Three Currie Cup Premier Division matches take place on an action-packed Friday, with log leaders the Toyota Cheetahs hosting the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein in a clash which should again be full of intrigue, while the Mzansi Challenge also kicks off this weekend.
The match at the Toyota Stadium, which starts at 17h05, is sandwiched in-between the 15h00 clash in Johannesburg – where the Fidelity ADT Lions and NovaVit Griffons will both be vying for their first win of the campaign – and the evening fixture between last season’s finalists at the Mbombela Stadium between Airlink Pumas and Windhoek Draught Griquas at 19h10.
The Cell C Sharks and DHL Western Province wrap up the weekend action at 14h00 on Sunday at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban.
Meanwhile, the six Currie Cup First Division teams are also preparing to return to the field after a short break last weekend when the eagerly-awaited Mzansi Challenge kicks off with matches in East London, Kempton Park and Potchefstroom on Saturday (details below).
Currie Cup Premier Division
The third round of the Premier Division gets underway on Friday afternoon when two teams desperate for a win, the Fidelity ADT Lions and NovaVit Griffons, square off in Johannesburg.
Although both have lost their opening two rounds, the Highvelders showed enough against Airlink Pumas and DHL WP to be considered as slight favourites at home, but they will not underestimate the Northern Free Staters, who will be keen to show what they can do after earning promotion to the Premier Division last year.
The Toyota Cheetahs are currently leading the Currie Cup Premier Division standings on 10 points from their two bonus-point wins – although holders Airlink Pumas and DHL WP have the same number of points, albeit with weaker point margins than the Free Staters.
The team from Bloemfontein looked menacing in their opening two games, and they should be firm favourites at home against the winless Vodacom Bulls, who are seventh on the log.
Ruan Pienaar and his Toyota Cheetahs won both games against the men from Pretoria last year, with the last result ending 35-5 in their favour in Bloemfontein.
In a replay of their memorable 2022 Currie Cup Final in Kimberley, the Airlink Pumas host Windhoek Draught Griquas at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, with kick-off at 19h05 on Friday.
Jimmy Stonehouse’s team from Mpumalanga are flying high after two wins so far, although they needed a late try last weekend to put a way a determined Fidelity ADT Lions (34-27).
The Airlink Pumas won last year’s final 26-19 in the Diamond City, which was their only victory – and most important – in three encounters against the men from the Northern Cape in 2022. In 2020 and 2021, the team from Mpumalanga won twice against Windhoek Draught Griquas, with the other ending in an exciting draw, so, this battle in Nelspruit should deliver another enthralling match.
Last weekend, the team from Kimberley team gained a deserving 48-40 win over the visiting Cell C Sharks and they will no doubt be full of confidence for their tricky visit to the Lowveld.
Meanwhile, the Cell C Sharks will be itching to bounce back to winning form when they entertain DHL WP in the last fixture of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.
The Capetonians have played entertaining rugby so far which netted two positive results and last week they toppled the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, however, another tough assignment awaits them in Durban.
Province have the edge with three wins over the last five games between them, including last June’s 28-21 triumph in Stellenbosch. All the fixtures will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Currie Cup First Division / Mzansi Challenge
After a break in Currie Cup First Division over the past weekend, the action resumes this weekend when the eagerly-awaited Mzansi Challenge will also kick off, with four international sides joining the six South African provinces over a single round (which doubles as the second round of the First Division).
In the opening round of matches, the Valke host the San Clemente Rhinos – a partnership between the Mexican Rugby Union and Rhino Rugby, the official national development programme of USA Rugby – the Border Bulldogs take on the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias from Namibia, and the SWD Eagles are at home to Eastern Province. The Boland Kavaliers and Simbas from Kenya have a bye.
Unfortunately, the Goshawks from Zimbabwe have informed SA Rugby that they won’t be able to fulfil their commitments in the first three rounds of the new competition due to financial constraints, and according to the competition rules, it means their opponents in these games – the Leopards, Eastern Province and Boland Kavaliers – will each receive five log points, while the points’ difference for the cancelled matches will be calculated at the end of the competition.
Currie Cup Premier Division match information:
Fidelity ADT Lions vs NovaVit Griffons
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Date: Friday, 24 March
Referee: Morné Ferreira
Toyota Cheetahs vs Vodacom Bulls
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Date: Friday, 24 March
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Airlink Pumas vs Windhoek Draught Griquas
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Date: Friday, 24 March
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Cell C Sharks vs DHL Western Province
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Date: Sunday, 26 March
Referee: Christopher Allison