The Golden Lions will be out to continue their unbeaten start to the season when they travel to Cape Town to play Western Province who will be desperate to avoid recording a hat-trick of defeats.
In the other two Currie Cup games on Friday night the Sharks will be hunting a bonus-point victory over the Leopards in Durban while the Blue Bulls will be keen to silence the claims of Griquas fans that their team has what it takes to win at Loftus Versveld.
In the only match on Saturday the Free State Cheetahs will be determined to deny the Pumas their first win of the season when the two sides clash in Bloemfontein.
The Blue Bulls, without two Springbok flanks in Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann this weekend, face a big Currie Cup test as the high-flying Griquas head to Pretoria on Friday afternoon.
Last season, the Blue Bulls snuck home by one point in the corresponding fixture after a last-minute Griquas conversion sailed wide.
Griquas coach Abre Minnie knows his team is in for a severe test despite the fact that the home side are missing a number of their frontline players.
He said: "It's never easy at Loftus and I'm convinced this will be our hardest game of the season, because the Blue Bulls are playing to stay alive in the Currie Cup. They are motivated to improve their position on the log and have a very proud tradition at Loftus.
"Also, the players that have gone before the current crop of Blue Bulls, have set an example and this team have to live up to that expectation. They still have a number of Springboks in their team so we'll have to be at our very best on Friday," added Minnie.
The Men from Cape Town have lost their last two games in the Currie Cup, last weekend at home against the Sharks and the week before that against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, and they will have their work cut out for them if they are to avoid a hat-trick of defeats this weekend as they take on the table-topping Golden Lions.
Robbie Fleck, the former Springbok centre and current Western Province assistant coach, said: "The Lions have a fantastic all-round game. They are disciplined, well-organised and are excellent at holding onto possession.
"That is their entire game plan - they look to handle the ball and force their opponents into making tackles. They are not the log leaders for nothing and I think regardless of Friday's result, they are going to be there and there about come the end of the season," he added.
Fleck admitted that his young team is under a bit of pressure after their disappointing results in the last fortnight but he explained that they will relish the challenge of becoming the first team to beat the Lions this season.
"For us it is a massive challenge and we need to get stuck into them from the start. We want to put them under pressure and retain ball as well so for the young guys it is another mammoth task, but one the guys are really looking forward to," said Fleck.
The Leopards face an uphill battle at Kings Park in Durban on Friday evening against the Sharks, the defending champions who are currently in second place
Sharks coach John Plumtree has decided to rotate his squad this weekend, making a number of changes to the team to give fringe players much-needed game time.
Veteran utility back Stefan Terblanche is getting a break, with Springboks Meyer Bosman and Marius Joubert teaming up in the midfield. Keegan Daniel will play off the bench and Jacques Botes will lead the team, while Conrad Hoffman replaces Charl McLeod at scrumhalf.
Despite the changes to his line-up Plumtree dismissed suggestions that the Sharks would take the Leopards lightly and explained that the Durban side is expecting a fierce test.
He said: "The Leopards have conceded a few points this year, but they've also scored a few, so they have plenty of attacking threats and will come here with an attitude of wanting to attack and put on a good show. Defensively, we're going to have to be really up for it.
"Our defence was good against Western Province, but it was easier in the rain. Hopefully there won't be any on Friday. They will look to stress us and we have to make sure defensively we're on target - defence is a big focus for us this weekend," explained the Sharks coach.
Even though the Pumas have not won a game thus far in the Currie Cup, the Free State Cheetahs will not be underestimating the team from Nelspruit when they clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
"We didn't play well against the Golden Lions, especially in the first half, and we need to improve. But it's not going to be easy against the Pumas - they were unlucky to lose against the Blue Bulls, the Sharks and the Golden Lions," said Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske.
"We would've liked to do some squad rotation, but we have too many injuries and can't really afford to rest anyone, while the Pumas are very difficult opponents," added the Cheetahs boss.
After five near losses Jimmy Stonehouse, coach of the Pumas, said: "It can't carry on like this, that victory simply has to come. The spirit in the team is amazing and we're keeping our heads up. We'll just have to try again this weekend, even if we know it will be very difficult in Bloemfontein.
"The Cheetahs have a very mobile pack and will probably try to move us around a bit, but I think we can match them upfront," he said.
Stonehouse has had to appoint a new captain in midfielder JW Jonker after regular skipper Corne Steenkamp was ruled out with a knee injury. The Pumas have also lost influential lock Marius Coetzer (hand) and Shaun Venter (concussion), two of their more experienced players.
Friday, August 19
Blue Bulls v Griquas
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
Prediction: The Blue Bulls will be desperate to prove that they have what it takes to make into into the semifinals this year with there severely depleted squad, but they will meet some fierce resistance in the form of the Griquas. The team from Kimberley have looked fluent this season and their teamwork should trump the youthful enthusiasm of their hosts. The Griquas to win this one by about seven points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Dustin Jinka, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Francois Venter.
Griquas: 15 Monty Dumond, 14 Riaan Viljoen, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Matthew Rosslee, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (captain), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Jean Botha.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Wilmaure Louw.
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Western Province v Golden Lions
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
Prediction: The Lions have got some great momentum going and are full value for their position at the top of the standings but there is no shortage of talent in this Western Province line-up and they will be desperate to turn things around in front of their home fans. The Lions have to lose sometime and we think it will be this weekend, Western Province will win by less than five points.
Western Province: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie (captain), 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Nick Fenton-Wells, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Juan De Jongh, 22 Gio Aplon.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, Jacobie Adriaanse, Michael Rhodes, Warren Whiteley, Rudy Paige, Burton Francis, Jannie Boshoff.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Sharks v Leopards
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
Prediction: Sharks coach John Plumtree may have rung the changes for the clash with the Leopards but the defending champions will still be going all out to ensure they take a full haul of five points from this clash. The visitors will work hard but will ultimately be blown away and the Sharks will win by over 30 points.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes (captain), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Stefan Terblanche.
Leopards: 15 George Tossel, 14 Hoffman Maritz, 13 Jovan Bowles, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Vainon Willis, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Theo van Wyk, 8 Morné Hanekom, 7 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 6 Victor Joubert, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Brendan Snyman, 3 Stefan Bezuidenhout, 2 Jacques Moller, 1 Bennie Uys.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Dewald Coetzee, 18 John-Roy Jenkins, 19 Christo van Niekerk, 20 Spanner Pretorius, 21 Johan Laker, 22 Hennie Skorbinski.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Saturday, August 20
Free State Cheetahs v Pumas
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Prediction: The Pumas have been competitive in every game they have played this season despite being unable to register a win and they will give the Cheetahs another tough examination on Saturday. However, the team from Bloemfontein will be focused on turning things around in front of their home crowd and should have too much class for the visitors. We are backing the Cheetahs to win by less than seven points.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Smit, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corné Uys, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Ockert van Zyl, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Enrico Acker, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Philip Burger.
Pumas: 15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Johan Jackson, 13 JW Jonker (captain), 12 Tiaan Marx, 11 MJ Mentz, 10 Ricardo Croy, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Doppies le Roux, 7 Reginald Kember, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Eduan van der Walt, 4 Rudi Matthee, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Dee-Jay Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 17 Dawie Steyn, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 JP Mostert, 20 Hendrik van der Nest, 21 Siviwe Magaba, 22 Deon Scholtz.
Referee: Pro Legoete
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