The defending champions in the Currie Cup Premier Division, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, will kick off the 2017 season on Friday, 21 July, when they host the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein.
The 2017 Currie Cup fixtures can be downloaded here. All fixtures are subject to change.
The opening round of action in the Currie Cup, supported by Nashua and DirectAxis, will also see the Vodacom Blue Bulls, last year’s runners up, travel to Kimberley to take on Tafel Lager Griquas on Saturday, 22 July, while the Steval Pumas will host the Xerox Golden Lions in Nelspruit on Sunday, 23 July. DHL Western Province will have a bye in the first round.
The Currie Cup First Division, which will be contested by the Down Touch Griffons, Hino Valke, Leopards, Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, EP Kings, SWD Eagles and Windhoek Draught Welwitschias, starts in the last weekend of August.
The semi-finals in the Premier Division are scheduled for the weekend of 21 October and the Final – as well as the finals of the Provincial U19 and U21 competitions – will be on Saturday, 28 October. The First Division semi-finals are on 14 October and the final on 20 October.
“The recent changes to the Currie Cup format are hugely exciting and the countdown has now truly begun to what promises to be another thrilling competition of high-class South African provincial rugby,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“Returning to a seven-team Premier Division format, with all teams facing each other home and away, will bring about a more intense, strength-versus-strength competition, and the fact that we’ve re-introduced a promotion challenge series between the winner of the First Division against the last-placed Premier Division team, will add to the excitement.”
Roux explained the decision to start the Currie Cup earlier than originally planned and to do away with the proposed midweek matches: “The opening rounds of the Currie Cup overlap with the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs, but that is a decision that was taken following a recommendation by the Franchise Committee to Exco as to the scheduling of the competition.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has included the uncapped quartet of Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje in his starting team for Saturday’s first Test in the Castle Lager Incoming Series against France at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, while a fifth uncapped player, Dillyn Leyds, is on the bench.
No 8 Warren Whiteley will become the 58th Springbok captain when he leads the Boks onto the field on Saturday and Cronje will become South Africa’s 50th Test scrumhalf on Saturday.
The Springbok team to face France
15. Andries Coetzee (Emirates Lions), 0 caps, 0 points
14. Raymond Rhule (Toyota Cheetahs), 0, 0
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 17, 15 (3t)
12. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), 26, 10 (2t)
11. Courtnall Skosan (Emirates Lions), 0, 0
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 11, 78 (12c, 18p)
9. Ross Cronje (Emirates Lions), 0, 0
8. Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions, captain), 15, 15 (3t)
7. Oupa Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs), 15, 0
6. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), 16, 0
5. Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), 7, 0
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 54, 10 (2t)
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 15, 0
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 2, 0
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 87, 10 (2t)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 5, 0
17. Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux-Bègles, France), 10, 0
18. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cell C Sharks), 23, 15 (3t)
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 20, 15 (3t)
20. Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks), 1, 0
21. Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors, England), 39, 25 (5t)
22. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 53, 132 (10t, 5c, 21p, 3d)
23. Dillyn Leyds (DHL Stormers), 0, 0