The SA Rugby Board Challenge Trophy Competition was the predecessor of the current Absa Currie Cup Competition. The first tournament took place in Kimberley between 28 August and 7 September 1889. The participating teams were Western Province, Griqualand West, Eastern Province and Transvaal.
GWK Griquas, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the EP Kings will be hunting their first victories in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division as round three of the competition begins on Friday.
The Steval Pumas will host GWK Griquas at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening in what is expected to be a tense clash following their physical promotion/relegation matches last season. With the Steval Pumas boasting a morale-boosting victory against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in their opening match at home, they will certainly look to capitalise on their home ground advantage again. They will, however, be expecting a tough test as GWK Griquas will go in search of their first win following defeats against the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Free State Cheetahs.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls and EP Kings will also both be hunting their first victories in the series at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday following disappointing starts to the competition. Both teams have battled to find their rhythm and are currently languishing at the foot of the log table, meaning they will be desperate to discover their form and close in on the other teams.
The clash between DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions at DHL Newlands, meanwhile, is expected to be thrilling following the impressive bonus-point victories by both teams in their last two matches. The Johannesburg team will be looking to use their effective scrum to gain ascendancy, but the hosts also have a solid pack, while both teams have fantastic play-makers in the backline, meaning it could be a thrilling clash.
In Durban the Cell C Sharks will enter their clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs as favourites with form and home ground advantage counting in their favour, but the Free State team have created a handful of upsets in Durban in the last 10 years and should not be written off.
Steval Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse made seven changes to the squad that went down against the Cell C Sharks last weekend.
In the front row prop Corne Fourie starts at loosehead with Vincent Koch moving to tighthead, while flank Uzair Cassim and fullback Heinrich Steyl were promoted from the bench to the starting team. The main change on the bench was the selection of DHL Stormers scrumhalf Dylon Frylinck, who joined the Nelspruit team for the Absa Currie Cup season. He will make his debut if he takes to the field.
GWK Griquas coach Hawies Fourie, meanwhile, made five changes to his team, with the most notable being the inclusion of former Ikeys FNB Varsity Cup flyhalf Dean Grant, which resulted in regular flyhalf Francois Brummer switching to fullback.
In the backline PJ Vermeulen switches from centre to wing to accommodate Jonathan Francke, and on the bench lock Jonathan Adendorf returns from a groin injury and former Xerox Golden Lions centre Doppies la Grange could make his debut for the province after returning from Italy.
In Pretoria Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made wholesale changes to his team for their first home game following their defeat against DHL Western Province, with fullback Jesse Kriel, centre William Small-Smith, flyhalf Tony Jantjies, scrumhalf Rudy Paige and hooker Bongi Mbonambi all starting. In the front row Marcel van der Merwe moves from loosehead to tighthead with Dean Greyling returning after suspension. Regular Under-21 pivot Joshua Stander has been named among the replacements and if called upon, will make his Currie Cup debut.
In Port Elizabeth EP Kings coach Carlos Spencer bulked up his pack by naming physical locks Darron Nell and Steven Sykes and looseforwards Paul Schoeman and Luke Watson in the starting lineup, while the only change in the backline was scrumhalf Kevin Luiters replacing Tobie Botes, who has been battling with a wrist injury.
There were only two changes to the Xerox Golden Lions starting team to face DHL Western Province, with Willie Britz and Warwick Tecklenburg named in the loose trio. Britz replaces regular captain Warren Whiteley, who was called up to the Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship tour to Argentina.
DHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee also opted for continuity in selection by naming an unchanged team.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan, meanwhile, made four personnel changes to his starting team with fullback Clayton Blommetjies, flyhalf Willie du Plessis, flank Neil Claassen and prop Dolph Botha being drafted into the starting team.
In the Cell C Sharks camp coach Brad Mcleod-Henderson made a few changes to his pack with props Matt Stevens and Dale Chadwick being handed starts, while Etienne Oosthuizen will start at lock and Francois Kleinhans at flank after JC Astle was ruled out.
Absa Currie Premier Division round 3 fixtures:
Steval Pumas vs GWK Griquas
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Date: Friday, August 22
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden & Sieg van Staden
TMO: Johan Greeff
#FastFact:GWK Griquas have won 10 of their last 12 matches against the Steval Pumas dating back to 1997. Between October 2003 and July 2011 the Kimberley side won nine successive matches against their Nelspruit counterparts.
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs EP Kings
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Saturday, 23 August
Referee: Pro Legoete
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden & Cobus Wessels
TMO: Johan Greeff
#FastFact:The Vodacom Blue Bulls won six of their seven Absa Currie Cup matches played against the EP Kings between 1997 and 2005. The Pretoria side scored over 33 points against the Kings in all the matches and twice recorded scores over 60 points.
DHL Western Province vs Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: DHL Newlands
Date: Saturday, 23 August
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referee: Christie du Preez & Marc van Zyl
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
#FastFact:The Xerox Golden Lions have won five of the last 10 matches against DHL Western Province in the Absa Currie Cup, with the Cape side winning four and one match ending in a draw. Western Province, however, have won three of the last four matches dating back to 2012, while the Johannesburg side won four back-to-back matches between 2011 and 2012.
Cell C Sharks vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Date: Saturday, 23 August
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Marius Jonker & Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Jason Jaftha
#FastFact:The Cell C Sharks have won the last six Absa Currie Cup clashes against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs dating back to 2011. Four of these matches were played in Durban. The last time the Free State team defeated the Sharks in the series was in September 2011 in which they registered a convincing 53-32 victory in Bloemfontein. Between 2004 and 2008, however, the Cheetahs won 10 matches in a row against the Sharks.