The Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs have named unchanged teams for their Vodacom Cup Final clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday.
Rugby365 reports that the Blue Bulls have included playmaker and flyhalf Burton Francis in a match 22 that is unchanged from the squad that took part in the semifinal win over Griquas on May 3.
Lock Mthumzi “Fudge” Mabeta has passed a fitness test and is included ahead of Juandre Kruger, who is on the replacements bench.
It could be a busy weekend for Francis, who was included on the bench for the Bulls’ Super 14 team last weekend and has been bracketed with Francois Brummer for the Bulls final Super 14 fixture against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Free State, meanwhile, will field the same match 22 that defeated Western Province in the semifinal at Newlands ten days ago.
The team includes three players who participated in last year’s Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week – the Ebersohn twins, Sias (flyhalf) and Robert (replacement centre) and fullback Wilton Pietersen.
Pietersen and Robert Ebersohn were part of the Springbok Sevens squad that won the last IRB Series tournament in Adelaide in April.
Friday will be the fourth time in five seasons that these two Provinces will meet in a domestic Cup Final. They contested the Absa Currie Cup final in 2004, 2005 and 2006, each winning once and the third final ending in a 28-all draw.
The Cheetahs are the reigning Currie Cup champions and if they are successful on Friday will make history by being the first team to hold both domestic trophies at the same time.
Free State captain and No.8 Ashley Johnson said the prospect of being dual champions was a great encouragement to his team. He said it was even bigger than the R1 million prize money.
“We see it as a great privilege to possibly rewrite the history books,” he said.
“The Blue Bulls will be the favourites after their win over us earlier in the season. But we will play with passion and pride in the Free State jersey,” added Johnson.
Both teams have won the Vodacom Cup once before, the Cheetahs in 2000 when they beat Griquas in the Final and the Blue Bulls in 2001 after beating Boland.
The Blue Bulls have been on the losing end in four previous Finals including last year’s nail-biter against Griquas. Friday is Free State’s second appearance in the Vodacom Cup Final.
Blue Bulls: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 John Mametsa, 13 Braam Gerber, 12 Ruan Boshoff, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Burton Francis, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Carel Hoffman (captain), 7 Vincent Gwavu, 6 Okkie Kruger, 5 Mthumzi Mabeta, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Dean Greyling, 2 Brett Sharman, 1 Rassie Van Vuuren.
Replacements: 16 Henri Bantjes, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Juandre Kruger 19 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Stefan Watermeyer, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.
Free State: 15 Wilton Pietersen, 14 Giscard Pieters, 13 Phillip Snyman, 12 Bernd Theissinger, 11 Howard Noble, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Jandré Blom, 8 Ashley Johnson (captain), 7 Nicky Steyn, 6 Albert Parsons, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Phillip Lemmer, 2 Jaco du Toit, 1 Ronnie Uys. Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Roché van der Westhuizen, 18 Marnus Briedenhann, 19 Pieter Gouws, 20 Jaco Colyn, 21 Divan van Zyl, 22 Robert Ebersohn
Date: Friday, May 16
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: François Veldsman
Touch judges: Sindile Mayende, Kim Smit
Television match official: Jenny Bentel