Vodacom Cup preview – SA’s depth in question

The future and depth of South African rugby will come under scrutiny when the Vodacom Cup kicks off this weekend. A look at the teams of only the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions and Western Province augurs well for a competition that was won by Griquas last year when they beat the Blue Bulls in the final.


The teams where the five Super 14 franchises are situated – Blue Bulls, Free State, Golden Lions, Western Province and Wildebeest – are not necessarily the favourites to win the Vodacom Cup.


After all, last year, a star-studded Blue Bulls side was pipped in the final which was won by Griquas.


That makes it easy to envisage the talent that there is in this competition, especially if it is considered what talent there is in the franchise-linked unions mentioned above.


The Blue Bulls have youngsters like centres Stephan Dippenaar and Stefan Watermeyer, Francois Brummer at flyhalf and Francois Hougaard as his halfback partner, and also Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle and Hilton Lobberts, the experienced Tiger Mangweni, Bandise Maku and Sangoli Mxoli among those who will challenge for title honours this year.


The Lions have 11 players who have been involved with their initial Super 14 group, including Thabang Molefe, Roland Bernard, captain Wilhelm Koch, Willem Stolts, Cobus Grobler and Straatkat van Zyl.


And Western Province have experienced players Wylie Human, Zanier Ryland, Springbok Hanyani Shimange, Sevens Bok Deon Fourie and Robbie Diack in their squad. To think that these well-known players may not be good enough to win the title, is indeed sobering and augurs well for the future.


The unions who will play in the Currie Cup First Division have also done their homework. Expect a new-look but strong Border side, a rejuvenated and stronger Leopards, SWD Valke and EP Mighty Elephants to seriously challenge for honours.


And then, of course, the Cheetahs, Blue Bulls, WP, Valke, Griquas and Wildebeest are still there with young depth and also plenty of experience in most cases to challenge for the title.


This weekend’s first-round matches in the Vodacom Cup competition are:


Friday:


Free State v Golden Lions, 3.30pm, Bloemfontein;
SWD Eagles v Blue Bulls, 5pm, George;
Border Bulldogs v Griquas, 7pm, East London.

Saturday:


Wildebeest v Pumas, 3.30pm, Durban;
EP Mighty Elephants v Platinum Leopards, 3.30pm, Port Elizabeth;
WP v Griffons, 4pm, Bellville South;
Boland Kavaliers v Valke, 5pm, Wellington.


Sapa – Rugbyweek.com

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