances: 158 - Francois Rossouw

    Coach: Chris Grobler

    Captain: Derick Grobbelaar

  • Prospects:

    The Pumas showed some sparkling form in the Sail tournament in Port Elizabeth and they may find themselves in the top half of the log throughout the Currie Cup.

    They may, however, have to start the tournament against Border without former Springbok Franco Smith who has a knee injury.

    Another injury concern is lock Marco Wentzel who will be out for two months. With Wentzel, who has an arm injury, on the sidelines coach Chris Grobler is likely to call on former Blue Bull Derick Grobbelaar and Gerhard Laufs as his second row combination for the initial part of the season.

  • Squad:

    Chris Kruger, Christo Bezuidenhout, Conrad Breytenbach, Denzil Manuel, Derick Grobbelaar, Franco Smith, Frans Allers, Gerhard Laufs, Hakkies Husselman, Hakkies Swart, Hendry Rheeders, Henry Kemp, Jaco Coetzee, Jacques Juries, Jacques Olivier, Jan-Harm van Wyk, Johan Human, Julian Ruiters, Kat de Jager, Marco Wentzel, Marius Bosman, Marius Goosen, Marius Schoeman, Mike Marais, Nel Fourie, Paul Hoffman, Pierre Uys, Riaan Potgieter, Torros Pretorius

  • Players to watch:: Hakkies Husselman, Jan-Harm van Wyk, Chris Kruger


    Founded: 1890

    Home ground: Absa Stadium, Durban

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 4

    Last year: Losing finalists

    Biggest win: 90-9 v SE Tvl, 1996

    Biggest defeat: 0-52 v WP, 1932

    Most points in a career: 1 114 - Hugh Reece-Edwards

    Most points in a season: 195 - Joel Stransky, 1990

    Most points in a match: 38 - Henry Honiball v Boland, 1996

    Most appearances: 165 - Hugh Reece-Edwards

    Coach: Rudolf Straeuli

    Captain: Mark Andrews

  • Prospects:

    Given their relative success in the Super 12 the Sharks must start the Currie Cup as favourites. Last year they were efficient but never caught the imagination with their brand of dour but effective safety first rugby. This year however coach Rudolf Straeuli has brought several attacking options to his team's armoury. Above all, expect a gifted playmaker like Butch James to leave a large imprint on the competition, while the three quarters should see a lot more possession. The arrival of Deon Carstens from the Bulldogs will beef up the Sharks' reserve power. The Sharks will however face a tough examination first up against the Lions in the tournament's opening match in Durban.

  • Squad:

    Mark Andrews, Dave Becker, Russell Bennett, Stephen Brink, Warren Britz, Warren Brosnihan, Deon Carstens, Eduard Coetzee, Craig Davidson, Gaffie du Toit, Etienne Fynn, Trevor Halstead, Clinton Isaacs, Butch James, Deon Kayser, Herkie Kruger, Ollie le Roux, Robin Linde, Brad MacLeod-Henderson, Conrad Magiera, Hentie Martens, Craig Roberts, Hanvani Shimange, John Smit, Philip Smit, Rodger Smith, Andre Snyman, Shaun Sowerby, Stefan Terblanche, Lucas van Biljon, Albert van den Berg, Charl van rensburg, AJ Venter, Dave von Hoesslin

  • Players to watch: Butch James, Brad McLeod-Henderson, Etienne Fynn


    Founded: 1968

    Home ground: North West Stadium, Welkom

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 6th in Cup

    Biggest win: 67-19 v SWD, 1996

    Biggest defeat: 0-106 v FS, 1997

    Most points in a career: 2 410 - Eric Herbert

    Most points in a season: 195 - Eric Herbert, 1988

    Most points in a match: 36 - Eric Herbert v Stellaland, 1992 and v Falcons , 1997

    Most appearances: 176 - Eric Herbert

    Coach: Eugene van Wyk

    Captain: Jaco Gouws

    < LI>Prospects:

    The upward curve in the Griffons' performances this season has been quite marked. They languished at the bottom of the Bankfin Cup competition last year but the improvements this year have been steady.

    They won the Shield competition of the Vodacom Cup on the back of a remarkable winning sequence that has pleased coach Eugene van Wyk no end. "The improvements have been there but we are facing a huge task with the Lions, the Sharks, the Cheetahs, the Elephants and Boland all in our section. We are up against four Test unions in our section and that's tough," Van Wyk said.

  • Squad:

    Ricardo Arnolds, Charl Blom, Frans Botes, Brendall Brandt, Renier de Jager, Gielie de Swart, Gerrie Engelbrecht, JJ Fredericks, Gordon Frasca, Jaco Gouws, NS Havenga, Eric Herbert, Barney Holthausen, Thys Louw, Sarel Louw, Sacha Marot, Malcolm Malan, Gustav Rademeyer, David van Vuuren, Clinton van der Westhuizen, Riaan Henderson, Stefan Pawson, Leonard van der Merwe, Hein Edwards

  • Players to watch: Gordon Frasca, Barney Holthausen, Jaco Gouws


    Founded: 1899

    Home ground: Outeniqua Park, George

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 0

    Last year: 6th in Top 8

    Biggest win: 102-0 v N FS, 1999

    Biggest defeat: 8-147 v N Tvl, 1996

    Most points in a career: 419 - Jurie Coetzee

    Most points in a season: 162 - Braam van Straaten, 1997

    Most points in a match: 25 - Pieter O'Neill v N FS, 1999

    Most appearances: 117 - Jacques Wolfaardt

    Coach: Eric Sauls

    Captain: tba

  • Prospects:

    A mass exodus in the off season has left coach Eric Sauls with a dearth of experience in his team. Sauls said he only had a handful of players with Currie Cup experience and admitted his team would be up against it this season. "We've lost players like Rickus Lubbe, Theo van Rensburg, Tommie Webb, Harold Karele and Rudi Keil in the offseaon and it is difficult to replace that kind of experience."

    Last week the Eagles played in the Sail tournament and Sauls boldly declared that the experience was an eye opener. "It was good from the point of view that the guys could measure themselves and that we saw some of our shortcomings.

  • Squad:

    Patrick Bell, Connie Botha, Nico Breedt, Darryl Coeries, Jandre de Lange, Francois du Toit, Manie du Toit, Neil du Toit, Bevan Fortuin, Trevor Hall, Grant Henderson, Bernie Hennesey, Barry Jacobzs, Theo Jansen van Rensburg, Johan Kapp, Harold Karele, Keith Meyer, Jerome Muller, Noel Oelschig, JC Roux, John Slade, Flippie Spies, Riaan Thomas, Paul Treu, Reinhard van As, Danie van Rooyen, Rick Verster, Joggie Viljoen

  • Players to watch: Connie Botha, Joggie Viljoen, Manie du Toit


    Founded: 1883

    Home ground: Newlands, Cape Town

  • Currie Cup stats:

    Wins: 31

    Last year: Champions (Second in Top 8)

    Biggest win: 107-23 v SWD, 1996

    Biggest defeat: 30-66 v Tvl, 1992

    Most points in a career: 1 021 - Calla Scholtz

    Most points in a season: 227 - Calla Scholtz, 1988

    Most points in a match: 32 - Louis Koen v SWD, 1996

    Most appearances: 156 - Tiaan Strauss

    Coach: Gert Smal

    Captain: Corne Krige

  • Prospects:

    If Western Province's three quarters are half as elusive as their coach Gert Smal then the defending champions will march to the trophy for the second year running.

    In fact, Western Province proved themselves as the most inventive and entertaining team in the competition last year and this year they are unlikely stray from their strengths.

    Like last year Smal's biggest headache will centre around his selections when the Springboks become available.

    However, his diplomacy has already been tested this year with the appointment of his captain. Smal stressed that Corne Krige will lead Western Province when he becomes available and not new Springbok captain Bob Skinstad.

  • Squad:

    Stuart Abbott, Eddie Andrews, Adri Badenhorst, De Wet Barry, Rob Brink, Johannes Conradie, Quinton Davids, Neil de Kock, Pieter Dixon, Pietie Ferreira, Robbie Fleck, Hendrik Gerber, Werner Greeff, Drickus Hanck, Desmond Houston, Robbie Kempson, Corne Krige, Tinus Linee, Hottie Louw, Charl Marais, Percy Montgomery, Yazeed Manuel, Breyton Paulse, Faan Rautenbach, Chris Rossouw, Pieter Rossouw, Chean Roux, Egon Seconds, Bob Skinstad, Jeffrey Stevens, Thys Stoltz, Gus Theron, Toks van der Linde, Morne van der Merwe, Jaco van Schalkwyk, JB van Ster, Braam van Straaten, Johan van Wyk, Donovan van Vuuren, Dan van Zyl, Cobus Visagie.

  • Players to watch: Breyton Paulse, Stuart Abbott, Gus Theron


    This year's event will again be decided in two sections in the initial stages. The top four teams in each section will progress to the Top Eight, while the bottom six will contest the Bankfin Cup.

    Section X with the Sharks, the Lions and the Cheetahs appear to be the stronger group but Currie Cup holders Western Province are lurking in the other.

    Section X

    Sharks, Lions, Cheetahs, Cavaliers, Falcons, EP Elephants, Griffons

    Section Y

    Western Province, Blue Bulls, Griquas, Pumas, Eagles, Bulldogs, NW Leopards


    Friday, 6 July

    19:10 - Sharks vs Lions - Durban - SS1

    Saturday, 7 July

    15:00 - Eagles vs Blue Bulls - George - SS1/MND

    17:05 - Pumas vs Bulldogs - Witbank - SS1/MND

    Elephants vs Cavaliers - Port Elizabeth

    W Province vs Leopards - Cape Town

    Falcons vs Griffons - Kempton Park

    Friday, 13 July

    19:10 - Bulldogs vs Leopards - East London - SS1/CSN

    Cheetahs vs Griffons - Bloemfontein

    Saturday, 14 July

    15:00 - Lions vs Cavaliers - Johannesburg - SS1/MND

    Falcons vs Elephants - Kempton Park

    Pumas vs Blue Bulls - Witbank

    Sunday, 15 July

    15:00 - W Province vs Griquas - Cape Town - SS1/MND

    Friday, 3 August

    19:10 - Elephants vs Lions - Port Elizabeth - SS1/CSN

    Saturday, 4 August

    15:00 - Eagles vs W Province - George - SS1/MND

    Blue Bulls vs Bulldogs - Pretoria

    Cavaliers vs Cheetahs - Wellington

    Griquas vs Pumas - Kimberley

    Sunday, 5 August

    15:00 - Griffons vs Sharks - Welkom - SS1/MND

    Friday, 17 August

    19:10 - Leopards vs Blue Bulls - Potchefstroom - SS1/CSN

    Bulldogs vs Griquas - East London

    Saturday, 18 August

    15:00 - Cheetahs vs Elephants - Bloemfontein - SS1/MND

    17:05 - Sharks vs Cavaliers - Durban - SS1/MND

    Pumas vs Eagles - Witbank

    Lions vs Falcons - Johannesburg

    Friday, 31 August

    19:10 - Falcons vs Cheetahs - Kempton Park - SS1/CSN

    Saturday, 1 September

    17:05 - W Province vs Pumas - Cape Town - SS1/MND

    Eagles vs Bulldogs - George

    Cavaliers vs Griffons - Wellington

    Griquas vs Leopards - Kimberley

    Sunday, 2 September

    15:00 - Elephants vs Sharks - Port Elizabeth - SS1/MND

    Friday, 7 September

    19:10 - Bulldogs vs W Province - East London - SS1/CSN

    Saturday, 8 September

    15:00 - Lions vs Cheetahs - Johannesburg - SS1/MND

    Sharks vs Falcons - Durban

    Griffons vs Elephants - Welkom

    Leopards vs Eagles - Potchefstroom

    Sunday, 9 September

    15:00 - Blue Bulls vs Griquas - Pretoria - SS1/MND

    Friday, 14 September

    16:00 - Cavaliers vs Falcons - Wellington - SS1/CSN

    Saturday, 15 September

    15:00 - Cheetahs vs Sharks - Bloemfontein - SS1/MND

    Griffons vs Lions - Welkom

    17:05 - Blue Bulls vs W Province - Pretoria - SS1/MND

    Saturday, 22 September

    Top 8, Round 1

    Remaining 6 Round 1

    (Y Section)

    Saturday, 29 September

    Top 8, Round 2

    Remaining 6, Round 2

    (X Section)

    Saturday, 6 October

    Top 8, Round 3

    Remaining 6, Round 3

    (Y Section)

    Saturday, 13 October

    Top 8, Round 4

    Remaining 6, Round 4

    (X Section)

    Saturday, 20 October

    Semi Final 1 - tba

    Semi Final 2 - tba

    Saturday, 27 October

    Final - tba