Currie Cup Premier Division Preview – Round 1

Two Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks will run out for the Golden Lions when they Johannesburg side opens the defence of their Currie Cup Rugby title on Saturday against the Free State Cheetahs at Coca-Cola Park.

The country’s premier domestic competition, which has been reduced to six teams this year, gets underway on Friday night when the Blue Bulls host Griquas as Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

The weekend’s action is rounded off at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday night when Western Province are at home to last year’s beaten finalists, the Sharks.

2007 World Cup flyhalf Butch James will start in the No 10 jersey for the Lions and his former Bok team-mate CJ van der Linde is named on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury, while another ex-Bok, Waylon Murray, will play centre after regaining full fitness following a long injury lay-off.

Meanwhile, IRB Junior World Championship-winning wing Raymond Rhule will start at left wing for the Cheetahs after playing a pivotal role in helping the Junior Springboks win the U20 world title earlier this year.

The Free Staters are captained by centre Robert Ebersohn, while an intriguing selection is that of Springbok Sevens ace Boom Prinsloo in the No 6 jersey in the place of the injured Heinrich Brussow.

The Sharks will boast five Springboks in their ranks for their Round 1 clash with Western Province at Newlands, with wing Odwa Ndungane, flanker and newly-elected skipper Jean Deysel, flyhalf Riaan Viljoen and centre Meyer Bosman starting and centre Marius Joubert named on the bench.

Meanwhile, WP coach Allister Coetzee has handed the captaincy reins to hooker Deon Fourie, who moves to the side of the scrum for their match against the Sharks after spending the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition at eighthman.

Fourie leads an inexperienced team with nine players making their Currie Cup debuts for Western Province.

Former Springbok flanker Dewald Potgieter will an equally inexperienced Blue Bulls side out onto the field to kick off the 2012 competition when they host the Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.

Coach Pine Pienaar has named three rookies in the form of Ulrich Beyers, Clayton Blommetjies and Cornell Hess to start their first Currie Cup match, with a further four uncapped players on the bench.

And Griquas have named a new-look side including the exciting Willie le Roux at fullback, after the former Bolander excelled for the Cheetahs in the recent Super Rugby competition on the wing.

There are also welcome returns for former Sharks wing Luzuko Vulindlu and centre JP Nel, who forms a combative centre combination with another former Blue Bull in the form of Stefan Watermeyer.

Starting teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP Nel, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Jonathan Adendorff, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ligtoring Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Stef Roberts.

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Davon Raube

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