The 2023 edition of the Currie Cup Premier Division, one of the oldest provincial rugby competitions in the world, kicks off at the same venue where it culminated in a pulsating final last year when 2022 runners up, Windhoek Draught Griquas, host their neighbours and 2019 champions, the Toyota Cheetahs in Kimberley on Friday afternoon.
The first fixture of the new campaign, a Central South African derby that is always a tough encounter, is scheduled to start at 4pm CAT (SA, GMT+2) at Windhoek Draught Park in the Diamond City, where the Airlink Pumas lifted the famous gold cup for the first time just over eight months ago.
A further two matches are scheduled for Saturday, while the remaining game will be staged on Sunday afternoon to complete the opening round of fixtures.
The Cell C Sharks host newly promoted NovaVit Griffons in their first match back in the Premier Division from 1:30pm at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban. The ambitious team from Welkom won last year’s Currie Cup First Division and with that promotion to the top tier.
In Saturday’s late afternoon clash, the Fidelity ADT Lions entertain DHL Western Province at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (kick-off at 3:30pm).
The weekend action is then rounded off by a 1pm clash at Loftus Versfeld between the Vodacom Bulls, Currie Cup winners in 2020 and 2021, and the defending champions from Mpumalanga, the Airlink Pumas.
Pieter Bergh’s side were pipped by the Pumas in last season’s pulsating final, and Griquas are usually a tough nut to crack on their home turf in Kimberley, which means Friday’s season opener should be a good battle between the two neighbouring sides.
Cheetahs coach, Hawies Fourie, has a number of battle-hardened stalwarts at his disposal such as former Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and powerhouse Springbok midfielder Frans Steyn. However, the hosts would want to show their superb form of last year was no flash in the pan.
Jacques Juries and his Griffons team are in for a baptism of fire in Durban against Joey Mongalo’s Sharks, but the Welkom outfit will be determined to show from the offset that they belong in big company.
Meanwhile, experienced coach John Dobson will be guiding the WP this season following a disappointing 2022, however, the Capetonians will be sternly tested by the Highvelders in Johannesburg.
The Lions, again under the watchful eye of Mziwakhe Nkosi, endured a disappointing season in 2022 and finished last on the standings, so they will be out to get the new season off to a winning start.
The Bulls have also announced a strong coaching team for their Currie Cup campaign, which has seen former Sharks mentor Sean Everitt joining the Pretoria-based coaching staff spearheaded by Edgar Marutlulle and assisted by Gert Smal and Hugo van As.
They will be up against the Pumas and Jimmy Stonehouse, an astute coach and the experienced mentor, who will no doubt have a plan up his sleeve to combat the Bulls’ traditional forward strength.
The eight teams will compete over a double round and the final is scheduled for Saturday, 24 June, with all matches live on SuperSport.
The Currie Cup First Division will see three matches start at 3pm on Saturday afternoon as the six teams in action enter the fifth round of the competition, with the Boland Kavaliers unbeaten at the top of the log on 20 points, followed by Eastern Province.
Windhoek Draught Griquas v Toyota Cheetahs
Venue: Windhoek Draught Park, Kimberley
Date: Friday, 10 March
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Cell C Sharks v NovaVit Griffons
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Date: Saturday, 11 March
Referee: Christopher Allison
Fidelity ADT Lions v DHL Western Province
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Date: Saturday, 11 March
Referee: Griffin Colby
Vodacom Bulls v Airlink Pumas
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date: Sunday, 12 March
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni