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Currie Cup

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Vodacom Blue BullsVodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais named flanker Lappies Labuschagne as captain of the Vodacom Blue Bulls team to face Japanese outfit Canon Eagles, in Machida, Tokyo on Friday.

The starting team is packed with players who have played in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament this year, with only former Springbok Sevens speedsters, Warrick Gelant (fullback), Jamba Ulengo (wing) and former Junior Springbok Dries Swanepoel, who have not played at that level before.

Marais included Springboks Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger, Arno Botha, Francois Hougaard and Dean Greyling, with Bandise Maku playing off the bench.

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Cell C SharksAfter a dismal Super Rugby season the Cell C Sharks have gone through a major revamp allowing a new crop of players to step up.

With the exodus of a number of the Sharks’ Springbok players to overseas contracts, and many of their big-name players plying their trade at The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup for the Springboks, a next generation of Sharks players both young and new need to man-up to the big stage.

Sibusiso ‘S’bura’ Sithole is 1 of those players that will be a key element to their success and he acknowledges that although not a senior player, he does bring a wealth of experience and knows that he has a big role to play.

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DHL WPDHL Western Province edged the EP Kings 21 / 18 in their  friendly clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday night.

In an exciting finish, the Kings, who trailed 14 / 13 at halftime, stormed on to the attack in the closing minutes but the WP defence held firm for the victory as the sides completed their match preparations for the Currie Cup starting on 8 August.

After a try by WP centre and captain Juan de Jongh gave the visitors a 21 / 13 lead in the 55th minute, the Kings gave themselves a chance at victory when left wing Luther Obi shot through a gap to narrow the margin to 3 points with 6 minutes remaining.

In the 1st half the Kings took a 7 / 0 lead after a try by prop Maks van Dyk, converted by fullback Scott van Breda, who also added 2 penalties.

WP hit back with tries by wings Kobus van Wyk and Seabelo Senatla, both converted by flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis.

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ORC Griquas

The ORC Griquas secured their place in the 2015 ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division with a hard-fought 41 / 21 victory over the SWD Eagles on Saturday in Kimberley in their final Qualifier match.

Griquas were made to work extremely hard for their win and the much-sought after 5 Log points as the Eagles went into the break with a 14 / 12 lead. The win secured them the Top spot on the Qualifier Log, 1 point ahead of the Leopards who won their final qualifying tie 33 / 8 against Border Bulldogs in East London.

Griquas will now play defending champions, the DHL Western Province, in Kimberley in the opening Round of the Premier Division on Friday 7 August. They recovered well from their 1st Round shock loss to the Bulldogs (20-13), winning their five remaining matches with a full house of points.

The Hino Valke turned in a strong 1st-half performance as they came out on top of the Down Touch Griffons in a high-scoring 57 / 41 (halftime 33 / 15) victory in their fixture at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park on Friday. The win allowed the Valke to jump into 3rd place. Boland (4th) finished their fixtures last weekend.

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ABSA Currie CupThe ORC Griquas have their ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division destiny in their own hands when they complete their Qualifier campaign this coming Saturday at home against the SWD Eagles. Kick-off is at 15:00 SA Time.

As things stand at the moment, the Kimberley rugby side must win with a bonus point to secure their return to the top flight. The Leopards are snapping at the heels of the current log leaders and they are just 1 point behind Griquas, who have collected 21 points from their previous 5 matches.

Apart from winning promotion to the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, the Qualifier winner will also have the honour of hosting defending champions DHL Western Province in the opening fixture on Friday 7 August.

SWD enjoyed a BYE last weekend and they will be fresh and eager to launch a massive challenge against the promotional hopefuls in Kimberley. However, Griquas have recovered well from their 1st Round loss to the Border Bulldogs and have since won all 4 matches to put them in pole position for promotion.

The Leopards travel to East London for their final qualifying fixture against the Border Bulldogs. After an impressive start to the campaign, which included that surprise win over Griquas, Border have unfortunately lost all their early momentum as a result of 3 successive defeats.

The East London outfit have been severely hit by injuries to key players and after suffering a 43 / 20 loss against the Down Touch Griffons last week in Kempton Park, the Bulldogs can brace themselves for another busy afternoon against the high-scoring Leopards.

The Leopards, also, have no choice but to hunt for a bonus point win. Their only hope of overhauling the leaders is a surprise win by the Eagles over the Griquas, which would be a shock considering the recent form of these 2 teams.

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John Dobson

John Dobson

New DHL Western Province head coach John Dobson has selected a powerful combination for Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup pre-season clash against the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth (kick-off 19:00 SA Time).

Having fielded a largely untried DHL WP XV selection against the Steval Pumas last weekend, Dobson has recalled most of his 1st-choice players for Saturday’s meeting.

Squad captain Juan de Jongh will team up with national skipper Jean de Villiers in the DHL WP midfield, with powerhouse flanker Rynhardt Elstadt named at No 6 upon his return from a leg injury which saw him miss most of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

“It’s great to have Juan take charge and to welcome back Rynhardt Elstadt,” Dobson told the website.

“(Prop) JP Smith and (backs) Louis Schreuder, Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds were not considered due to their niggles, which, fortunately, are not of a long-term nature, whilst (hooker) Mikey Willemse, as we know, picked up an injury last weekend which will see him out for 8 to 10 weeks.”

Oli Kebble, Bongi Mbonambi and Entienne Swanepoel will pack down in the front row, with Jean Kleyn and Ruan Botha forming an exciting 2nd row combination and Springbok Nizaam Carr, DHL WP’s new vice-captain, returning at No 8.

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Schalk Ferreira

Schalk Ferreira

The Eastern Province Kings have made a late change to their side that will host DHL Western Province at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (kick-off at 19:00 SA Time).

The union confirmed on Thursday that 31-year-old Schalk Ferreira will start in place of loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka, who has picked up a knee injury.

Basil Short will take Ferreira’s place on the bench.

Western Province have named a strong side for the pre-Currie Cup friendly that will see the Springbok duo of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh operate in midfield.

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Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Loose forward Lappies Labuschagne will captain the Blue Bulls in their warm-up game against the Canon Eagles in Japan next week, the union announced on Thursday.

Midfielder Burger Odendaal will fill in as Labuschagne’s deputy in the match scheduled for Friday 31 July.

Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais earlier this week named a 27-man squad for the trip to Japan.

Springboks Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling and Bandise Maku are all among the travelling group.

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Cheeky Watson

Cheeky Watson

The EP Kings have expressed their disappointment after former coach Carlos Spencer voiced his dissatisfaction at unpaid wages.

Spencer earlier this week parted ways with the Kings and – through his attorney David Jones – the former All Black has attributed his departure from the Kings to their continued troubles in meeting wage obligations.

The Kings on Thursday insisted that Spencer and his lawyers’ claims were “simply not true”.

“The initial problems we had with Carlos’ salary was due to his insistence of having his funds paid into an offshore account,” EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson, said via a media statement.

Watson said this resulted in delays that arose out of the administrative compliance and paperwork issues.

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Steval PumasIn the 2nd match of their Cape Town tour, the Steval Pumas had to battle a strong wind to beat the Boland Cavaliers 38 / 19 at the Boland Stadium on Wednesday.

Head coach MJ Mentz made several changes to the team that played Western Province to give all players a run on tour.

Boland secured the 1st 5 points of the game whereafter the Pumas fought hard for their halftime score of 24 / 5. All the Pumas 1st-half tries were scored by the loose forwards. JJ Breet opened the score line for the Pumas, Jason Collin Fraser and Jaco Bouwer also scored a 5-pointer each.

Bouwer scored his 2nd try just before the end of the half with Justin van Staden successful with only 2 of the 4 conversions.

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Nollis Marais

Nollis Marais

Former Ricoh Black Rams flyhalf Louis Fouché has been named in the Vodacom Blue Bulls touring squad to Japan for their match against the Canon Eagles on Friday 31 July.

Fouché played for the Japanese outfit last year and has been included in the 27-man squad that will travel to Japan on Friday.

Springboks Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling and Bandise Maku are all amongst the travelling group.

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais said the trip will be an important one for the squad.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

With the arrival of Jano Vermaak at DHL Newlands, Western Province are faced with too much depth at scrumhalf and 1 No 9 possibly has to go.

Western Province have the luxury to choose from Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder, Jano Vermaak and up-and-coming youngster Godlen Masimla as their scrumhalf.

To manage all 4 highly rated No 9’s is a concern for Dobson, indicating that loaning 1 out may be the only option.

“To be honest that’s a fair source of stress,” Dobson said at a Cape Town media briefing.

“That’s a position we have real depth and Gert Smal is exploring that.

The issue with the Currie Cup is that unlike during Super Rugby where players lower down the pecking order have an opportunity to get game time in the Vodacom Cup, the next step down from Currie Cup is club rugby and Dobson said that “some of those guys will think its not for them.”

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Steven Sykes

Steven Sykes

Lock Steven Sykes will captain the EP Kings when they wind up their match preparations for next month’s Currie Cup campaign with a friendly against Western Province at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

In a bid to give all his players some exposure in their build-up to the Currie Cup, Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has predictably introduced a theme of rotation after their friendly against the Blue Bulls last weekend.

There is a new front row in Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Ferreira and Maks van Dyk, while Paul Schoeman will start on the side of the scrum following an injury to Thembelani Bohli last week.

At scrumhalf, Enrico Acker, who scored the only try against the Blue Bulls last weekend, will get his first chance to start for the Kings, while centres Marlou van Niekerk and JP du Plessis have an opportunity to prove themselves in midfield.

In the other change to the backline, Sylvian Mahuza returns from injury and will start on the wing, with Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi dropping to the bench.

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Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer

The Eastern Province Kings and New Zealand born coach, Carlos Spencer, have ended their association with immediate effect.

Spencer, who earned 35 caps for the All Blacks from 1995 to 2004, finished his playing career with the Lions in 2011 and then coached at the Lions and the Sharks, before linking up with the EP Kings in December 2013. He was appointed as the attack and specialist skills coach, and then took charge of the provincial team on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2014.

In 2015 he resumed his duties as the attack and specialist skills coach following the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the EP Kings head coach.

EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson paid tribute to Spencer for his contribution to the provincial team during his time with the union.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will get more valuable game time on Saturday as his quest to regain full match fitness and book his ticket to the Rugby World Cup continues.

De Villiers will start again for DHL Western Province when they take on the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday after he played 60 minutes in WP’s 19 / 6 loss to the Steval Pumas last Saturday.

WP coach John Dobson confirmed that De Villiers would likely be given an hour once more.

“He’s hinted at playing longer this week but he’s not going to get it,” Dobson joked.

“It’ll be exactly the same – 60 minutes.”

There had been concerns over a calf strain following the Pumas game, but Dobson ensured that De Villiers was fine.

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ABSA Currie CupThe ORC Griquas maintained their slender 1 point lead in the ABSA Currie Cup qualifying race thanks to their 57 / 33 win over the Hino Valke in Kempton Park, Johannesburg on Saturday, while the Leopards stayed in the hunt by beating Boland Cavaliers 61 / 17 in Potchefstroom.

Heading into the final Round of matches next week, the Griquas and Leopards are the only teams in contention for the qualifying spot to the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division. Griquas are in front on 21 points, with the Leopards nipping at their heels on 20 points.

Down Touch Griffons put in a powerful 2nd half performance to beat the Border Bulldogs 43 / 20 despite trailing by 5 points at the break.  The win lifted the Griffons from the basement to 4th on the log while SWD Eagles, who were not in action over the weekend, slipped to last place.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

The Steval Pumas were too strong for Western Province at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, walking away with a 19 / 6 victory on Saturday.

The Pumas led by 19 / 3 at halftime thanks to 3 tries and 2 conversions but the hosts fought back strongly in the 2nd half to keep the visitors scoreless.

Currie Cup coach John Dobson was happy with certain aspects of the team’s performance in a match which saw Springbok captain Jean de Villiers start as he continues his comeback to top level rugby from a serious knee injury.

“Given the amount of time we had to prepare, compared to them, I am not disappointed with the performance. The only thing that’s disappointing is that it is Western Province and it’s this field with the occasion and we would have liked to have won the game.

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Vodacom Blue BullsEP KingsThe Vodacom Blue Bulls defeated the EP Kings 33 / 10 in their friendly rugby match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

After an early penalty by EP Kings fullback Scott van Breda, the Blue Bulls took the lead when No 8 Arno Botha barged over near the posts.

The visitors then struck twice in the final 4 minutes of the 1st half with tries by wing Travis Ismaiel and flyhalf Tian Schoeman, both converted by Schoeman, to lead 21 / 3 at halftime.

After the break, the Bulls scored further tries by centre Dries Swanepoel and flanker Roelof Smit from a lineout maul before EP crossed in the 69th minute when scrumhalf Enrico Acker scored their only try of the match.

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ABSA Currie CupORC Griquas and Leopards, the 2 front runners on the ABSA Currie Cup qualifying log, face crunch matches this coming Saturday which could potentially have a huge impact on their promotion ambitions to the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division.

1st-Placed ORC Griquas (16 points) travel to the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, to face the Hino Valke. Leopards (2nd on 15 points) host 3rd-placed Boland Cavaliers in Potchefstroom. As things stand, it is currently a straight shoot-out between Griquas and Leopards for that vital promotional spot and with just 1 more Round remaining after Saturday’s Round of games, neither one can afford a slip up.

5 Of the 7 sides will play their penultimate fixtures of the qualifying campaign this weekend. Boland Cavaliers and SWD Eagles have both already played 5 matches to date while the rest of the sides have played 1 less encounter.

Boland complete their schedule on Saturday when they travel to Potch to take on the Leopards, while SWD have a bye.

Leopards moved to within a point of Griquas last weekend thanks to a hard-fought 24 / 20 win over a resilient Down Touch Griffons in Welkom.

While the Potch side are the favourites on their home ground against Boland, they know that nothing but a bonus-point win will keep them in the race. Boland will be no pushovers and last weekend they were deserved winners over the Hino Valke.

Griquas visit 2nd from bottom Hino Valke in Kempton Park and the Log leaders, who enjoyed a rest last weekend, should be favourites to add another win to their tally of 3 from 4 outings so far.

Down Touch Griffons are rooted at the bottom of the Log with 1 win from 4 and only 5 league points to show and they host the Border Bulldogs (4th) in the remaining Saturday fixture. Border showed good form during the early Rounds, however, 2 successive defeats have shattered their ambitious promotional hopes.

The 3 final fixtures take place next Saturday (25 July) and the winner of the qualifying Round will compete in the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, which kicks off on 7 August.

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ABSA Currie CupThe Leopards return to action this weekend against Down Touch Griffons in the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifier race with a mission to close the gap on current Log leaders, ORC Griquas, with a solid performance in Welkom.

The Leopards, who enjoyed a BYE last weekend, find themselves 6 points behind the Griquas, who smashed the Griffons 47 / 20 last Saturday in Kimberley. the Down Touch Griffons find themselves 2nd from bottom, however, they would have been encouraged by their competitive 1st half performance against Griquas.

With bonus points now paramount for them, the Leopards have very little choice but to chase a bonus try victory if they want to narrow the gap on the frontrunners. They might find this challenging, especially if the Griffons can apply the same determination they showed during a tightly contested 1st half agaist the Griquas in Kimberley.

Elsewhere on Saturday mid-table Boland Cavaliers are home to Hino Valke (5th placed) in Wellington. The home team will no doubt draw a lot of positives from their fine comeback last weekend to force a thrilling 28 / 28 draw against bottom-placed SWD Eagles. the Valke, meanwhile, scraped a surprise 1 point win over the in-form Border Bulldogs and they will fancy their chances against a Boland side who could win only 2 out of 4 so far.

The 2 teams have 8 points each but the Hino Valke have played 1 game less. This match will be televised live on SuperSport 1 and kick-off is at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT).

In the only the Friday night fixture the SWD Eagles are home to 3rd-placed Border Bulldogs in George (kick-off 19:00 SA Time). The Bulldogs are still smarting from their surprise loss against the Valke in East London last weekend, a result which severely dented their slender hopes of challenging for 1st place.

The Eagles have leaked 120 points so far in the campaign, the same amount as Boland, and they will have to improve their defence if they want to stop the much-improved Border side.

Current Log leaders, the ORC Griquas, have a BYE this weekend.

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Jean-Pierre "JP" Smith

Jean-Pierre “JP” Smith

Brumbies prop Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Smith will return to Cape Town from Australia and will form part of Western Province’s Currie Cup squad.

Smith is capable of playing at both loosehead and tighthead prop and he will bolster the Western Province prop resources during their ABSA Currie Cup title defence in the absence of Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who are with the Springbok squad at present, and Vincent Koch, who is on loan to the DHL Stormers for Super Rugby only.

25-Year-old Smith is a former Paarl Gym scholar, who has represented Western Province at Under 19 and Under 21 level, as well as playing 5 senior matches for the Vodacom Cup team in 2010.

Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal commented: “JP’s ability to play on either side of the scrum is a big boost for us, as Currie Cup matchday squads are made up of just 22 (with just 1 prop on the bench).

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WhistleLast weekend Jaco Peyper was the referee for the Super Rugby Final, a brilliant match, brilliantly refereed.

This week Jaco is going from Wellington to Apia for the 1st ever match between Samoa and New Zealand in Samoa. The 1st match between the 2 countries was in Auckland in 1993.

There is great excitement for the match in Samoa.

This month international matches start to pick up as The Rugby Championship starts in SANZAR territories and countries have the Rugby World Cup in mind.

In Windhoek this week there is a match between Namibia and Russia as both countries look to September’s start to the World Cup.

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Paul Treu

Paul Treu

New DHL Western Province Currie Cup coach John Dobson has confirmed that Juan de Jongh will captain the side in this season’s tournament.

Nizaam Carr would be the likely vice-captain.

Dobson was addressing media at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday and he also confirmed the appointment of Paul Treu as the defence coach for the season.

Dobson said that he would look to implement an “attacking breakdown” philosophy this season.

“Out of the 5 worst breakdown teams in Super Rugby, 4 were South African,” said Dobson.

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ABSA Currie CupThe ORC Griquas consolidated their position at the Top of the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifier log with a 7-try 47 / 20 win over the Down Touch Griffons at Griquas Park in Kimberley on Saturday. They now have a 6-point cushion over the Leopards (10 points), who had a BYE this weekend.

Griquas scored 6 tries in the 2ndnd half to easily overcome the visitors and increase their log points to 16 after 4 games in the race for promotion to the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division.

In the 2 matches played on Friday night, the Hino Valke caused an upset when they scraped to a 13 / 12 win over the Border Bulldogs, down to 13 men at one stage, to hand the East London side their 1st defeat of the campaign.

At Outeniqua Park in George the Boland Cavaliers kicked a last minute penalty to force a 28 / 28 draw against SWD Eagles. Despite collecting 2 points, the Eagles remain anchored at the foot of the table and are winless after 4 games.

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Corné Fourie

Corné Fourie

Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

The Golden Lions Rugby Union have announced the signing for the 2016 season of 2 of their Emirates Lions franchise partners, the Steval Pumas’ players, Faf de Klerk and Corné Fourie.

The Media Release reads as follows:

Lions Rugby (Pty) Ltd is pleased to announce the contracting of Pumas duo Faf de Klerk and Corné Fourie for the 2016 season.

Both De Klerk and Fourie, who have played Vodacom Super Rugby for the Emirates Lions through loan agreements over the past 2 seasons, will return to Johannesburg under permanent contracts in November 2015.

The pair has signed 1-year contracts with Lions Rugby and will thus be involved in both the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup campaigns.

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David McDuling

David McDuling

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, ahead of the ABSA Currie Cup season.

The Sharks press release reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, who will join the Cell C Sharks until the end of 2016.

Known for his never-give-up attitude and athleticism around the park, McDuling made his Super Rugby debut in 2014 against the Crusaders and has since amassed a total of 12 Super Rugby caps for the Reds. He also won the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship with Brisbane City and had the most carries and run metres of any 2nd rower in the competition.

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ABSA Currie CupThe ORC Griquas will be looking to capitalise on the inactivity of the Leopards this weekend and will be hopefull to extend their slender lead at the Top of the ABSA Currie Cup Qualifier log when they clash with the Down Touch Griffons on Saturday in Kimberley.

The encounter at GWK Park will kick-off at 15:15 SA Time and will be televised live on SuperSport 1.

Griquas, sitting on 11 points from 3 matches, have just 1 point more than 2nd-placed Leopards on Top of the standings in the race for that crucial qualifying spot to the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division. Griquas defeated the high-flying Leopards last week in a high-scoring affair to topple them from Top spot on the Log and they should run out as favourites against the Down Touch Griffons.

Round 4 action gets underway on Friday evening in George and East London respectively.

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Nollis Marais

Nollis Marais

New Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais is yet to decide who will captain the team in this year’s ABSA Currie Cup.

Marais earlier this week named his squad for the tournament, but he’s still considering who will lead the team.

“He (the captain) needs to impress me. If I name a captain now, then it’s over and out. There are a few candidates I have in mind, but I want to be certain of my decision,” Marais said.

Experienced players like flank Deon Stegmann and lock Flip van der Merwe are possible candidates.

Stegmann led the Bulls in last season’s ABSA Currie Cup, while Flip van der Merwe captained the Vodacom Bulls in a few Super Rugby games in 2014.

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Armand "Akker" van der Merwe

Armand “Akker” van der Merwe

The Emirates Lions have lost another key player ahead of their Currie Cup campaign.

Hooker Armand “Akker”van der Merwe or “The Angry Warthog” as he is sometimes referred to, has signed a deal with Racing Metro, which will see him play in France for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Lions Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed that they agreed to release 4 players to clubs abroad for the duration of the Currie Cup tournament.

As was previously reported Elton Jantjies (Shining Arcs), Lionel Mapoe (Spears) and Warwick Tecklenburg (Kamaishi) have all signed agreements in Japan until February 2016.

Along with Van der Merwe, all the players will return ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby tournament and will represent the Lions in next year’s competition. The players have all committed to Lions Rugby until the end of 2016.

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Nollis Marais

Nollis Marais

Positive news for a change from the Vodacom Blue Bulls, as Nollis Marais, the new Head Coach for the Currie Cup season gets into gear.

He promises change and that the Blue Bulls will play in a system which suits their player strenghts and it looks like one of the 1st key things he has achieved is to convince all the key youngsters left at the Union since the recent exodus (before his appointment), have decided to stay and sign on to help ressurrect the proud Union.

The 2nd immediate positive is that former Bulls and Springbok hooker, Gary Botha has been signed as Technical Forwards Consultant with the Blue Bulls.

The 3rd aspect of positive and upbuilding news is that the vibe in the newly released Currie Cup squad is positive and excited… and eager.

The 4th aspect, something I have wanted to hear for a very, very long time… and that is that Nollis Marais will give special attention to skills training. It has been something severely lacking in both the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup and the Bulls in Super Rugby and it’s been permitted to rot in the background for far too long during Frans Ludeke’s tenure, and lately shaky reign. It is music to my ears and should be music to the ears of most South Africans, as skills is one critical aspect where we feel South Africa is lacking behind Australia and New Zealand… well specially New Zealand!

Then there is the pleasant news that it appears that Francois Hougaard, who would have left for Japan prior to the advent of the Currie Cup, will now stay at the Blue Bulls, in an attempt to shine in the Currie Cup, and thus maybe elevate his chances of re-entering the Springbok Squad.

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ABSA Currie CupThe ORC Griquas ran in 8 tries to beat Leopards 48 / 21 on Saturday in their ABSA Currie Cup qualifier at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom. The result moved the Kimberley side to the Top team on the Log standings with 11 point from 3 matches.

The Leopards, who have occupied the Top spot the previous 2 weeks thanks to 2 bonus point wins, slipped down to 2nd while the Border Bulldogs jumped to 3rd following their 2nd win of the campaign.

Border made it 2 from 2 with a 22 / 15 victory over the Boland Cavaliers at the Boland Stadium in Wellington, following their 20 / 13 win over ORC Griquas in East London 3 weeks ago. In the remaining clash the Hino Valke scored 3 tries to register their 1st win in 2 attempts. They beat the SWD Eagles 22 / 15 at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park. The SWD Eagles, meanwhile, are winless after 3 outings.

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Cell C SharksThe Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, will be heading-up the Cell C Sharks coaching team for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign. He will be ably supported by the experienced backline coach Sean Everitt and Ryan Strudwick who will look after the forwards.

The Sharks report that Sean has worked with many of the players in their current squad through the various age-group ranks and has enjoyed great success and has a fantastic rapport with them. Ryan recently won the Varsity Shield trophy with the UKZN Impi’s and has also been involved in their coaching set-up for a few years.

Gold said: “For the first time since I arrived, I am satisfied that there is continuity and clarity amongst the various age-groups and this has been achieved through the redeployment of the coaching structures. The historic structure lacked the necessary focus throughout the age-groups. We had approached and considered a replacement for Brad. However, we have after consultation with all stakeholders including the team, decided within this new framework, that it will be in the best interest of the team and for continuity for me to oversee the campaign with the assistance of Sean and Ryan.”

To this end, Michael Horak, who enjoyed great success with Varsity Cup side UFS Shimlas will head up the Cell C Sharks Under 21 campaign and will be assisted by AB Zondagh.

The Under 19 team will be headed-up by Paul Anthony who brings with him a wealth of experience as well as success having won the competition twice with the Blue Bulls. His deputy will be Andre Barnard.

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ABSA Currie CupThe 2 early pacesetters in the race for the vital Currie Cup Qualifier top spot, the Leopards and ORC Griquas, will meet on Saturday at Profert Olën Park in Potchefstroom in 1 of the main matches this weekend.

The Leopards are at top of the standings after collecting 10 points from 2 bonus-point wins. Last weekend they were in fine form in their clash against the Hino Valke and dominated proceedings to secure a 53 / 7 victory at home.

The men from Kimberley, on the other hand, scored a bonus-point win over the Boland Cavaliers to shoot up to 2nd place on the standings.

The Leopards have shown a healthy appetite so far this season to run with the ball and the rewards have followed. However, the Potchefstroom team will again be looking to their pack to provide a good platform so that they can bring their speedy backline into play. In-form wing Adri Jacobs is their danger man out wide with 2 hat-tricks already under his belt in the campaign.

After suffering a defeat in Round 1, Griquas bounced back to form to beat Boland 48 / 17 in Kimberley last week. Much will depend on the form of their No 8 Carel Greeff, who scored 4 tries against the Bolanders last week.

In the other 14:30 SA Time encounter on Saturday at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park, hosts the Hino Valke entertain the SWD Eagles.

Both teams will be eager to find their rhythm after losing last weekend and since they have both yet to win a match, which could result in a hard-fought encounter.

In the other match-up, the Boland Cavaliers play host to the Border Bulldogs in Wellington. The East London team secured a surprise 1st-round win over Griquas 2 weeks ago and after their BYE of last weekend, they will be keen to maintain their good start to the qualifying campaign.

The Down Touch Griffons have a BYE this weekend.

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Wandile Mjekevu

Wandile Mjekevu

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of utility back Wandile Mjekevu on a 2-year deal effective from July this year.

After having spent time with the Lions and the Sharks, the former junior Springbok joined French Top 14 club Perpignan in 2013 where he gained some valuable experience at the club and got the opportunity to further develop his game.

Commenting on Mjekevu’s signing, the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, said they were delighted to bring the once promising young talent to Durban.

“We are delighted that Wandile has decided to return to the Sharks,” said Gold.

“He had a great stint in France and he is an unbelievable prospect. His strength and agility around the park will most certainly bolster our backline and we look forward to him progressing at the franchise.”

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