The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will look to register their first win of the new-look, six-team 2012 Absa Currie Cup Premier Division when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Friday night, in the first of three matches to be played this weekend.
Coach Naka Drotské's side are coming off a surprisingly big 43-20 first-round defeat at the hands of the defending champion MTN Golden Lions in Johannesburg last week, with the Lions' four-try win taking them to the top of table after Round 1.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls kicked off their campaign with a 35-20 opening weekend win over GWK Griquas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, and they will look to come away from Bloemfontein with more than a share of the spoils, as happened the last time the two sides met in Absa Currie Cup action when the sides drew 22-all in the second round of the 2011 campaign.
Griquas will host DHL Western Province in Kimberley in the early match on Saturday afternoon, with the Cape side also seeking their first win of the season after losing 25-23 to the Sharks at Newlands last week. They will have to make do without livewire hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who has been called up to the Springbok squad as the third hooker after injury to Chiliboy Ralepelle.
The two sides met most recently in this year's Vodacom Cup final, won by WP in the final seconds, and in Currie Cup terms the visitors also edged home 41-35 last year in round-robin action and another tight tussle is expected.
And in the weekend's final match, to be played on Saturday night following the Castle Rugby Championship Test between South Africa and Argentina, the Sharks host the MTN Golden Lions in a rematch of last year's Absa Currie Cup final, won 42-16 by the men from Johannesburg, with both teams looking, at this very early stage, like contenders for the title once more.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs (15-1): Hennie Daniller, Riaan Smit, Robert Ebersohn (c), Barry Geel, Raymond Rhule, Sias Ebersohn, Sarel Pretorius, Kabamba Floors, Lappies Labuschagné, Frans Viljoen, Izak van der Westhuizen, Andries Ferreira, Marcel van der Merwe, Hercu Liebenberg, Trevor Nyakane.
Vodacom Blue Bulls (15-1): Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, Ulrich Beyers, Francois Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Louis Fouchè, Ruan Snyman, Dewald Potgieter (c), CJ Stander, Deon Stegmann, Cornell Hess, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener, Dawie Steyn.
GWK Griquas (15-1): Francois Brummer, Wilmaure Louw, Jean Stemmet, Stefan Watermeyer, Rocco Jansen, Marnitz Boshoff, Jacques Coetzee, Leon Karemaker, Justin Downey, Wesley Wilkins, Martin Muller, Ligtoring Landman, Lourens Adriaanse, Ryno Barnes (c), Steph Roberts.
DHL Western Province (15-1): Gio Aplon, Gerhard van den Heever, JP du Plessis, Marcel Brache, Ederies Arendse, Demetri Catrakilis, Louis Schreuder, Duane Vermeulen, Jebb Sinclair, Tyrone Holmes, De Kock Steenkamp, Don Armand, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie (c), Steven Kitshoff.
Sharks (15-1): Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Meyer Bosman, S’bura Sithole, Riaan Viljoen, Charl McLeod, Jacques Botes, Jean Deysel (captain), Francois Kleynhans, Anton Bresler, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick.
MTN Golden Lions (15-1): Andries Coetzee, JR Esterhuizen, Lionel Mapoe, Waylon Murray, Anthony Volmink, Butch James, Michael Bondesio, Warren Whiteley, Joshua Strauss, Cobus Grobbelaar, Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Jacobie Adriaanse, Callie Visagie, JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
This weekend's fixtures – Round 2:
Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs Vodacom Blue Bulls
Date: Friday, 17 August
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistants: Marius Jonker, Reuben Rossouw
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee
Last meeting: 10 September 2011 in Bloemfontein (Premier Division): Drew 22-22
GWK Griquas vs DHL Western Province
Date: Saturday, 18 August
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistants: Jason Jaftha, Francois de Bruin
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman
Last meeting: 3 September 2011 in Kimberley (Premier Division): WP won 41-35
Sharks vs MTN Golden Lions
Date: Saturday, 18 August
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Mark Lawrence
Assistants: Christie du Preez, Blake Beattie
Television match official: Deon van Blommenstein
Last meeting: 29 October 2011 in Johannesburg (Premier Division): Lions won 42-16