JOHANNESBURG - The three-time champions in the last six years as well as the winners in 2015 get their Currie Cup challenges underway this weekend.
After a rather low-key start to the 2018 edition of the competition – which is now in its 80th season – Western Province and the Lions play their first games this weekend, as do the Sharks, winners in 2013. Western Province won the title last year, in 2014 and in 2012 of the last six campaigns, while the Lions won it in 2015.
Western Province are at home to Free State, who struggled in Bloemfontein last Friday and eventually went down 34-12 to the Blue Bulls, while the Robert du Preez’s Sharks host the men from Pretoria. The Lions get going against Griquas, who disappointed in their opening tie against the Pumas in Nelspruit.
Much is expected of the Lions this year with a number of Super Rugby stars available for selection. Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Madosh Tambwe and Dillon Smit will all be in action over the coming weeks, and maybe a number of Junior Bok stars as well, like Wandisile Simelane, Tyrone Green, Manny Rass and Gianni Lombard.
The Lions are under a new head coach, in Cash van Rooyen, who takes over from Swys de Bruin, who is acting as an attack consultant with the Boks. He’ll be supported by Super Rugby assistants Philip Lemmer, Neil de Bruin and Joey Mongalo.
The good news for the Lions is they will also be able to call on Warren Whiteley, Lionel Mapoe and Elton Jantjies through the course of the season, if they are not involved with the Springboks, as all three of them have ended their associations with their Japanese clubs. Unavailable though because of Japanese club commitments are Kwagga Smith, Lourens Erasmus, Ruan Combrinck and Harold Vorster.
The most impressive performance of round one was delivered by the Pumas, winners of this year’s SuperSport Challenge. Jimmy Stonehouse’s team produced an excellent performance in getting the better of Griquas last Friday, with flyhalf Chris Smith the star of the show, scoring 22 points.
Another flyhalf who delivered a knockout performance was Bulls No 10 Manie Libbok, who contributed 17 points to his team’s total.
The Pumas have a bye this weekend.
Pumas 42 Griquas 19; Free State 12 Blue Bulls 34
Friday: Lions v Griquas 7pm
Saturday: Sharks v Bulls 3pm; WP v Free State 5.15pm