Venues as far afield as Secunda, Lichtenburg and Caledon will play host this weekend as the Vodacom Cup picks up speed with action in the South Section getting underway.
The first match in the South Section is on Friday evening is in George, where the SWD Eagles host the Toyota Free State XV.
Three more matches in this section follow on Saturday, one of which will see the defending champions in action when GWK Griquas travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the EP Kings. The other two South Section matches are scheduled for Durban (Cell C Sharks XV v Border Bulldogs) and Caledon (Boland Cavaliers v DHL Western Province).
The biggest match in the North Section is on Friday afternoon when two of the three unbeaten sides, the Xerox Golden Lions and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, square off in Johannesburg.
On Saturday, the action in the north moves to the platteland, more specifically Lichtenburg (Leopards XV v Hino Valke) and Secunda (Steval Pumas v Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls).
The two rising stars featured this week both hail from Boland, were in the wider SA Schools squad in 2012 and played junior rugby in Pretoria before heading to Cape Town and Durban respectively – DHL Western Province prop Wilco Louw and Cell C Sharks XV lock Hyron Andrews.
Rising Star #5 – Wilco Louw (DHL Western Province)
Most props are solid chunks of meat and Wilco Louw is no different.
The DHL Western Province prop, who is in line to make his senior provincial debut on Saturday in Caledon, is 1.85m tall and weighs in at 130kg, making him one of the heaviest players in South Africa.
Louw’s budding career has taken him from Boland via Pretoria to Cape Town. He made the SA Schools side in 2012 before making his mark as junior for the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ U19 and U21 sides in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Last year Louw made an impression on the national selectors and was rewarded with a spot in the Junior Springboks side to New Zealand, where he featured at tighthead prop in all five of their matches.
The 20-year-old was born in Ceres and finished his schooling at Drostdy Technical High School in Worcester and was lured back to the Western Cape at the end of last season and is another in a long line of very promising young props in the DHL Western Province stable, including Springbok Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Oli Kebble.
Louw made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut as a replacement for the DHL Stormers in the first round earlier this year and brings raw power and tenacity to the DHL Western Province side and will no doubt be a tough customer to deal with come scrum time.
Rising Star #6 – Hyron Andrews (Cell C Sharks XV)
Cell C Sharks XV lock Hyron Andrews is another member of the 2012 wider SA Schools squad who is in line for a senior provincial debut this weekend.
The 19-year-old Andrews, a string bean at 2.02m tall and 104kg, moved to Pretoria when still at school and quickly established himself as a genuine prospect, representing the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ at U16 and U18 levels before his elevation to the SA Schools team in 2012.
Last year the Paarl-born lock, who matriculated at Hoërskool Garsfontein in Pretoria and was a member of SARU’s U16 High Performance squad in 2011, moved down to Durban where he joined the Sharks Academy and was a stalwart of the Cell C Sharks U19s who reached the semi-finals of the Absa U19 Provincial series.
He worked hard in 2014 to improve his power and gain weight, which he did successfully without losing any of his speed or agility.
Andrews, a lock in the Victor Matfield-mould who trained with the Cell C Sharks’ Vodacom Super Rugby squad at the end of last season, is still eligible to play for the Junior Springboks this year and a number of strong performances in the Vodacom Cup are sure to put him on the radar of the national selectors.
Round 3 fixtures:
Friday, 20 March
- Xerox Golden Lions v Vodacom Blue Bulls. Kick-off: 15h00. Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg. Referee. Quinton Immelman
- SWD Eagles v Toyota Free State XV. Kick-off: 19h00. Venue: Outeniqua Park, George. Referee. Rodney Boneparte
Saturday, 21 March
- Leopards XV v Hino Valke. Kick-off: 14h30. Venue: Lichtenburg High School, Lichtenburg. Referee. Francois Pretorius
- EP Kings v GWK Griquas. Kick-off: 15h30. Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth. Referee. Tahla Ntshakaza
- Cell C Sharks XV v Border Bulldogs. Kick-off: 15h30. Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban. Referee. Cwengile Jadezweni
- Steval Pumas v Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls. Kick-off: 16h00. Venue: Secunda. Referee. Archie Sehlako
- Boland Cavaliers v DHL Western Province. Kick-off: 16h30. Venue: Caledon. Referee. Jaco Pretorius