Quest for million-rand Vodacom Cup prize begins
February 27, 2009
Tournament prize money of R 1 million will again be up for grabs in the 2009 Vodacom Cup, which kicks off this weekend.

The tournament is divided into two pools of seven teams – the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards, Pumas and Valke in the North section and Boland, Border, Free State, Eatsern Province, SWD, Sharks and Western Province in the South section.

The R 1 milion prize was first put on offer last season with the Vodacom Blue Bulls walking off with the silverware and the jackpot.

The Blue Bulls open the defence of their title against the Griffons in Welkom on Friday. Kick-off is at 19h00. The champions appear to be serious about holding onto the honours with several Vodacom Super 14 players including Jaco Engels, Wayne Julies, Marius Delport, John Mametsa and Francois Hougaard included in their team.

Last year’s beaten finalists the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs get their 2009 campaign underway against the Border Bulldogs at 15h00 on Saturday. The match will be played at the main field at Grey College.

Springboks Bevin Fortuin and Kabamba Floors are returning from injury and have been included in the starting line-up.

GWK Griquas, who won the title in 2007 and were losing semi-finalists last season, host the Valke in Kimberley at 16h30 on Friday. Griquas are boosted by a number of new signings, amongst them former Leopards and Cheetahs No 8 Jonathan Mokuena, who captains the team, former Lions centre Thabang Molefe, former Cheetahs wing Trompie Nonthshinga and WP utility back Richard Lawson.

The Valke have also bolstered their squad in the off-season and will be more competitive in 2009. They will, however, find the going tough on the hard ground that favours the hosts.

Two of last year’s beaten quarterfinalists, the Boland Cavaliers and the Sharks XV, meet at the Boland Stadium in Wellington on Friday (16h30).

The Kavaliers have traditionally performed better in the tournament than their opponents and they always raise their game in front of their home crowd. Whilst the Kavaliers can call on several experienced campaigners, the Sharks will, as usual, be brimming with a host of young players hoping to make their mark.

The Pumas host the Platinum Leopards in Witbank on Friday night (19h10).

2008 was a tough season for the hosts, who struggled at both Vodacom Cup and Absa Currie Cup level. They will be looking to turn things around this year.

The visitors, by contrast, secured Absa Currie Cup Premier Division status at the end of last season and will be looking for a good Vodacom Cup campaign to give them momentum.

The remaining match of the weekend sees the SWD Eagles hosting the Mighty Elephants (EP) at Uniondale on Saturday (16h00). Both had very disappointing campaigns in 2008 and will be hoping for a reversal this season. Matches between them have often been close and there should be little to choose between them.

Vodacom Western Province and the Golden Lions have byes at the weekend.

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