The Vodacom Blue Bulls will be hoping to strike it third time lucky in the North Section, while the two unbeaten teams in the South Section go head to head as the Vodacom Cup enters the third round this weekend.
Following two narrow defeats, the three-time Vodacom Cup champion team from Pretoria are one of five teams in the competition still looking for their first win of 2014. The others are the Valke, Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls, Border Bulldogs and Regent Boland Cavaliers.
Five teams are still unbeaten – the Steval Pumas, GWK Griquas and Golden Lions in the North Section, as well as the Cell C Sharks XV and Toyota Free State XV in the South Section, who face each other in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The top of the table South Section clash at the Clive Solomon Stadium in Heidedal is the pick of the action in round three, while there will be a lot of interest in the Jukskei Derby at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Blue Bulls will be looking to get their season back on track against the defending champions, the Golden Lions.
The Vodacom Cup will also hit the very picturesque Overberg region of the Western Cape this weekend when the SWD Eagles host the Regent Boland Cavaliers in Swellendam, the fourth oldest town in South Africa.
Each week we will feature emerging young players from the North and the South Sections who are making their way up the rugby ladder. This week we look at two players who could feature for the SA Under-20 side for the second successive season later this year, and who played together for the SA Schools side in 2012 – Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls) and Aidon Davis (EP Kings).
Vodacom Cup Rising Star (No 5) – Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
As a member of the Vodacom Bulls’ extended Vodacom Super Rugby squad, it’s clear that Jesse Kriel is highly rated in Pretoria.
The 20-year-old Kriel, whose twin brother Dan is a very useful midfielder who also plays his rugby at Loftus Versfeld, was the captain of the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-19 side which won the Absa U19 provincial title last year. He led from fullback, a position not normally associated with the captaincy, which underlines his superb leadership skills as well.
Kriel, who is fast and has a superb boot, was one of the youngest members of the SA Under-20 squad that came third at the Junior World Championships in France last year. He saw most of his action from the bench and scored two tries in the 97-0 demolition of the USA after replacing Cheslin Kolbe shortly after half-time.
At 1.86m tall and 95kg he is pretty big for a young outside back, but it’s this size that really counts in Kriel’s favour. He set alight the Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week in Port Elizabeth in 2012, where the former Maritzburg College star scored three of KwaZulu-Natal’s 10 tries.
Kriel was duly selected for the SA Schools team at the conclusion of the week-long tournament and started in two of their three matches in their unbeaten series against England, France and Wales.
This weekend, Kriel is due to play in his third Vodacom Cup match for the Vodacom Blue Bulls. He started both of their first two matches at left wing and scored a try against the Steval Pumas last week – in all likelihood the first of many at first-class level. He will start at fullback this weekend.
Vodacom Cup Rising Star (No 6) – Aidon Davis (EP Kings)
As far as versatile forwards go, 19-year-old Aidon Davis of the EP Kings is right up there with the best.
Last year, he played senior rugby in every position in the pack except in the front row and this versatility makes him a strong contender to represent South Africa Under-20 at his second Junior World Championships, in New Zealand in June.
Davis was selected for all five of the Junior Springboks’ matches at the 2013 JWC in France and played in three of them, including starting at No 8 in the impressive third-place play-off victory over New Zealand.
Not long after, he was selected for the Southern Kings against the Cell C Sharks in Vodacom Super Rugby, which was one of his eight senior appearances in 2013.
It wasn’t a surprise when Davis was named as EP Rugby’s U21 Player of the Year and also received an Achievement Award from the union for representing South Africa at the JWC. A knee injury cut his season short though and last week’s game against the Border Bulldogs marked Davis’ return to the field.
At 1.91m tall and weighing in at over 100kg, Davis would rank as a pretty big loose forward, which is why he can easily make the shift to lock if needed. He is a superb option at the back of the line-out, strong, fast and a great defender.
Davis, who turns 20 next month, is an EP man through and through. He first donned the famous red and black hoops at the Coca-Cola Under-13 Craven Week in Krugersdorp, and also represented Eastern Province at the Grant Khomo Week for U16 teams, as well as the U18 Craven Week on home soil in Port Elizabeth.
SA Schools selection followed that year and in 2013, his first out of school – Davis matriculated from Daniel Pienaar Technical High School in Uitenhage – he made his senior debut for the EP Kings, playing in four Vodacom Cup and later three Absa Currie Cup First Division matches.
Round 3 fixtures:
Friday, 21 March
Down Touch Griffons v Steval Pumas
Venue: North West Stadium, Welkom
Referee: Christie du Preez
Toyota Free State XV v Cell C Sharks XV
Venue: Clive Solomon Stadium, Heidedal, Bloemfontein
Referee: Quinton Immelman
GWK Griquas v Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls
Venue: GWK Park, Kimberley
Referee: Marius Jonker
Saturday, 22 March
Valke v Leopards XV
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Referee: Pro Legoete
Border Bulldogs v Tusker Simba XV
Venue: Buffalo City Municipality Stadium, East London
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
DHL Western Province vs EP Kings
Venue: City Park, Cape Town
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
SWD Eagles v Regent Boland Cavaliers
Referee: Tahla Ntshakaza
Vodacom Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Craig Joubert
Please note: All the above information is subject to change. Visit www.sarugby.co.za for up to date information.