Bulls have a point to prove
GRIQUAS, forever the country cousins of the Currie Cup's traditional five, will hope to prove that they belong in the revised and much anticipated strength-versus-strength competition that kicks off this weekend.
Perennially labelled the best of the rest but not good or big enough to hold court with the big five, Griquas have the opportunity to make an early impression when they take on the Blue Bulls at Loftus this evening.
At least one man at Loftus believes Griquas will make a fist of it in the Currie Cup this year.
"They have an outstanding Currie Cup group (of players) this season," warned Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar.
While Griquas boast more depth this season, the opposite is true of the Blue Bulls.
Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter believes the visitors must fancy their chances at Loftus this early in the campaign.
"They have spent a lot of time together and that gives you confidence. We are missing a lot of players.
"I doubt, however, that they will underestimate us. I think we have as much of a point to prove as they do," said Potgieter.
One of the treats likely to be served up during the game is the introduction of U/20 star Jan Serfontein to Currie Cup rugby - he is likely to be unleashed from the bench.
Elsewhere, Super 15 no-hopers the Lions and the Cheetahs will tangle in a contest that over the years has become increasingly difficult to predict. It's anybody's guess as to what shape mentally the defending champion Lions are, given their boardroom blues and the fact that they have a stand-in coach and a new captain.
The Cheetahs appear the more settled side, having been afflicted by fewer injuries during the Super 15.
At Newlands, Western Province - who have lost just six players to the national squad - play the Sharks without 12 of their stars. They have lost 10 players to the Bok squad, while Ryan Kankowski and Frederic Michalak won't be involved in the Currie Cup.
One of the areas of potential concern for Province will be the performance of flyhalf Burton Francis - a player used rather sparingly during the Super 15.
The Province players who were involved in the Stormers' exit from the Super 15 a few weeks ago will be desperate to set the record straight.
There might not be much in it at Newlands, but that will become a recurring theme throughout the competition.
"The Currie Cup's derbies have always been massive," said Pienaar. "Now you are going to have it week after week."