TWO World Cup-winning Springboks will run out for the MTN Golden Lions when they Johannesburg side opens the defence of their Absa Currie Cup title on Saturday against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at Coca-Cola Park.
The country's premier domestic competition, which has been reduced to six teams this year, gets underway on Friday night when the Vodacom Blue Bulls host GWK Griquas as Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The weekend's action is rounded off at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday night when DHL Western Province are at home to last year's beaten finalists, the Sharks.
2007 World Cup flyhalf Butch James will start in the No 10 jersey for the MTN Lions and his former Bok team-mate CJ van der Linde is named on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury, while another ex-Bok, Waylon Murray, will play centre after regaining full fitness following a long injury lay-off.
Meanwhile, IRB Junior World Championship-winning wing Raymond Rhule will start at left wing for the Toyota Cheetahs after playing a pivotal role in helping the Junior Springboks win the U20 world title earlier this year. The Free Staters are captained by centre Robert Ebersohn, while an intriguing selection is that of Springbok Sevens ace Boom Prinsloo in the No 6 jersey in the place of the injured Heinrich Brussow.
The Sharks will boast five Springboks in their ranks for their Round 1 clash with DHL Western Province at Newlands, with wing Odwa Ndungane, flanker and newly-elected skipper Jean Deysel, flyhalf Riaan Viljoen and centre Meyer Bosman starting and centre Marius Joubert named on the bench.
Meanwhile, DHL WP coach Allister Coetzee has handed the captaincy reins to hooker Deon Fourie, who moves to the side of the scrum for their match against the Sharks after spending the latter stages of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at eighthman. Fourie leads an inexperienced team with nine players making their Currie Cup debuts for Western Province.
Former Springbok flanker Dewald Potgieter will an equally inexperienced Vodacom Blue Bulls side out onto the field to kick off the 2012 competition when they host the GWK Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night. Coach Pine Pienaar has named three rookies in the form of Ulrich Beyers, Clayton Blommetjies and Cornell Hess to start their first Currie Cup match, with a further four uncapped players on the bench.
And Griquas have named a new-look side including the exciting Willie le Roux at fullback, after the former Bolander excelled for the Cheetahs in the recent Vodacom Super Rugby competition on the wing. There are also welcome returns for former Sharks wing Luzuko Vulindlu and centre JP Nel, who forms a combative centre combination with another former Blue Bull in the form of Stefan Watermeyer.
Vodacom Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Louis Fouchè, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
GWK Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP Nel, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Jonathan Adendorff, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ligtoring Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Stef Roberts.
MTN Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Toyota Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen (v/c), 4 Waltie Vermeulen, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
DHL Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Deon Carstens.
Sharks: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
This weekend's fixtures – Round 1:
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs GWK Griquas
Date: Friday, 10 August
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistants: Craig Joubert, Attie Buitendag
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman
Last meeting: 8 October 2011 in Kimberley (Premier Division): Griquas won 48-44
MTN Golden Lions vs Toyota Free State Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 11 August
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistants: Joey Salmans, Cobus Wessels
Last meeting: 1 October 2011 in Bloemfontein (Premier Division): Drew 25-25
DHL Western Province vs Sharks
Date: Saturday, 11 August
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistants: Jason Jaftha, Marc van Zyl
Television match official: JC Fortuin
Last meeting: 1 October 2011 in Durban (Premier Division): WP won 15-10