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South African Rugby
Currie Cup season gets underway
Scrum.com
July 9, 2009
Chris Jack of the Barbarians dives over to score, England v Barbarians, Twickenham, May 30, 2009
Chris Jack starts for Western Province against the Natal Sharks in the Currie Cup this Saturday © Getty Images
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The 2009 Currie Cup gets underway in South Africa this weekend with a host of tantalising matches set to kick start the historic competition.

This year's title race will once again be shorn of the country's international stars who are currently away with the Springboks preparing for the Tri-Nations but public interest is set to remain high such is the status of South Africa's premier domestic competition.

The match of the round the sees the defending champions, the Sharks, travel to Cape Town to take on Western Province at Newlands. Sharks coach John Plumtree has selected 19-year-old fly-half Guy Cronje to start as both Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn are away with the Springboks.

The Sharks have also picked a formidable pack including lock Johann Muller, who captains the side, props Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens and a loose-trio of Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel. Rory Kockott is at scrum-half and the side is anchored at fullback by Stefan Terblanche.

The headline act for a Western Province team desperate to end their drought of silverware is the presence of All Black lock Chris Jack. The 30-year-old has only just arrived in Cape Town but has been draffted straight in to partner Anton van Zyl in the second row. Jack is using the Currie Cup campaign with WP as a stepping stone to a potential All Black call-up as he heads home after a spell at Saracens.

Western Province are captained by Bath-bound Luke Watson and also feature a strong 10-12 axis in Willem de Waal and Peter Grant while Frikkie Welsh, recently of the Bulls, starts at outside centre. [Teams]

Elsewhere, Frans Ludeke's Blue Bulls team take on the Lions at Loftus Versfeld and should be too strong for a Lions team currently in a state of flux. The Lions are rebuilding structurally after a complete overall of the Union since the end of the Super 14. World Cup-winning coach Jake White has been involved and has provided guidance to the Lions' head coach Hans Coetzee who's named Earl Rose at fullback and new signing Herkie Kruger at No.10 for the clash with their northern neighbours.

Ludeke meanwhile has named scrum-half Francois Hougaard on the wing in a somewhat surprising move. Hougaard excelled at scrum-half against the British & Irish Lions for the Southern Kings before having to leave the field due to injury. His captain on that day, Derick Kuün, also leads the Bulls at Loftus in the absence of Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez who are on international duty. The backline does feature fullbacks Wynand Olivier and Zane Kirchner who both played in the third and final Test against the British & Irish Lions at Ellis Park last week. [Teams]

In the round's other two fixtures on Friday, the Griquas pulled off the first upset of the tournament with a 28-18 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and Boland saw off the Leopards 26-18.

Click Here for the Currie Cup round one review.

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