Can the Airlink Pumas build on their impressive start, and will the wounded Vodacom Bulls be able to bounce back after last week’s home defeat? These are but two of the intriguing questions which will be answered this weekend in the second round of the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The defending champion Airlink Pumas, fresh from their stunning 63-15 away triumph over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in the opening round, host the Fidelity ADT Lions in one of two fixtures on Friday, with kick-off scheduled for 17h00 in the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
That encounter will be followed by the North-South derby, featuring the Vodacom Bulls against their traditional rivals DHL Western Province, from 19h05 in Pretoria.
There are no games on Saturday, which means the two remaining fixtures will be staged on Sunday afternoon. First up, the NovaVit Griffons welcome their Free State rivals, the Toyota Cheetahs, to the Down Touch Investments Stadium in Welkom for their 14h00 clash.
The weekend’s action will be completed when Windhoek Draught Griquas, last year’s losing finalists, host Cell C Sharks from 16h05 in Kimberley. All four matches will be broadcast live by SuperSport.
DHL WP flyhalf Kade Wolhuter, Toyota Cheetahs scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, Airlink Pumas pivot Tinus de Beer and NovaVit Griffons scrumhalf Jaywinn Juries were all instrumental in their team’s first-round efforts, and these playmakers no doubt will be determined to do a similar job this weekend.
With a masterful De Beer pulling the strings, the Airlink Pumas served a firm reminder of their intentions to hold onto their Currie Cup title when they outgunned the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and on Friday, they face the talented, but inexperienced Fidelity ADT Lions in the Mbombela Stadium.
Their current form, and the fact that they are an extremely tough side to beat in Mpumalanga, must therefore make Jimmy Stonehouse’s charges a firm favourite over the visitors from Johannesburg, who started the season with a defeat to DHL WP last weekend.
The Airlink Pumas have won four out of the last five meetings between the two sides, including both their fixtures played last season.
The Vodacom Bulls’ first-round home loss means that DHL WP will face a wounded – but no doubt extremely determined – team in their North-South derby when they lock horns from 19h05 in the Jacaranda City.
This heavyweight clash has all the hallmarks of another enthralling game between the two most successful teams in Currie Cup history. The Vodacom Bulls would want to show that last week’s slip against the Airlink Pumas was just that, while John Dobson’s DHL WP – with the young pivot Wolhuter in superb form – would no doubt target another successful northern scalp to build on their first-round success.
The Capetonians will be hoping that history does not go against them on Friday, as they’ve only managed to win one from six recently against their arch rivals, including two defeats last season.
Last weekend, the 39-year-old Pienaar showed that “age it but a number” when he steered the Toyota Cheetahs to a comfortable 42-19 win over the men from Kimberley in the Diamond City – a venue where visiting teams seldom have it easy.
Expect the vastly experienced Pienaar to once more be the driving force behind the Free Staters’ onslaught when they travel north to take on the NovaVit Griffons in Sunday’s early-afternoon clash (14h00).
The Welkom-based outfit faded after a lively opening spell against the Cell C Sharks last weekend in Durban, and the purple jerseys will have to find a counter for talisman Pienaar if they want to have any chance of a home upset.
Kimberley will stage the weekend’s last fixture when Windhoek Draught Griquas and Cell C Sharks clash in the Diamond City. Pieter Bergh’s outfit will seek an immediate positive reaction on their home ground, while Joey Mongalo’s side will in turn target a much better start against the tricky side from the Northern Cape.
The Durbanites won both last season’s clashes between the sides, including a close-fought 24-23 victory on the east coast, while they have edged their Kimberley opponents by three games to two in this fixture in the last few years.
Airlink Pumas vs Fidelity ADT Lions
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Date: Friday, 17 March
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Vodacom Bulls vs DHL Western Province
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Friday, 17 March
Referee: Griffin Colby
NovaVit Griffons vs Toyota Cheetahs
Venue: Down Touch Investments Stadium, Welkom
Date: Sunday, 19 March
Referee: Paul Mente
Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Cell C Sharks
Venue: Windhoek Draught Park, Kimberley
Date: Sunday, 19 March
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni