Preview: Blue Bulls v Western Province

Date published: August 5 2016

Traditional rivals the Blue Bulls and Western Province face off in what promises to be a thrilling Currie Cup opener in Pretoria on Friday.

As the tournament's most successful sides there will be no love lost in this north v south derby so a tough and uncomprimising battle should get this year's tournament off to a fine start.

The Blue Bulls will look to make the most of home ground advantage against the 2014 champions, who in turn will be determined to pick up where they left off last season, when they finished as runners-up to the Golden Lions.

Despite playing away, WP will be brimming with confidence after finishing top of Currie Cup qualifing tournament. The men from the Cape won 13 of their 14 games and finished five points clear of runners-up Griquas in the qualifiers.

Although he has a young and inexperienced team, WP head coach John Dobson is backing his players to do well.

“I think we have an exciting squad with some very talented young players," he said.

"With the various challenges of other tournaments and injuries, I think we have put together a competitive team.

"They need match practice so there might be a rude awakening in a game of this level, but there certainly is the talent, preparation, willpower and pride in the blue and white hoops to pull it through. 

"We are looking forward to it very much." 

The Blue Bulls are out to prove a point after an underchieving campaign in the qualifing competition where they finished seventh out of the 14 participating teams.

The men from Pretoria's coach Nollis Marais is confident his side will give a good account of themselves in their backyard, however.

"If we just go through this side, Pierre Schoeman, Ruan Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Marvin Orie, got a guy like Burger Odendaal so there's a lot of guys that can take ownership which is something that we battled with in the beginning," he said.

"There's a lot of guys coming through the system who are leaders."

The last time these teams met:  Earlier this season, Western Province beat the Blue Bulls by 30-16 in the first round of Currie Cup qualifiers in Cape Town. WP outscored their visitors by three tries to one and held a 20-16 half-time lead Daniel du Pessis, Tim Whitehead and Meyer Swanepoel scored tries for WP and Brandon Thomson slotted three penalties and three conversions.  For the Bulls, Nqobisizwe Mxoli scored a try and Tony Jantjies kicked a conversion and three penalties.

Team news: Bjorn Basson will start at full-back for the Blue Bulls. The Springbok flyer will form a potent back three with Jade Stighling and Jamba Ulengo. Tian Schoeman and Piet van Zyl are the halfback pairing while Burger Odendaal and Dries Swanepoel line up in midfield. The side is captained by Springbok loose-forward Arno Botha who starts at number eight alongside flankers Jannes Kirsten and Ruan Steenkamp while Marvin Orie and Jason Jenkins pack down in the second row. Jaco Visagie starts at hooker with Entienne Swanepoel and Pierre Schoeman the run-on props. Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais named an experienced side, with only Eli Snyman new to the current squad. The Junior Springbok will making his first appearance in the senior competition from the bench.

Western Province coach John Dobson has picked a youthful team for this clash with wings Leolin Zas and Khanyo Ngcukana, centre Daniel du Plessis, number eight Jacques Vermeulen, lock JD Schickerling and replacement back Brandon Thomsonall who is still eligible for WP U-21. Zas and Ngcukana will form a back three with full-back Scott van Breda, whilst Du Plessis partners Huw Jones in midfield. Fly-half Robert du Preez and Jano Vermaak will form the halfback pairing. Vermeulen is joined in the back row by flankers Jurie van Vuuren and Rynhardt Elstadt. Schickerling is in the second row alongside captain Chris Van Zyl, and tighthead prop Wilco Louw links up with Scarra Ntubeni and Alistair Vermaak in the front row. Thomson is amongst the backline replacements, along with scrum-half Godlen Masimla and utility back Johnny Kotze. Hooker Chad Solomon and props Oli Kebble and JP Smith form the front row cover on the replacements bench alongside loose forward Kobus van Dyk.

Prediction: Although this should be an entertaining spectacle, WP didn't finish at the top of the table in the qualifiers for nothing and will be victorious. WP to win by six points!

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Bjorn Basson, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Entienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 Eli Snyman, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Dan Kriel

Western Province: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Khanyo Ngcukana, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Daniel du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Jacques Vermeulen, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 JP Smith, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Brandon Thomson, 22 Johnny Kotze

Date: Friday, August 5
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17:10 local (15:10 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Vusi Msibi, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff