Currie Cup begins: The Free State vs Cell C Sharks match is tonight

Keegan Daniel captains the side tonight when the Cell C Sharks take on the Free State in Bloemforntein.

THE Currie Cup competition opens this weekend with the Cell C Sharks visiting Bloemfontein to take on the reigning champs, the Free State Cheetahs in week one action.

With the Cell C Sharks playing in their Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-final match on Saturday, caretaker coach for the Currie Cup, Paul Anthony, is able to assess squad depth, while Free State, now out of Super Rugby action, have all their top players available to them for the opening round.

“Barring one or two players, Free State have selected virtually their best side, but I think we have a good side as well,” admitted Anthony.

“We’re looking forward to getting the competition going and for a good hit-out tonight. We have a really good mix with some good experience and then we’ve thrown in some youngsters as well.”

This mix of talent is the blend that Anthony, and later Robert du Preez (when the Cell C Sharks’ Super Rugby commitments are over) will look to mould into a team capable of reaching – and winning – finals.

“We have some young guys who have been in and out of the Super Rugby side who can definitely come to the fore. We’ve also been strengthened by Mzamo Majola, who was on-loan, and new signings Ross Geldenhuys and Tyler Paul from the Kings, and Cameron Wright returns from overseas.

 

“Ross will be a big help for us because the Cheetahs scrum well and although we haven’t even spoken about their running game, their set-piece is, for me, something we need to address.”

Although the Cheetahs are the defending champs and went through last season unbeaten in the Currie Cup, Anthony said his team isn’t daunted by the prospect.

“It’s part of what you have to do, it’s the competition and we have to play every side; the boys are definitely up for it and looking forward to it,” he says.

“We played them twice in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and the boys know what they’re in for.”

Some might suggest that the historic Currie Cup competition pales in comparison to a tournament like Super Rugby, but not Anthony. “The Currie Cup is massive for us,” he says emphatically.

“Now we have an opportunity to give guys – seniors and juniors – an opportunity to come in at a top level. Free State have a host of internationals, both at 7s and 15s, and our guys are really looking forward to the match. The exposure they will gain for the Sharks is massive. It’s good for the players and for us, it’s an investment in them.”

That investment also comes from playing alongside team-mates who have tasted action in the big time. Both Odwa Ndungane and Keegan Daniel are proving to be exceptional role-models for the youngsters.

“Keegan and Odwa have been absolutely outstanding. The players look up to them and they’re doing a fantastic job as senior statesmen in the team, providing guidance and leadership.”

The match kicks off at 7pm at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

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