First Division set for kick-off
Boland's Elgar Watts (File)
Cape Town - The first match of the new-look Absa Currie Cup First Division will kick off at Boland Stadium in Wellington on Friday when defending champions the Boland Cavaliers host the Eastern Province Kings in a repeat of last year's final (kick-off 15:00).
The 2012 season will see the Currie Cup First Division expanded from six to eight team to allow the Premier Division - which kicks off on 10 August - to revert to a six-team, strength-versus-strength format.
In Friday's other fixture, the SWD Eagles are at home to the Border Bulldogs at Outeniqua Park in George (19:00), while Saturday sees the Leopards host the Pumas at Potchefstroom's Olën Park (14:30) and the Griffons travel to Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park to take on the Falcons (15:00).
The Cavaliers topped the First Division table in 2011, losing just once in the round-robin stages to finish ahead of the second-placed Kings. Both sides won nine matches but it was the Bolanders' massive points difference advantage which saw them host the final.
Individually, the Cavaliers also boasted the top point-scorer in the competition in flyhalf Elgar Watts, who finished on 185 points - consisting of four tries, 42 conversions and 27 penalties. Interestingly, no fewer than three other Bolanders, namely fullback Willie le Roux, wing Danwel Demas and centre Cornal Hendricks, were among those 11 players who scored 50 or more points in the competition.
Demas finished the season with 15 tries - the most in the competition - with team-mate Le Roux just behind him on 12. The Kings' SP Marais finished third with 10 touchdowns, a figure equaled by Hendricks.
In the semi-finals, the Cavaliers overcame a spirited Griffons team to run out 50-20 victors in Wellington, while in Port Elizabeth the Kings saw off the Falcons 48-17 to advance to the final.
The final promised to be an even affair between undoubtedly the two best sides in the competition, but a brace of tries from Demas and 13 points from the boot of Watts ensured that the Cavaliers ran out comfortable 43-12 victors in front of their home fans.
“Absa has a very strong involvement with the tournament going back almost three decades and the 2012 Absa Currie Cup promises to be another thrilling season,” said Lynn Naude, General Manager: Absa Sponsorships and Events.
“The Absa Currie Cup trophy is not only a cornerstone in South Africa’s rugby heritage, but also a platform for young players to emerge and give their first steps at senior level. After 120 years, this trophy remains one of rugby’s most sought after accolades,” added Naude.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux said SARU was looking forward to another great Currie Cup edition this year.
“The Currie Cup is the lifeblood of our local provincial competition and SARU is extremely grateful for the investment Absa has made in South African rugby, over a period spanning many decades.
“This enables us to offer the South African rugby public traditional, top-class provincial action where they will be able to see established stars rub shoulders with some of the country’s most promising young talent,” said Roux.