The Golden Lions will want to send a clear message on how they intend to retain the hallowed trophy when they take on the Pumas this Saturday.
The men from Johannesburg will bring some Super Rugby momentum into their opening match with a number of players who featured in the Super Rugby final against the Hurricanes expected to face the Pumas. The visitors, however, will be charged up to challenge them after going down against the Sharks last week.
History favours this week's hosts, who have only suffered two defeats against the Nelspruit side in Johannesburg since 1996, the last of which was in 2010.
Pumas coach MJ Mentz said they needed to make a few changes in the forward pack after some combinations buckled against the Sharks last weekend.
"Our forwards were under pressure against the Sharks so we needed to change a few things. These guys have been knocking on the door a while now and it’s a big opportunity for them to show what they’ve got," said Mentz.
"We’re not sure what team the Lions are going to field, but we know they have a very good squad which will be full of confidence after their success in Super Rugby. We’re going to have to man up more at set pieces and play at a very high level."
The last time these teams met: The Pumas pipped the Golden Lions 35-24 at home in the Currie Cup Qualifiers. The Lions and the Pumas were able to bag four tries each in the eight-try thriller but the Pumas were able to claim the victory despite the men from Johannesburg controlling most of the possession throughout the game. The Pumas had the advantage going into the changing rooms at half time as they led 23-12, with each side scoring two tries, but it was Heinrich Steyl's three penalties that gave them the lead. In the second half both sides added two tries each to their tally but the Lions could score enough to cancel out Steyl's penalties.
Team news: The current tournament holders will be co-captained by Howard Mnisi and Ross Cronjé during this year's campaign. Nine seniors are away on Springbok duty while a few seniors will have a well deserved rest. The side taking on the Pumas is blend of seniors and young stalwarts who performed well in the Currie Cup Qualifying round.
Renaldo Bothma is one of five changes to the Pumas forward pack which ran out against the Sharks. Flank Lambert Groenewald is out for two to three weeks with a calf muscle tear. His position will be filled by Nardus van der Walt, who has been cleared to play after suffering a knee ligament injury. Lock Stephan Greeff also drops out of the squad due to a shoulder injury, and will be replaced by Wiehan Hay. Tighthead prop De Jay Terblanche moves to the bench to make way for Louis Albertse, while Francois Du Toit will start at hooker ahead of Frankie Herne. The Pumas backline remains unchanged.
Prediction: The Lions will be brimming with confidence and harbour some real quality. They should be far too much for the Pumas. Lions by 25.
Golden Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi (c), 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques v Rooyen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie,
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Jacques Nel
Pumas: 15 Justin van Staden, 14 Jean-Paul Lewis, 13 Hennie Skorbinski, 12 Marlou van Niekerk, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Nardus van der Walt, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Hugo Kloppers (c), 4 Wiehan Hay, 3 Louis Albertse, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Kwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Herne Frank, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Jannie Stander, 19 Carel Greef, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Deon Helberg, 22 Devon Williams.
Date: Saturday, August 13
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Sindile Ngcese, Vusi Msibi
TMO: Johan Greeff