Cheetahs captain Francois Venter raises the Currie Cup trophy after beating the Bulls in the 2017 final. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

DURBAN – The 2017 Currie Cup season kicks off on Friday July 21 when the defending champions, the Cheetahs, host the Sharks in Bloemfontein, with the final of the historic domestic competition set for October 28.

The opening round will also see last year’s runners-up, the Blue Bulls, travelling to Kimberley to take on Griquas on July 22, while the Pumas will host the Golden Lions in Nelspruit in a Sunday game on July 23. Western Province have a bye in the first round.

The Currie Cup First Division, which will be contested by the Griffons, Valke, Leopards, Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Eastern Province, SWD Eagles and Welwitschias, starts on the last weekend of August.

The semi-finals in the Premier Division are scheduled for the weekend of October 21 and the final – as well as the finals of the Provincial U19 and U21 competitions – will be on October 28.

The First Division semi-finals are scheduled for October 14 and the final for October 20.

This year, the Currie Cup returns to a strength-versus-strength format, and there is also the reintroduction of a series of promotion-relegation matches.

“Returning to a seven-team Premier Division format, with all teams facing each other home and away, will produce a more intense and exciting competition,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“It was difficult to fit all (matches) into the existing playing window. So the Franchise Committee made the recommendation to bring the kickoff of the competition forward, even if some of the early games overlap with Super Rugby,” the CEO said.

The Mercury

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