Preview: Vodacom Cup, Round One
All eyes will be on Polokwane on Saturday when the Limpopo Blue Bulls make their Vodacom Cup debut, while Western Province will kick off their defence of the title in Ceres.
Limpopo, which is a sub-union of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, has been granted a place in the tournament in its own rights to help grow the game in the most northern province of South Africa. They join the 14 provincial unions, as well as the returning Pampas XV from Argentina in the tournament, which concludes in mid-May.
The team from Limpopo host the Griffons at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday. It’s the first competitive rugby match ever played at this stadium, which was one of the venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa.
The Vodacom Cup kicks off on Friday in Durban when the Sharks XV host their southern neighbours the Border Bulldogs at Kings Park. With former Springbok midfielder Marius Joubert a likely starter for the KwaZulu-Natalians, with the Marais-brothers, Jandré and Peet, a possible lock combination, it could be a tough start to the competition for the team from East London.
The defending Vodacom Cup champions, Western Province, start their campaign in the picturesque town of Ceres against the Boland Cavaliers. With the recent hot weather in the Western Cape, temperatures could be soaring in the Boland on Saturday.
The pick of the weekend’s action is probably the North Section encounter in Kimberley, where Griquas, runners up in 2012, have a massive game at GWK Park against the Blue Bulls in a replay of one of last year’s semi-finals.
Between them, Griquas and the Blue Bulls have won the Vodacom Cup seven out of the 15 times the competition has been played. The men from the Northern Cape have won it four times (equal with the Golden Lions), while the Pretorians have three tournament victories behind their name.
The Free State XV, Valke, Pampas XV and Western Province have won the Vodacom Cup once each.
In the Southern Section, the Free State XV travel to George to face the SWD Eagles, while the Pampas XV, champions in 2011, start their campaign in Port Elizabeth against the EP Kings.
The other matches in the Northern Section, the Pumas host the Valke in Nelspruit and the Leopards XV travel to Johannesburg where they will take on the Golden Lions at Pirates Rugby Club in Greenside.