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The Carling Currie Cup Premier Division returns this weekend, with some big clashes between traditional rivals that will no doubt deliver thrilling action in South Africa’s oldest domestic provincial competition.

The Premier Division kicks off on Friday 5 July and will reach its climax with the final on 21 September. In an exciting new feature, the competition will be staged over one-and-a-half rounds, followed by two semi-finals and the grand finale.

This season, the eight teams are divided into two groups of four each by virtue of last year’s standings.

The one group will consist of the Toyota Cheetahs (No 1 ranked last year), the Vodacom Bulls (4), DHL Western Province (5) and the NovaVit Griffons (8), while the second group are the Hollywoodbets Sharks XV (ranked No 2), Airlink Pumas (3), Fidelity ADT Lions (6) and Suzuki Griquas (7).

Teams will play home and away matches within their respective groups plus a single round of games against sides in the opposite group. In the end, the top four sides on the combined log will progress to the semi-finals on the weekend of 14 September (1 v 4, and 2 v 3), with the two winners set to battle it out for the famous Currie Cup in the 21 September final.

Carling Black Label returns as sponsor after its first introduction back in the 2020/21 tournament. Although Carling Black Label’s position within the rugby space remains new, it will continue the decades’ long association between SAB and SA Rugby.

Mr Mark Alexander, President of the South African Rugby Union, said: “We are delighted to welcome Carling Black Label back as the title sponsor for the Currie Cup, which remains a crucial element in the framework of South African rugby.

“The partnership between SA Rugby and South African Breweries spans over four decades, and it is truly gratifying to have Carling rejoin us.

“The prestigious honour of lifting the renowned gold cup continues to hold significant value for our provincial unions, and as evidenced in recent years, there is a substantial emphasis on winning this competition.

“Best of luck to all the teams, including those in the First Division who have already commenced their games, and a warm welcome back to Carling Black Label.”

Carling Black Label brand director, Kerryn Greenleaf, said: “The brand decided to sponsor Currie Cup once again, as the brand tournament gives Carling Black Label the opportunity to share its brand purpose with South Africans and using rugby as a way to bring out the Champion Within South African men and be a part of helping champions rise, which is what we have seen looking at all the Currie Cup alumni becoming South African rugby legends.

“That is what we, as Carling Black Label, stand for – recognize and reward the champion within and why we wanted to sponsor the Currie Cup again.”

To kick off matters, the Suzuki Griquas and Airlink Pumas meet on Friday, 5 July in Kimberley in a repeat of the recently held SA Cup final, which the Northern Cape side won to capture the crown. Starting time in the Diamond City for the campaign opener is at 15h00.

However, the Carling Currie Cup Premier Division is another beast altogether and the men from Mpumalanga will be a transformed team from the one that lost the SA Cup final in Kimberley.

Friday afternoon’s match will be followed by the game in Durban between the Hollywoodbets Sharks XV and Fidelity ADT Lions, which gets underway at 17h15.

Following Friday’s two matches, the action then moves to Bloemfontein on Saturday, when the 2023 champions, the Toyota Cheetahs open their title defence at home against the NovaVit Griffons in a big Free State derby.

Nowadays without their former talisman and skipper Ruan Pienaar, who retired a few months ago, the Bloemfontein outfit still run out as slight favourites to open their season with a win, even though the team from Welkom beat their neighbours to the south in the SA Cup.

The first-round action concludes on Sunday with the traditional South vs North derby between hosts DHL Western Province and arch-rivals the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town.

After a lukewarm performance last season, the Cape faithful will be hoping for a positive start from Province, while the Pretoria outfit will be in no mood to surrender early bragging rights to their traditional adversary.

Sunday’s tasty encounter starts at 15h00 in the DHL Stadium, and like all other Premier Division action, will be televised live on SuperSport.

Match information:

Suzuki Griquas vs Airlink Pumas
Date: Friday, 5 July
Venue: Suzuki Stadium, Kimberley
Time: 15h00
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
TV: Supersport

Hollywoodbets Sharks XV vs Fidelity ADT Lions
Date: Friday, 5 July
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Time: 17h15
Referee: AJ Jacobs
TV: Supersport

Toyota Cheetahs vs NovaVit Griffons
Date: Saturday, 6 July
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Time: 13h55
Referee: Paul Mente
TV: Supersport

DHL Western Province vs Vodacom Bulls
Date: Sunday, 7 July
Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
Time: 15h00
Referee: Griffin Colby
TV: Supersport

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