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Vodacom Cup

Steval PumasA new Vodacom Cup champion was crowned in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon when the Steval Pumas lifted the coveted trophy for the 1st time ever. The Lowvelders, coached by former Springbok Sevens player MJ Mentz, became the 8th team to win this competition since its inception in 1998.

The Steval Pumas completed a remarkable run in their 3 playoff matches – they beat the Vodacom Cup champions of 2012, 2013 and 2014 on 3 consecutive weekends away from home.

On Saturday, they upset the odds yet again by beating DHL Western Province, the only unbeaten team left in the competition, in the final. The scoreline of 24 / 7 suggests it was a walk in the park for the Steval Pumas, but they had to dig deep and showed the value of playing knock-out rugby with experienced players.

And as they did in the semi-final last weekend, big lock Rudi Mathee scored a try for the visitors and livewire flanker Marnus Schoeman added a brace of 5-pointers.

Although he could only add 4 points to his overall tally, Steval Pumas flyhalf JC Roos finished the season as the top points scorer with 115 – the only player in 2015 to surpass 100 competition points – while SWD Eagles speedster Alshaun Bock scored the most tries, with 8.

Schoeman, courtesy of his 4 tries in the last 2 matches, ended 2nd on the list of try scorers with 7, while DHL WP’s Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kefentse Mahlo of the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Martin Sithole of the Down Touch Griffons and the Hino Valke duo of Riaan Arends and Anrich Richter all scored 6 tries.

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Vodacom CupThe Steval Pumas and DHL Western Province have travelled as far afield as Windhoek, Secunda, Kimberley and Caledon, and will converge on Cape Town this weekend for the Vodacom Cup Final.

The match – the 1st time ever the Vodacom Cup Final will be hosted in Cape Town – will form part of Newlands celebrating its 125th year of existence this weekend. And to add a little spice, it’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final, won 13 / 8 by the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit.

One member of that Steval Pumas side, who will be watching from the sidelines in the colours of the DHL Stormers, is Vincent Koch. 10 Of his team-mates from last year’s quarter-final will return to Cape Town this weekend – Jacques Momberg, Frankie Herne, DJ Terblanche, Marius Coetzer, Uzair Cassiem, JC Roos, Wilmaure Louw, Jerome Pretorius, JW Bell and Reynier van Rooyen.

For the home team, only 6 members of their match-22 this weekend were part of the side that tasted defeat in the Mbombela Stadium last year. They are Jan de Klerk, Rayn Smid, Michael Willemse, Sti Sithole, Deacon Chowles and Robert du Preez.

DHL WP coach John Dobson has selected Wilhelm van der Sluys as the “sole survivor” of their 2012 title winning side. Louw and Simon Westraadt, now plying their trade in the Lowveld, were in the colours of GWK Griquas that night 3 years ago.

Louw was also member of the Steval Pumas side which lost in the final against the Xerox Golden Lions in 2013, and will return for the final along with 10 other members of that team – Momberg, Terblanche, Coetzer, Cassiem, Pretorius, Bell, Herne, Eduan van der Walt, Stefan Watermeyer and Blitzbok Rosko Specman.

The last time these 2 sides met in Cape Town, was in semi-final in 2012, with DHL WP winning comfortably by 33 / 20 en route to their maiden Vodacom Cup title.

At home, DHL Western Province hold a commanding 4 / 1 lead over the Steval Pumas, with the visitors from Mpumalanga recording their 1st and only win at DHL Newlands in 2002 (58 / 18). The Capetonians though emerged victorious at home in 2012 (33 / 20), 2011 (27 / 14), 2008 (59 / 19) and 2003 (33 / 28).

Overall, they’ve played against each other 9 times in the Vodacom Cup, with DHL WP winning 6 times and the Steval Pumas on 3 occasions.

“It’s a great occasion for Western Province rugby and we’d like to go out there on Saturday and make our supporters proud of this team,” said Dobson, who will be head coach of the Cape Town-based union in the ABSA Currie Cup.

“We’ve put in a lot of hard work this season and it’s wonderful that we can play a final in front of our supporters at DHL Newlands, but we know it will be a tough encounter against a well-coached and experienced Pumas side. You only have to look at the way in which they won their playoffs in the last fortnight to see that they are peaking at the right time of the season.”

Steval Pumas coach MJ Mentz said: “We’ve already eliminated the champions from 2014 and 2013, and now we have an opportunity to do the same against the champions from 2012.

“It sounds easier than it is though and playing at Newlands provides us with yet another massive challenge. The structures at Western Province are very well established, they are a well-coached side and always bring through some superb young players.

“But we’re focused on our own game and what we want to achieve. We saw against the Golden Lions last weekend what our experienced players can do and we’ll be counting on them again to pull this one through.

“We’re going to Cape Town with a belief that we can win, otherwise we may just as well stay at home. We’ve shown what we can do in the last two weeks by winning tough matches away from home and Newlands will be even tougher.”

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Vodacom CupThe Steval Pumas qualified for their 2nd Vodacom Cup final in 3 years and will have to travel to Cape Town to face DHL Western Province next weekend.

It will be the 1st time ever that the Vodacom Cup Final is hosted in Cape Town, in what is only the 2nd time that DHL Western Province have advanced to the season decider.

On Saturday afternoon at DHL Newlands in Cape Town, DHL Western Province beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls by 10 / 6 in a scrappy encounter, putting themselves in the inside lane to win the Vodacom Cup for only the 2nd time.

They will face a Steval Pumas side that caused their 2nd upset in as many weeks though, when they dealt the Xerox Golden Lions their 1st defeat of the season at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday evening, deservedly winning by 43 / 20.

This victory means that the Lowvelders had knocked out the Vodacom Cup champions of 2013, the Xerox Golden Lions, and 2014, GWK Griquas, in the last fortnight. Next Saturday in Cape Town they will be looking to add the 2012 winners to this impressive list.

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Vodacom CupThe Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will be facing the 2 unbeaten sides in the Vodacom Cup this year, the Xerox Golden Lions and DHL Western Province, when the 4 remaining teams face off in the semi-finals this weekend.

Of these 4, it’s only the Steval Pumas, runners up in 2013, that haven’t won the Vodacom Cup. The Lowvelders caused an upset last weekend when they eliminated the defending champions, GWK Griquas, in their quarter-final in Kimberley.

The Xerox Golden Lions last won the last of their 5 Vodacom Cup titles in 2013, the 3-time champion Vodacom Blue Bulls’ last success was in 2010 and DHL Western Province lifted the trophy for the 1st and only time in 2012.

There will be extra incentive for DHL Western Province when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the 2nd semi-final on Saturday afternoon as they will host the final the next weekend should they progress.

However, should the Capetonians lose their 1st match of the season, the highest-placed team from the North Section will host the final.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls hold the upper hand in knock-out contests between these traditional rivals – they won both (in 2010 by 17 / 6 in Pretoria and in 2009 by 36 / 16, also at home).

In fact, the last time DHL Western Province hosted the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup in Cape Town, was way back in 2001, with the visitors winning easily by 41 / 10.

In total, they’ve met 9 times with the Vodacom Blue Bulls winning 6 and DHL Western Province 3. The Capetonians won the last encounter between these sides, by 16 / 8 in Pretoria in 2011.

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Vodacom Cup3 Of the 4 Vodacom Cup semi-finalists are from the North Section after the Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Steval Pumas all won their quarter-final encounters this weekend.

The unbeaten DHL Western Province will be the South Section’s sole representative in the Top 4 next weekend after the Steval Pumas upset the defending champions, GWK Griquas, at GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening.

The visitors from the Lowveld won 28 / 14 and outscored the 5-time champions by 3 tries to 2 in a match that came alight in the 2nd half.

DHL Western Province, champions in 2012, beat the Leopards XV by 47 / 22 at City Park in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

The Xerox Golden Lions were made to work extremely hard in their quarter-final against the SWD Eagles at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, with the visitors from George scoring 3 tries to the 2013 champions’ 2, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The 4th quarter-final was a rather 1-sided affair at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening, where the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat the Toyota Free State XV by 44 / 21, with William Small-Smith dotting down 3 times for the 3-time champions from Pretoria.

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Vodacom CupThe 4 South Section teams in the Vodacom Cup quarter-finals will be out for revenge after none of them progressed past the last 8 in 2014.

Teams from the north have dominated proceedings in the Vodacom Cup, which kicked off in 1998.

Only 3 times out of 17 campaigns have non-Northern teams won the competition – that was in 2000 (Toyota Free State XV), 2011 (Pampas XV) and 2012 (DHL Western Province). GWK Griquas, runners-up in the South Section this year, played in the North Section previously.

The Vodacom Cup remained in the north for the other 14 years. The Xerox Golden Lions (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2013) and GWK Griquas (1998, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014) have won it 5 times each, the Vodacom Blue Bulls 3 times (2001, 2008, 2010) and the Hino Valke once (2006).

The defending champions will be the 1st team in action in the quarter-finals this year when the Steval Pumas travel to GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening to play GWK Griquas (kick-off at 19:00 SA Time).

Peter Engledow’s team from the Northern Cape lost only 1 of their pool matches this year, which gives them an impressive winning record of 15 out of their last 17 Vodacom Cup matches.

The Steval Pumas, coached by former Blitzbok speedster MJ Mentz, have been a strong contender in recent years – they were runners up in 2013, lost in the semi-final last year and won 5 of their 7 pool matches this year.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Toyota Free State XV in the 2nd quarter-final at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening (kick-off at 19:10 SA Time – live on Supersport 1). It’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final, won by the men from Pretoria by a single point.

The Nollis Marais-coached Vodacom Blue Bulls scored 40 tries in their 7 pool matches this season, which is the most by any team. Their opponents from Bloemfontein, coached by Rory Duncan, were the top try-scoring side in the South Section with 28.

Saturday’s 2 quarter-finals take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The SWD Eagles will have a massive mountain to climb when they travel to Emirates Airline Park to take on the top side from the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions (kick-off at 14:10, live on Supersport 1).

The men from George, coached by former Springbok fullback Bevin Fortuin, have notched up a few impressive wins this season, but facing a mean-looking Xerox Golden Lions side at altitude is another proposition.

Russell Winter, coach of the Johannesburg-based side, would have faced Fortuin many times in his provincial career and will know it would be a massive mistake to underestimate the Eagles, but the Xerox Golden Lions would still be favourites to qualify for their 3rd successive semi-final.

The last quarter-final is at City Park in Athlone, where John Dobson’s South Section champions, DHL Western Province, will host the Leopards XV.

The men from Potchefstroom, coached by Chaka Willemse, needed a bonus-point victory in their final pool match to make it into the top 8, which they duly did in Windhoek last weekend, but a visit to the Cape is a different proposition.

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Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team to face the Aquis Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon.

Ackermann has made 2 changes to the forwards for the encounter, as Martin Muller will start at lock and Robert Kruger moves into the starting lineup at flank.

The backline sees 3 personnel changes with Faf de Klerk starting at scrumhalf, Elton Jantjies returning to the starting flyhalf berth and Lionel Mapoe, having fully recovered from injury, starting at right wing. As a result, Ruan Combrinck will shift to left wing for the match.

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Vodacom CupThe Leopards XV and Hino Valke will have all to play for when they travel to Windhoek and Polokwane respectively in the final Round of Vodacom Cup pool action.

These 2 sides will be competing to be the final team in the Top 4 of the tightly-contested North Section, with the Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Steval Pumas already assured of the Top 3 spots on the log.

The Xerox Golden Lions need 2 Log Points to go Top of the North Section and would like to keep their unbeaten record in-tact when they travel to Welkom to take on the Down Touch Griffons.

It won’t be easy as the Northern Free Staters can still sneak into the Top 4, but it’s going to take a big win over the Johannesburgers and some other results to go their way.

A bonus-point win on Friday evening in Namibia will be enough to see the Leopards XV through to the Top 4, but anything less could still leave the door open ever so slightly for the Hino Valke, who will know exactly where they stand when their game against the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls kicks off in Polokwane on Saturday afternoon.

On the contrary, the South Section is basically decided, with the Top 4 playing against each other as they jockey for final positions – only 7 Points separate them at the moment.

DHL Western Province, 1st on 27 points, are at home to the plucky SWD Eagles in Cape Town on Saturday. The 2012 champions will look to stay unbeaten as the quarter-finals loom.

In the other crucial match in the South Section, the Toyota Free State XV can move up to 2nd position if they can beat neighbouring GWK Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon.

Pride is all that is at stake in the final 2 matches of the season for the EP Kings, at home in Port Elizabeth against the Cell C Sharks XV on Friday evening, and the Border Bulldogs, who host the Boland Cavaliers in Alice on Saturday afternoon.

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Vodacom Cup7 Of the 8 Vodacom Cup quarter-finalists have cemented their positions in the playoffs, with 3 teams in the North Section still in the hunt for the final position amongst the pace-setters.

Victories to the SWD Eagles and GWK Griquas, coupled with a defeat to the Cell C Sharks XV, means the Top 4 teams in the South Section have been determined.

The unbeaten DHL Western Province will host 1 of the quarter-finals in Cape Town after they beat the Toyota Free State XV by 30 / 29 in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

GWK Griquas, 27 / 24 victors over the KwaZulu-Natalians in Pietermaritzburg, cemented their 2nd spot on the Log, while the Eagles’ 36 / 17 win over the Border Bulldogs in Albertinia on Saturday afternoon means they will contest their 2nd successive Vodacom Cup quarter-final.

In the final South Section match, the EP Kings returned to winning ways in Citrusdal when they beat the Boland Cavaliers by 44 / 10.

Meanwhile, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Xerox Golden Lions – with 8 Vodacom Cup titles between them – have sewn up the Top 2 in the North Section and will host their quarter-final encounters.

The Steval Pumas, who had a bye this week, will finish 3rd while 5 Log Points separate the Leopards XV, Hino Valke and Down Touch Griffons, 1 of whom will clinch 4th in the North Section.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls recorded the biggest win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 83 / 13 in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

The Leopards XV put themselves in a good position to reach the quarter-finals with a big 59 / 12 win over the Down Touch Griffons in Hartbeesfontein on Saturday afternoon, while the Hino Valke’s 45 / 7 win over the FNB Welwitschias in Windhoek on Friday evening means they still have a slim chance of reaching the playoffs.

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Vodacom CupWhile the top teams in the North and South Sections have all but secured their places in the Vodacom Cup quarter-finals, home ground advantage in the playoffs is still up for grabs as the pool phase nears its end.

In the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions, Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls occupy the Top 3 positions and have opened up a gap between them and the chasing group. They will feature in the quarters, with the 2 sides from Gauteng looking likely to host matches in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The 4th position could go to anyone of the Down Touch Griffons, Leopards XV, Hino Valke or even the FNB Welwitschias, which is making Friday’s match in Windhoek between the Namibians and the East Randers vital.

On Saturday, the Leopards XV host the Down Touch Griffons in Hartbeesfontein and the loser of that match will struggle to make the Top 4.

The South Section is just as congested at the top, but DHL Western Province, as 1 of only 2 unbeaten teams left in the competition, should have enough to host a quarter-final. They travel to Bloemfontein this weekend to take on the 3rd-placed Toyota Free State XV.

2nd-placed GWK Griquas, the defending champions, have a tough assignment in Pietermaritzburg against the Cell C Sharks XV, currently in 5th position. Nothing but a win will be enough for the KwaZulu-Natalians to keep alive their aspirations of reaching the playoffs and they will be a dangerous opponent for the team from the Northern Cape.

A win for the SWD Eagles over the Border Bulldogs in Albertinia will go a long way in pushing their cause to reach the Top 4 in the South Section, while the EP Kings and Boland Cavaliers will have similar hopes when they clash in Cirtusdal. Both these matches take place on Saturday afternoon.

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Vodacom CupThe Top 3 teams in the North Section of the Vodacom Cup have all but secured their playoff spots, but the South Section is still wide open with only 2 rounds of pool action remaining.

2 Of the Xerox Golden Lions, Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will host Quarter-Finals this year, with the 2 teams from Gauteng in the inside lane as they have 1 game in hand.

The Steval Pumas finished their pool obligations with a solid 28 / 22 win over the Hino Valke in Nelspruit on Friday evening and the Xerox Golden Lions trounced the Leopards XV by 63 / 10 in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

1 Of the Down Touch Griffons, who recorded a good 40 / 28 win over the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls in Welkom on Saturday, Leopards XV and Hino Valke will probably take the remaining place in the playoffs in their section, but mathematically the FNB Welwitschias and Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls can also still sneak in.

DHL Western Province, who beat GWK Griquas by 21 / 14 in a replay of the 2012 final in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon, are now the only unbeaten team left in the South Section.

The Toyota Free State XV and SWD Eagles both recorded good away victories this weekend, over the Border Bulldogs in East London (14 / 10) and the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth (31 / 10) respectively.

The teams from Bloemfontein and George are looking like the likely candidates to progress to the Quarter-Finals, although the Cell C Sharks’ big win over the Boland Cavaliers in Empangeni (52 / 12) means they can’t be written off yet.

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Vodacom CupAll eyes will be on Diamantveld High School in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon when the only 2 unbeaten teams left in the South Section of the Vodacom Cup clash in a replay of the 2012 final.

GWK Griquas, the defending champions, host DHL Western Province in a highly-anticipated clash at Diamantveld.

Both these sides are unbeaten after 4 matches and their performances have been very similar thus far, with a points’ difference of 69 for the visitors from Cape Town and 70 for the home team. DHL Western Province top the South Section log on 19 points though, with GWK Griquas 2nd on 18.

The high-flying SWD Eagles will be looking for their 1st away win of the season after already beating the Cell C Sharks XV and Toyota Free State XV in George, when they travel up the N2 to take on the EP Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, the Cell C Sharks XV, at home in Empangeni to the Boland Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon, will be looking to reverse a 3-match losing streak when they travel north up the coast.

In the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions will retake the lead at the top of the standings if they can beat the Leopards XV at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

Current log leaders, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, have a BYE and can slip back to 3rd position if the Steval Pumas record a convincing victory over the Hino Valke at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

This week, we’re looking at former SA Under 20 speedster Sergeal Petersen, who is now with the Toyota Free State XV, after making his mark for the EP Kings. We also look at Xerox Golden Lions loose forward Ruaan Lerm.

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Vodacom CupThere were tries aplenty as the Vodacom Cup moved up a gear with the quarter-finals moving into sight for the 16 teams vying for the title.

In the South Section, the SWD Eagles probably delivered the biggest upset as they outplayed the Cell C Sharks XV in George on Friday evening, winning comfortably by 36 / 13 after a superb 2nd half performance where they scored 29 unanswered points.

GWK Griquas showed they will not let go of their title without a proper fight as they completely outclassed the Boland Cavaliers by 62 / 19 in Velddrif on Saturday afternoon, while the Toyota Free State XV beat the EP Kings by 50 / 45 in an extraordinary match in Bloemfontein where the scorers with still tied at 42 / 42 with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock.

DHL Western Province were predictably too strong for the Border Bulldogs as they cemented their position at the top of the South Section log with a 34 / 6 win on Saturday afternoon.

In the North Section, last weekend’s log leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, enjoyed a BYE and was overtaken at the top of the standings by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who beat the Down Touch Griffons by 40 / 21 in Pretoria on Friday afternoon.

The Steval Pumas’ 31 / 23 victory over the Leopards XV in Potchefstroom on Friday means the race to the top of the North Section log is now effectively between 3 teams.

The FNB Welwitschias recorded their 1st win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 24 / 17 in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.

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Vodacom CupThe 6 teams occupying positions 2 to 7 on the South Section log clash in 3 encounters this weekend, which will have a major impact on the eventual standings in the Vodacom Cup.

First up on Friday evening, the SWD Eagles (4th) host the Cell C Sharks XV (6th) at scenic Outeniqua Park in George, where both teams will be looking for their 2nd win of the season.

On Saturday, 2nd-placed GWK Griquas – 1 of only 3 unbeaten teams left in the competition – travel to Velddrif to take on the Boland Cavaliers (7th), before the Toyota Free State XV (3rd) host the 5th-placed EP Kings in Bloemfontein.

The other South Section clash is in Cape Town between the table-topping DHL Western Province, also unbeaten in 2015, and the Border Bulldogs, who are still looking for their 1st log points after 3 Rounds.

With the top side in the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions, having a BYE this weekend, the big match is on Friday afternoon between the Leopards XV and the Steval Pumas in Potchefstroom.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls will have an opportunity to move to the Top of the Northern Section log when they host the Down Touch Griffons in Pretoria on Friday afternoon, while the FNB Welwitschias and Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls take each other on in a bottom-of-the-table clash in Windhoek.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Western Province back Pat Howard has reportedly signed a deal with English Premiership club Northampton Saints.

While the news is yet to be officially announced, it is reported that Howard will leave the Cape union later this year.

The 23-year-old Howard, who can play wing and centre, is contracted with WP until 31 October.

This means he will in all likelihood be asked to stay until the end of this year’s Currie Cup.

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Vodacom CupIt was business as usual at the top of the North and South Section logs with 4 of the top 5 in the divisions recording victories, to remain on course for home play-off’s.

The ‘best’ result of the day was secured by North Section leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, who recorded a hard-fought 24 / 16 victory over the Steval Pumas, the only team among the top 5 not to win, having started Round 5 in 2nd place.

The Lions’ 5th successive win allowed the Vodacom Blue Bulls to leapfrog the Steval Pumas into 2nd position on the North Section Log, courtesy of a 44 / 0 victory in Windhoek.

In the South, DHL Western Province and GWK Griquas both maintained their 100% records with their 3rd successive victories, the former edging the EP Kings by 6 points in Port Elizabeth while GWK Griquas had an easier time of it, beating the Border Bulldogs by 12 in Hartswater.

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV stayed in contention in the South Section with a 35 / 18 win over the Cell C Sharks XV in Kokstad, while in the North the Hino Valke recorded their 1st victory at the 4th attempt, with a 38 / 17 victory over the Down Touch Griffons.

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Vodacom CupThe intensity of the Vodacom Cup is expected to rise significantly this weekend as the pool stages reach the halfway stage and the reality sets in for the teams that only 4 Rounds remain for them to secure their places in the final stages.

The main match-up in the North Section will be in Nelspruit on Saturday where log-leaders the Xerox Golden Lions go up against the Steval Pumas in a table-topping clash, while in the South Section GWK Griquas will look to close in on DHL Western Province on the log table.

The unbeaten DHL Western Province will travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the EP Kings on Saturday, which could prove to be a tight encounter, but GWK Griquas, who have also won both of their matches, will be hoping to make the most of their clash against the Border Bulldogs, who have yet to secure a log point this season, in Kimberley.

In the other South Section clashes, the Boland Cavaliers host the SWD Eagles in Wellington on Friday and the Cell C Sharks XV go up against the Toyota Free State XV in Kokstad on Saturday in what could be a hard-fought battle.

In the North Section, the Down Touch Griffons host the Hino Valke in Welkom, and the FNB Welwitschias meet the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Windhoek on Friday, where the hosts will look to register their 1st victory.

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Vodacom CupThe Vodacom Cup is now fully underway across the length and breadth of South Africa and Namibia and sparks are set to fly in George, Cape Town and Pretoria this weekend.

At picturesque Outeniqua Park, the SWD Eagles have a great opportunity to win their 2nd successive home game when they host the defending champions from Kimberley, GWK Griquas, on Friday evening. It’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final.

There is another top-of-the-table clash in the South Section on Saturday afternoon when DHL Western Province, Vodacom Cup champions in 2012, host the Cell C Sharks XV in Athlone, Cape Town. Both these teams lost in the quarter-finals last season.

In the North Section, the Vodacom Blue Bulls will want to get back to winning ways when they host the high-flying Steval Pumas in Pretoria. The side from the Lowveld top the Log, with 3 wins from 3 and have been impressive this season, amassing 170 points at an average of almost 57 per match.

This week we feature 1 of the best young tight forwards in the country as well as 1 of the top try-scorers from 2014 in Toyota Free State XV hooker Joseph Dweba and Boland Cavaliers wing Harlon Klaasen, who will face off against each other in Heidedal, Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

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Vodacom CupThe South Section of the Vodacom Cup kicked off on Friday evening with a resounding victory for the SWD Eagles, while the Cell C Sharks XV and Steval Pumas got 50-pointers without conceding a point on Saturday.

Apart from these 3 matches, the 4 others played this weekend were much closer affairs.

On Friday, the Xerox Golden Lions remained unbeaten when they beat northern neighbours the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Johannesburg.

Saturday’s other matches saw wins for DHL Western Province in Caledon, where loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe scored 4 tries, GWK Griquas in Port Elizabeth and the Leopards XV in Lichtenburg.

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Vodacom CupVenues as far afield as Secunda, Lichtenburg and Caledon will play host this weekend as the Vodacom Cup picks up speed with action in the South Section getting underway.

The first match in the South Section is on Friday evening is in George, where the SWD Eagles host the Toyota Free State XV.

Three more matches in this section follow on Saturday, one of which will see the defending champions in action when GWK Griquas travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the EP Kings. The other 2 South Section matches are scheduled for Durban (Cell C Sharks XV vs Border Bulldogs) and Caledon (Boland Cavaliers vs DHL Western Province).

The biggest match in the North Section is on Friday afternoon when 2 of the 3 unbeaten sides, the Xerox Golden Lions and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, square off in Johannesburg.

On Saturday, the action in the North Section moves to the platteland, more specifically Lichtenburg (Leopards XV vs Hino Valke) and Secunda (Steval Pumas vs Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls).

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Vodacom CupThe Steval Pumas, Xerox Golden Lions and Vodacom Blue Bulls all recorded good victories in Round 2 of the Vodacom Cup this weekend.

These 3 teams from the North Section are tied on 10 Log points at the top of the standings, with the Steval Pumas in 1st position because of a better points’ difference.

There were only 3 matches in this Round. The action in the South Section will kick off next weekend.

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Vodacom CupNo fewer than 24 tries were scored in the 1st 4 matches of the Vodacom Cup in 2015, with big wins for the Xerox Golden Lions, Steval Pumas, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Leopards XV.

• The Vodacom Blue Bulls easily overcame the Hino Valke in Kempton Park by 37 / 13.

• The Xerox Golden Lions trounced the Namibian FNB Welwitschias by 53 / 3 in Windhoek.

• The Steval Pumas romped over the Down Touch Griffons by 57 / 18 in Nelspruit.

• In the last game of Vodacom Cup action for the weekend, the Leopards XV beat a spirited Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls side by 22 / 9 in Potchefstroom.

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Vodacom CupThe Vodacom Cup, the breeding ground for future South African rugby stars, kicks off this weekend with four matches in the North Section scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

The first match will take place on the East Rand, when the Hino Valke host the Vodacom Blue Bulls at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park.

Only teams from the North Section are in action this weekend as well as in round two, with the South Section due to get underway in two weeks’ time.

Over the years, the Vodacom Cup has established itself as the competition where Springboks are made. Of the 14 players featured by SARU last year, nine players have since featured at Junior Springbok, Vodacom Super Rugby or Springbok level.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen was the star of the annual South African Rugby Union Player of the Year Awards when he walked off with 3 awards, including the main award of the season.

Vermeulen was named SARU Rugby Player of the Year after an extensive voting process, which included the country’s rugby media and the public through SARU’s online and social media platforms.

The 28-year-old Vermeulen, who will captain the DHL Stormers this year, also won the coveted SARPA Players’ Player of the Year and Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year Awards for 2014.

“Duane has been outstanding in 2014 and these awards are just reward for the excellent form he showed last year, as one of the Springboks’ key performers and for the DHL Stormers,” said SARU President, Mr Oregan Hoskins.

Hot on Vermeulen’s heels, with two awards, was young Springbok flyhalf and Junior Springbok captain Handré Pollard.

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Vodacom Cup16 Teams, split into 2 Sections of 8 each, will contest the 2015 Vodacom Cup, with defending champions GWK Griquas heading up a strong South Section and the Welwitschias from Namibia back in the competition and replacing the Kenyan Tusker Simba XV side who has withdrawn due to financial considerations.

Joining the 5-time champions from Kimberley in the South Section will be winners in 2012, DHL Western Province, as well as the Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Cell C Sharks XV, EP Kings, SWD Eagles and Toyota Free State XV.

The Xerox Golden Lions, runners up last year and champions in 2013, are in the North Section with the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls, Down Touch Griffons, Leopards XV, Steval Pumas, Valke, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Welwitschias from Namibia.

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Tusker Simba XVRugby development in Africa took a heavy blow this week when Kenya withdrew their team from this year’s Vodacom Cup competition.

The Tusker Simba XV that took part in last year’s competition was meant to be involved in the 2015 edition as well, but have had to withdraw from all games as they don’t have the financial resources to field a team in the competition.

The invitation for them to participate came from SA Rugby to help with rugby development in Africa, and was seen as a key part of Kenya’s development as a rugby nation, especially after their success at Sevens level.

The Tusker Simba XV finished second last in last year’s Southern Section, above the Border Bulldogs.

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MJ Mentz - Pumas head coach

MJ Mentz – Pumas head coach

MJ Mentz has been handed the reigns for the Pumas in their upcoming Vodacom Cup campaign and the coach is looking to keep a similar system going.

The Pumas enjoyed a successful year in 2014 as they toppled some of the bigger teams in the Currie Cup through their gritty determination.

“The secret to our success this year will certainly lie in our communication skills and a shared goal,” Mentz said.

The new coach also said the last two years coaching under the mentorship of coach Jimmy Stonehouse was a great stepping-stone in his coaching career.

The way Stonehouse maintained discipline in the squad was a huge encouragement and now Mentz would like to add his way to the existing system.

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Steval PumasThe Nelspruit-based Steval Pumas have retained the bulk of their coaching squad, without appointing a new head coach.

The top spot in the coaching became vacant earlier this month when head coach Jimmy Stonehouse resigned from his position to join Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus.

On Thursday the board of directors of the Mpumalanga Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed they have decided to leave the coaching team intact for the duration of the 2015 Vodacom Cup.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Nizaam Carr and Handré Pollard lead the full list of nominees released by SARU on Wednesday for their annual Player of the Year Awards, which will take place on 8 February in Midrand.

Carr and Pollard, both of whom made their Test debuts for the Springboks this season, have both been nominated in three categories.

The 23-year-old Carr has been nominated in for the SARU Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Currie Cup Player of the Year.

Pollard, who is only 20, has been nominated in the categories for SARU Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and SA Under 20 Player of the Year.

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Xerox Golden LionsComing off a highly successful 2014 rugby season in all areas, the Lions have announced the final signings of players for the 2015 season

The GLRU has worked hard in maintaining growth potential in junior players and increasing depth where needed.

The Lions have managed to attact six SA Schools players for the Under 19 squad in Nazo Nkala, Barend Smit, Sarel Smith, Kenny van Niekerk and Marco van Vuuren.

In the Under 21 squad there are seven players who took part in the recent Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand. Cyle Brink, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Thabo Mabuza, Malcolm Marx, Ramone Samuels, Victor Sekeketi and Currie Cup player Jaco van der Walt.

In the senior squad the Lions boast seven players who are either capped by the Springboks or were involved this year, as well as BlitzBokke in Albertus “Kwagga” Smith and their captain Warren Whiteley who is both a Springbok and a Sevens Bok.

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Vodacom Blue BullsAs 2014 draws to an end, and the festive spirit starts to take over, it also brings with it a time to reflect on the year gone by. The Blue Bulls Company today hosted their annual Player Awards at very casual and relaxed event hosted on the Loftus B-Field.

All the contracted players, including the Under 19’s, Under 21’s and senior teams, attended the event. They were also joined by a host of team management, administration staff, sponsors and partners.

 

Full list of awards:

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Vodacom CupThe Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) has welcomed the inclusion of a Namibian team in next year’s Vodacom Cup competition.

NRU president Bradley Basson, confirmed on Tuesday that the South African Rugby Union has agreed to Namibia’s request to be included in the 16-team competition that will run from early March through to the end of May.

“It is the best thing that could have happened to Namibian rugby in our build-up towards the Rugby World Cup, we have a number of local based players who are not exposed to high level rugby and they will benefit from this,” said Basson from Carcavelos, Portugal where the national team is preparing for a test match against Portugal on Saturday.

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GWK GriquasVodacom CupGWK Griquas dethroned the defending champions to clinch the Vodacom Cup for the 5th time when they beat the Golden Lions by 30-6 in the final at GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening.

These 2 teams are now the undoubted kings of Vodacom Cup rugby, both with 5 titles out of the 17 on offer since the inception of the competition in 1998.

It was GWK Griquas’ first Vodacom Cup title since 2009 and also avenged their home defeat in the in the final seconds of the 2012 final against DHL Western Province. They won their other Vodacom Cup titles in 1998, when they also beat the Golden Lions in the final, as well as 2005 and 2007.

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