Rugby rulers

Sev­eral new faces in the Cur­rie Cup will get a chance to show off their skills

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Golden Lions: The Lions are strong con­tenders again in this year’s Cur­rie Cup. There is plenty of con­ti­nu­ity in the back line with play­ers like Ruan Com­brinck, Mar­nitz Boshoff, Court­nall Skosan and Harold Vorster, but the team will have to in­tro­duce new for­wards. “Thir­teen play­ers who were part of our Su­per Rugby squad will play for us in the Cur­rie Cup. This is not nec­es­sar­ily a se­ri­ous blow, but it’s a chal­lenge. We just have to keep our feet on the ground,” coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann said this week.

Free State Chee­tahs:

The Chee­tahs have had to dig deep in the past few years to find enough qual­ity play­ers for the Cur­rie Cup.

An over­seas ex­o­dus, un­avail­able Boks and a few Gri­quas who re­turned to Kim­ber­ley af­ter Su­per Rugby, made space for many new­com­ers last year.

Things look a bit bet­ter this year. The Shim­las won the Var­sity Cup and Franco Smith has al­ready worked with sev­eral of these stu­dents, who can also play. The Smith era brings new blood and a dif­fer­ent mind-set that is al­ready ev­i­dent at the end of Su­per Rugby.

Depth can still be a chal­lenge, but the Chee­tahs should reach the semi­fi­nals again this year.

Western Province:

The team’s vic­tory in last year’s Cur­rie Cup se­ries was some­thing of a shock as they were thin on for­wards.

But with one of the most ef­fec­tive back-threes in South African rugby, Cheslin Kolbe, Seabelo Senatla and Kobus van Wyk, a ven­omous se­ries of counter-at­tacks took them all the way to the fi­nal, where they sur­prised the Golden Lions in a thrilling match.

This time round, Western Province are se­ri­ously de­pleted up­front, so a huge task awaits Ryn­hardt El­stadt and his team.

Blue Bulls:

Nol­lis Marais has taken over coach­ing du­ties from Frans Ludeke, but ex­pec­ta­tions are not very high af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance in the Su­per Rugby se­ries.

The Bulls last won the se­ries in 2009 and there will be great pres­sure at Lof­tus to break the drought.

Ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers like Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and Dean Greyling will play an im­por­tant role as will the half­back pair­ing of Tian Schoe­man and Fran­cois Hougaard.

The Sharks:

With all the tur­moil and un­cer­tainty in the camp af­ter a poor Su­per Rugby se­ries, it’s hard to pre­dict per­for­mance.

This is the be­gin­ning of a new era for the Sharks and this year’s Cur­rie Cup is likely to be a build­ing process. There are sev­eral young play­ers who will get a chance to show their skills.

How­ever, it may take a few years be­fore the Sharks are where they want to be.

The Pu­mas:

When Jimmy Stone­house re­signed as coach at the be­gin­ning of the year, many thought the writ­ing was on the wall for the team.

The Pu­mas ta­pered off slightly in the later stages of last year’s Cur­rie Cup se­ries – and the ini­tial un­cer­tainty about Stone­house’s fu­ture was dis­rup­tive. In ret­ro­spect, there was no rea­son for con­cern. MJ Mentz im­me­di­ately made his mark as the new coach and led the team to the Vo­da­com Cup ti­tle.

The re­turn of Su­per Rugby stars like Gi­ant Mtyanda, Faf de Klerk and Corné Fourie is a huge boost, although the lat­ter two are mov­ing on at the end of the sea­son.

Mentz’s team will be com­pet­i­tive – and will have to punch

above their weight again.

The Gri­quas:

It is ev­i­dent from the team that played in the re­cent Cur­rie Cup qual­i­fiers that the Gri­quas can se­lect a strong squad.

There are names like Tian Meyer, Michael van der Spuy, Danie Mie­nie, Hil­ton Lob­berts and Ri­aan Viljoen.

Although they had to fight their way to the premier league, the team has been work­ing to­gether for a fair pe­riod while other teams have only had a pre­sea­son.

Player in­juries are a con­cern and it is im­per­a­tive for them to have a good start. But the Gri­quas should do bet­ter than last year’s sev­enth place.

EP Kings:

They are tack­ling the Cur­rie Cup with a new coach, Brent Janse van Rens­burg. In two re­cent friendlies – against the Blue Bulls and Western Province – the EP Kings looked pretty good un­der their new men­tor. At least most of the young play­ers man­aged to have a game in last year’s Cur­rie Cup and now know what to ex­pect.

It also looks as if the Kings are bet­ter pre­pared this year.



Kevin Luiters of EP Kings

tries a des­per­ate tackle on Western Province’s Ruan Botha

in last sea­son’s Cur­rie Cup


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