The Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province kick off their campaigns this week, but all eyes will be on the Blue Bulls to see if they can replicate last weekend’s clinical performance. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.

Golden Lions vs Griquas, Friday, 7pm

The Golden Lions will usher in a new era under new coach Ivan van Rooyen against out-of-sorts Griquas at Ellis Park.

With four Springboks – Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Ross Cronjé and Marvin Orie – in the match-day squad, the Lions boast enough experience and firepower to secure a commanding win.

Griquas were excellent in the Provincial Rugby Challenge, but a dip in form – as seen during the defeat against the Pumas last Friday– could curtail their season.

In saying that, there is always the possibility of an upset and if Griquas are to get past the Lions, experienced heads like Eric Zana, Ederies Arendse, AJ Coertzen and George Whitehead need to be in top form.

Griquas will be competitive during the early stages, but expect the Lions to wear them down before pulling away on the scoreboard.

Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Jan-Louis la Grange, 12 Manni Rass, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Len Massyn, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Corné Fourie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 HP van Schoor, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 JP Steenkamp, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Tyrone Green, 22 Wandisile Simelane.

Griquas – 15 Eric Zana, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Kyle Steyn (c), 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 AJ Coertzen , 10 George Whitehead, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Conway Pretorius, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter van Vuren, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 Khwezi Mkhafu, 1 Devon Martinus.
Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Ruan Kramer, 18 Wandile Putuma, 19 Eital Bredenkamp, 20 Izak Burger, 21 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Andre Swarts.

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Sharks vs Blue Bulls, Saturday, 3pm

Pote Human’s charges produced a clinical performance against Free State in Bloemfontein last week to clinch a 34-12 bonus-point victory.

Most encouraging was the Bulls’ levelheadedness after going behind twice. With director of rugby John Mitchell having left Loftus, the team could easily have been distracted by the off-field issues. Instead, they stood up and did what Human required of them.

With six Springboks and a Namibian Test player at their disposal, the Sharks boast arguably the strongest team in the competition. Unlike Free State, they’ll present the Bulls with a more serious challenge.

The battle between the halfbacks – Rob du Preez and Louis Schreuder of the Sharks, and Manie Libbok and André Warner of the Bulls – will be pivotal; as will the back-row contest.

Curwin Bosch and Jesse Kriel will be out to prove a point after being overlooked for Springbok duty.

Sharks –15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Wian Vosloo, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Khutha Mchunu, 18 Andrew Evans, 19 Lubabalo Mthembu, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Johan Deysel, 22 Aphelele Fassi.

Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Jade Stighlinh, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 André Warner, 8  Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Hendré Stassen, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Matthys Basson.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Eli Snyman, 19 Jano Venter, 20 Raegan Oranje, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 JT Jackson.

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Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, Saturday, 5:15pm

Free State have it all to play for at Newlands this weekend. The new Pro14 season kicks off next week, so this is the last opportunity coach Franco Smith has to field a full-strength Currie Cup side before attention shifts to Europe.

As such, Free State desperately need to bounce back from last Friday’s defeat against the Blue Bulls to boost their chances of making the playoffs.   

By contrast, Western Province returned from their two-game tour of France with an injury-hit squad. Hooker Ramone Samuels, flank Johan du Toit and flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis are likely to miss the rest of the season, while there is also growing concern about Cobus Wiese, who has a neck injury.

WP misfired during their warm-up match against French giants Montpellier last Thursday and will be determined to produce a far more accurate performance at Newlands. To achieve that objective, coach John Dobson named a full-strength XV with Dillyn Leyds resuming the captaincy duties.

Western Province – 15 SP Marais, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11Dillyn Leyds (c), 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Herschel Jantjies, 21 Dan du Plessis, 22 Sergeal Petersen.

Free State Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Nico Lee, 11 William Small-Smith, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Jasper Wiese, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Günther Janse van Vuuren, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Stephan Malan, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Ernst Stapelberg.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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