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Rising stars in action as Vodacom Cup kicks off - Round 1 Preview

The Vodacom Cup, where many current and past Springboks have taken their first steps in senior provincial rugby, kicks off this week with eight tough matches taking place across South Africa.

Last year’s champions, the Golden Lions, and runners-up, the Steval Pumas, are both in action on Friday.

The opening match takes place in Kempton Park, where the Valke will host the Steval Pumas, after which the Leopards XV host the Golden Lions in Potchefstroom. Both these matches are in the North Section, while the South Section opener will see the Cell C Sharks XV travel to East London to take on the Border Bulldogs.

On Saturday, City Park in Cape Town will host a unique double-header. Kenyan newcomers, the Tusker Simba XV, take on the EP Kings at their official home ground, while DHL Western Province, champions in 2012, and neighbours from Wellington, the Regent Boland Cavaliers, will also clash at this stadium in Athlone.

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 it’s the turn of two former SA Schools players – Malcolm Marx (Golden Lions) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Western Province).

The 19-year-old Marx, who was born on 13 July 1994, stands a solid 1.88m tall and weighs in at 113kg – Bismarck du Plessis is 1.89m and 112kg. Last year, he rubbed shoulders with the Springbok hooker when the Golden Lions Under-19 side helped the national team out at a number of training sessions in Johannesburg.

Marx is a born and bred Johannesburger who attended King Edward VII School – which produced Springboks such as Bryan Habana and Joe van Niekerk. He was named the Golden Lions’ U19 Forward of the Year in 2013 after a number of very strong performances for the runners up in the Absa Under-19 provincial competition, where he scored a try in the final against the Vodacom Blue Bulls U19s.

He is also part of the Lions’ wider Vodacom Super Rugby squad and could make their tour squad as third hooker early in May.

Marx, who likes the physical stuff, is a strong ball carrier and also brings leadership qualities to the table, is on the radar of the national selectors and a couple of strong performances in the Vodacom Cup will put him in line as a strong contender for the Junior Springbok squad for the Junior World Championships, which takes place in New Zealand in June.

He was born on 28 May 1993 and represented WP at the Coca-Cola Under-18 Weeks in 2010 (in Welkom) and 2011 (in Kimberley). Notshe made his senior debut last year in the Vodacom Cup before starring in the Capetonians’ Under-21 side, which won the Absa Under-21 provincial series in 2013.

Notshe, who was one of the stars in the Absa Under-21 Final against the Vodacom Blue Bulls U21s, is an excellent ball-carrier, has superb skills and is very fast. Similar in size current to current Springbok loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee, he is 1.90m tall, tips the scales at 100kg and can play blindside flank or No 8.

His first season playing for Western Province – he featured in nine of their Vodacom Cup matches and scored two tries in the process – was a big learning curve for Notshe, who is also a good leader and a candidate to captain his provincial Under-21 side later this year if he is not part of their Absa Currie Cup side.

Notshe capped a great season in 2013 when he was voted DHL Western Province’s most promising Under-21 player. He was duly included in the DHL Stormers’ wider training squad earlier this season, but with loose forward stocks pretty solid in Cape Town, he will get another opportunity to shine in the Vodacom Cup in the coming weeks.

South Africa’s 14 provincial unions, as well as the Limpopo Blue Bulls and Kenyan debutants, the Tusker Simba XV, will play in two sections, North and South, with eight teams each of the groups. All the teams will play in a single round within their own section after which the top eight sides, four from each section, will progress to the playoffs.

Kick-off: 15h00

Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park

Referee: Jaco van Heerden

Kick-off: 19h00

Venue: BCM Stadium, East London

Referee: Francois Pretorius

Kick-off: 19h10

Venue: Profert Olën Park, Potchefstroom

Referee: Quinton Immelman

Kick-off: 14h30

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen

Kick-off: 15h00

Venue: City Park, Cape Town

Referee: Rodney Boneparte

Kick-off: 15h00

Venue: Bultfontein High School

Referee: Jaco Kotze

Kick-off: 15h00

Venue: Clive Solomon Stadium, Heidedal, Bloemfontein

Referee: Marius Jonker

Kick-off: 16h40

Venue: City Park, Cape Town

Referee: Pro Legoete

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