The clash between the two full-blown Currie Cup Premier Division sides, the Leopards and Griquas in Potchefstroom on Friday, will kick-start what promises to be an interesting Vodacom Cup weekend.
The other Round Two clash that should be a cut above the rest, is that between the Free State Cheetahs and the Sharks XV in Petrusburg.
* The Leopards, newly promoted to the Premier Division of the Currie Cup, made a hard slog of it last week before overcoming the Pumas in Witbank.
Poor handling and options and many other mistakes marred that match.
They will have to do much, much better against Griquas who sounded a warning when they downed the Falcons 65-12.
Their backs include former Stormers Super 14 flyhalf Naas Olivier, former Lions Currie Cup players Trompie Nontshinga, and Thabang Molefe and Dewald Pretorius from the Blue Bulls and Falcons. They also have a workmanlike pack with the experienced Jonathan Mokuena captaining from No.8.
The Leopards, however, have reasonable depth this year, and with players of the calibre of Super 14 lock Rynard Landman, fullback Anvor Schooney, right wing Colin Lloyd, flank Wilhelm Koch and loosehead Nardus Lombard included this weekend, they will have more grunt up front and pace all round to take on the visitors from Kimberley.
* The Free State have made a number of changes to the side that outplayed the Border Bulldogs last weekend and seem to have more experience than the Sharks XV who will also have to come to terms with the hard field at Petrusburg.
The Sharks initially struggled to overcome the Boland Cavaliers, another Premier Division side, in Wellington last week, an will have to get their act together much sooner against what looks like a formidable Free State side with a number of players who have Super 14 experience.
The home side’s backs, in particular, with players of the class of FW Jonker and Eddie Fredericks on the wing, Jeandre Blom at scrumhalf and Bevin Fortuin at centre will be a handful to handle.
* The Lions also have a number of players with Super 14 experience for their clash with the Pumas at Randfontein on Saturday.
With players of the calibre and experience of former Super 14 captain and present flank Ernst Joubert to get match time and other Super 14 players Michael Killian at fullback, Dusty Noble on the wing, Jannie Boshoff and Walter Venter in midfield, plus a front row of Ross Geldenhuys, Reynecke and JC Janse van Rensburg, this is everything but a Young Lions side – a misnomer for the team still used by some.
They play a gutsy Pumas side where flyhalf Rudy Voigt is replaced by Tiaan Marx with Voigt moving to fullback.
An interesting Pumas selection is former New Zealand NPC player Juan Visser who played for Brakpan last year and first made his mark with the Golden Lions Sevens side.
* Unless off-the-field happenings are in more disarray than intimated, Western Province should not have many problems in dispatching of the EP Elephants who succumbed by a big margin to a new-look SWD Eagles team last week.
Western Province have three former Springboks – Bolla Conradie, Hilton Lobberts and Hanyani Shimange – in their side, as well as experienced campaigners like former Sevens Bok and Super 14 utility back Joe Pietersen, wing Wylie Human, Morgan Newman and centre PJ Vermeulen.
* The SWD Eagles are no flash in the pan. They proved that last week in destroying the EP Elephants in George – and Boland Cavaliers will have to play at a much higher level of proficiency than against the Sharks last week if they hope to do their Currie Cup Premier Division status justice.
* If last week’s performance against Griquas is anything to go by, the Falcons don’t have much hope of winning against the Griffons, who took the Blue Bulls to the wire last weekend – even though they are playing at home.
Not that the Tembisa Rugby Club field will be more familiar to the Falcons than to their visitors.
* The Blue Bulls and the Border Bulldogs have a bye.
This weekend’s fixtures (home teams first):
Friday, March 6:
Leopards v Griquas, 19.10
Saturday, March 7:
Falcons v Griffons, 15.00
WP v Elephants, 15.00
Golden Lions v Pumas, 16.00
Free State v Sharks XV, 16.30
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers, 16.00