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Kobus van Wyk

Kobus van Wyk

Wing Kobus van Wyk is back in the DHL Western Province line-up for Friday evening’s ABSA Currie Cup clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

DHL WP, the defending ABSA Currie Cup champions, will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Pretoria and Van Wyk’s inclusion is 1 of 3 changes to the starting line-up this time around.

The hard-running Van Wyk comes in for Dillyn Leyds on the right-wing, scrumhalf Godlen Masimla replaces Nic Groom, who is on Barbarians duty in London, and Alistair Vermaak starts at loosehead prop in place of the injured Oli Kebble.

Kebble’s hamstring has not recovered sufficiently from the weekend, whilst exciting talent Masimla will make his 1st ABSA Currie Cup start for DHL Western Province in the absence of both Groom and Jano Vermaak, who injured his finger against the Vodacom Blue Bulls.

Fit-again halfback Louis Schreuder is the new scrumhalf replacement and he will be joined on the bench by ABSA Currie Cup debutant JP Smith – the new prop replacement – and lock Jan de Klerk, who comes in for the injured Chris van Zyl (knee).

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Gert Smal

Gert Smal

Springbok stars Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all committed their long-term rugby futures to DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers.

Prop Malherbe, lock Etzebeth, flanker Kolisi and centre De Allende are in contention to represent South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, having all been part of the Springbok squad this season after stellar Vodacom Super Rugby campaigns for the DHL Stormers.

Between them, the quartet have featured in 61 Tests, Etzebeth leading the way with 37 Test appearances since his debut against England in 2012, with Malherbe (6 Tests) and Kolisi (11 Tests) making their debuts in 2013 and De Allende (7 Tests) playing his 1st international in 2014.

“Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all been developed here at Western Province, coming through our youth structures and going on to play Test rugby for South Africa as standout DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province players,” said WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal.

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Dillyn Leyds

Dillyn Leyds

DHL Western Province coach John Dobson pulled no punches in the wake of his team’s humiliating 29 / 47 loss to the Vodacom Blue Bulls.

The Blue Bulls, having trailed 15 / 16 at halftime and then 15 / 26 early in the 2nd half, went on to score 5 unanswered tries in the last half-hour – culminating in a 2nd-half rout in Pretoria at the weekend.

Dobson, who admitted to being embarrassed by his team’s performance, was particularly incensed at the behaviour of some players after wing Dillyn Leyds scored an intercept try in the 45th minute.

“We scored an intercept try – as the Bulls were about to score themselves – and we celebrated like we had won the game,” an irate Dobson said.

“To me the signs were already on the wall there,” he said of the celebratory dances behind the post, adding: “That was poor behaviour by us.

“If you score a 12-phase try, fair enough. They were about to score.

“That was a 14-point turnaround – it could have been much worse.”

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ABSA Currie Cup2 Of the tournament’s pace-setters are going head-to-head on Saturday. But it is no ordinary match. It is the BIG north-south derby – the Vodacom Blue Bulls hosting DHL Western Province in the feature match of the weekend, when they meet in Pretoria on Saturday.

They are 2 of only 3 remaining unbeaten sides.

However, before we get there we have 2 Friday games – which will feature 3 teams still seeking their 1st win.

The winless Eastern Province Kings host an ambitious Steval Pumas team in Port Elizabeth, while the central unions partners (and rivals) ORC Griquas and Toyota Free State Cheetahs will meet in Kimberley.

Griquas and Cheetahs are also both still winless.

The Cell C Sharks, fresh from their 1st win of the season, host the high-flying Xerox Golden Lions in Saturday’s early match before we get to the BIG derby at Loftus Versfeld.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls are currently sitting at Top of the standings – as a result of their greater points difference over their Gauteng neighbours, the Xerox Golden Lions – with both on a full-house 10 Log points.

DHL Western Province are 1 Log point further back (9) in 3rd place.

The Cell C Sharks (5 points), Steval Pumas (4), Toyota Free State Cheetahs (1), EP Kings (1) and ORC Griquas (1) trail behind the pace-setters.

We look at all the Round 3 matches!

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Johnny Kotze

Johnny Kotze

DHL Western Province backline ace Johnny Kotze has been entrusted with the No 13 jersey for Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

Kotze, 22, replaces the injured Juan de Jongh at outside centre in the only starting change from last weekend’s hard-fought 9 / 3 win over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Cape Town.

Kotze made 8 Vodacom Super Rugby starts for the Stormers earlier this season (on the wing), but this will be his 1st ABSA Currie Cup start – having made his tournament debut off the bench 2 weeks ago against the ORC Griquas.

DHL Western Province coach John Dobson told the website: “It was always our intention to get Johnny into the No 13 jersey at some point, but of course, it has now been necessitated by Juan’s injury.

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DHL WPVodacom Blue BullsHas the world gone mad? The Vodacom Blue Bulls will be playing an expansive game and DHL Western Province will kick for territory.

That is what is on the cards when South Africa’s biggest derby, the north-south Currie Cup showdown between the Blue Bulls and WP, take place at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Province have made it clear they want to build ‘scoreboard pressure’, building up a healthy lead before looking for tries and bonus points.

One gets the feeling the WP brains trust believe the Blue Bulls can’t chase a game once they are behind.

Both WP coach John Dobson and new captain Nizaam Carr said they will not be lured into a helter-skelter contest and will back their structures to wear the Blue Bulls down.

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Juan de Jongh

Juan de Jongh

DHL Western Province were dealt a cruel blow with the news that captain Juan de Jongh has been ruled out of action for 8 to 10 weeks.

De Jongh suffered a knee injury in the 49th minute of last Saturday’s 9 / 3 win over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.

The Springbok centre – who captained WP to Currie Cup glory last season – suffered a Grade 2 Medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear, which could potentially see him only return in time for the Currie Cup play-offs in October.

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ABSA Currie CupThe Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and the DHL Western Province all achieved successive wins in the 2nd Round of the ABSA Currie Cup played over the weekend.

In Durban, the Cell C Sharks opened their account with a win over the Eastern Province Kings, which means the EP Kings, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the ORC Griquas are still searching for their 1st win after 2 Rounds of Premier Division matches.

At Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg the Xerox Golden Lions survived a bruising battle against the Steval Pumas to win 44 / 27 (halftime 20 / 10) on Friday night. In another Friday evening clash Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman contributed 21 points to steer his team to a 36 / 12 victory over the ORC Griquas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Griquas led 12 / 6 at halftime.

DHL Western Province beat the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 9 / 3 in driving rain on Saturday afternoon to hand new coach, John Dobson, his 1st ABSA Currie Cup win at DHL Newlands in Cape Town. In the late Saturday kick-off the Cell C Sharks fought off a determined challenge from the Eastern Province Kings to claim a 33 / 25 (half-time 18 / 10) victory at Growthpoint Kings Park.

The Blue Bulls and the Golden Lions have both collected the maximum 10 Log Points on offer from their 2 outings and the Gauteng rivals are closely followed by defending champions, Western Province, who have 9 Log Points.

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Siyabonga "Scarra" Ntubeni

Siyabonga “Scarra” Ntubeni

Fringe hooker Scarra Ntubeni has been released by the Springbok coaching staff.

Ntubeni, who did not travel with the team to Argentina on Wednesday this week, will be returning to DHL Western Province.

He was 1 of the members of the broader Springbok squad that stayed behind in Durban, while the matchday squad headed to Buenos Aires for the final match ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

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DHL WPDHL Western Province head coach John Dobson has named an unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at DHL Newlands.

Dobson has rightly kept faith with the starting line-up that did duty against ORC Griquas last weekend, but lock Jan de Klerk and back Kobus van Wyk come onto the bench against the Cheetahs.

De Klerk replaces Chris van Zyl in a rotational switch, whilst Van Wyk comes in for Johnny Kotze, who took a bang to his head at training on Monday.

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ABSA Currie CupDefending ABSA Currie Cup champions, DHL Western Province, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions all scored impressive wins in the opening Round of South Africa’s premier provincial competition over the weekend.

The 1st Round of the famous competition saw a number of outstanding individual performance as the teams got their new campaign underway. 6 Of the 8 teams started with new coaches at the helm, while several of the line-ups included numerous Junior Springboks and also a few Springbok Sevens stalwarts.

Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard gave a masterclass performance for the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who scored 6 tries in total in their comprehensive 57 / 19 win over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

In the other match played on Saturday afternoon, Junior Springbok flank Kwagga Smith was equally impressive for the Xerox Golden Lions in Port Elizabeth where he scored a hattrick of tries in their 51 / 14 demolition of the Eastern Province Kings.

Champions Western Province kicked off their campaign in perfect fashion on Friday afternoon with a 6-try victory over the ORC Griquas in Kimberley. Springbok Sevens flyer Seabelo Senatla scored 2 tries to demonstrate his deadly finishing abilities.

Meanwhile, history repeated itself in the late match on Friday when the Steval Pumas beat the Cell C Sharks 33 / 24 in the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. The score was almost identical to the 32 / 22 shock win of the Pumas over the Sharks in the opening Round fixture of last year at the same venue.

Pumas live-wire flank Marnus Schoeman scored 2 tries and was denied a 3rd by a desperate Thomas du Toit tackle just as he was about to launch himself over the try line.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls currently sit on Top of the Log, thanks to their bonus point win and better points’ difference and they are followed by the Xerox Golden Lions, DHL Western Province (both also on 5 points) and the Steval Pumas (4 points).

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John Dobson

John Dobson

New DHL Western Province coach John Dobson has revealed his team for Friday’s 2015 ABSA Currie Cup opener against ORC Griquas in Kimberley (kick-off 15:30 SA Time).

Outside centre Juan de Jongh will lead a starting line-up that includes 2 DHL WP Currie Cup debutants, as well as 5 more on the bench. However, the playing squad includes 13 members of the matchday 22 from last year’s ABSA Currie Cup Final.

“It’s not a totally new team in terms of last season,” explained Dobson, “but this team, mainly the pack, has not played together a lot since last year’s Absa Currie Cup Final.

“That’s the challenge for us, to ensure we get the pack working together as quickly as possible in order to bring our dangerous backline into play.”

Front rowers Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw are the ‘new’ faces in the Province starting XV, despite both having played at Vodacom Super Rugby level for the DHL Stormers already, with Marius Fourie (on loan from the SWD Eagles), Chris van Zyl, Chris Cloete, Jano Vermaak and Johnny Kotze the debutants on the bench.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Matthew Proudfoot

Matthew Proudfoot

DHL Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has opted not to renew his contract with Western Province Rugby, but he might not be lost to the union on a permanent basis.

Proudfoot will be linking up with outgoing DHL Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee at Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers in Japan, but Director of Rugby Gert Smal remains hopeful of retaining his services on a consultancy basis, which would see him contribute to the ‘Tight Five Factory’; an innovative project which is aimed at identifying and developing tight 5 players from youth level and up within WP Rugby.

Proudfoot, 42, has served as forwards coach of both the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province for the past 7 seasons, which has seen the Cape team’s pack become 1 of the most feared units at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level.

In that time, the likes of unheralded juniors Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr have progressed into the Springbok ranks (either as Test players or squad members), with the DHL Stormers’ scrummaging power a huge boon in their recently-completed 2015 Super Rugby campaign.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

DHL Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal has confirmed their interest in signing Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit from the Cell C Sharks.

Smal confirmed to EWN Sport that a discussion between him and Du Toit had taken place.

Smal said the Sharks had agreed to the discussion taking place.

The WP boss said the discussion went well and he now hopes Du Toit “makes the right decision to come to Cape Town.”

Du Toit, 22, signed a 2-year contract extension at the Sharks in July 2013 which runs until 30 June this year.

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Sikhumbuzo Notshe

Sikhumbuzo Notshe

Stormers and Western Province loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe has opted to extend his stay in Cape Town for a further 2 seasons.

The promising 22-year-old has signed a deal to stay at WP until the end of the 2017 season.

Notshe was a star for WP in the Vodacom Cup this year, while also impressing when he got opportunities for the Stormers in Super Rugby.

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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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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The Cell C Sharks appear to be winning the battle to retain the services of Cape bred Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has told Durban media that he is committed to the union that he says gave him his big break in rugby.

It has been an open secret for a while now that the Springbok lock, currently out injured, was in negotiations with the DHL Stormers. Until quite recently the Western Province union appeared to be winning the battle, with informed sources confirming that Du Toit, who is from Swartland farming stock, was nearly certain to make the move down the coast next season.

However, it is understood that the Sharks then fought quite hard with counter-offers and promises that a concerted effort will be made to get the structures in Durban rugby right, and in an interview with the Natal Mercury on Monday the lock said that while he couldn’t say what would happen in the longer term, he was committed to the Sharks for now.

Du Toit has been out injured for most of the past 2 seasons and appears to feel beholden to the patience and resources that the Sharks have committed to his medical rehabilitation.

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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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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak has signed a 2-and-a-half-year deal with Western Province Rugby and will be available for selection from 1 July, once he has completed his current club commitments in France.

The 30-year-old will make the move back to South Africa from French giants, Toulouse; joining Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder and Godlen Masimla as the senior scrumhalf options for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province.

The quicksilver Vermaak has won 3 Test caps for the Springboks, making his debut against Italy on 8 June 2013, before also featuring against the Wallabies and the All Blacks later that season.

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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 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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