The feature match in the South African conference this weekend is Saturday’s much-anticipated local Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town.
In other matches, the Lions finish their three-week Australasian tour with a tough assignment against the Crusaders on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the Sharks will be hoping for better fortunes when they start their overseas leg against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday morning (9:35am).
Kolisi, Etzebeth boost Stormers’ derby prospects
The Stormers welcome back a host of experienced Springboks in a big shake-up for their important derby against the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
Coach Robbie Fleck made seven changes to his starting line-up for the South vs North challenge – four in the forward pack and three in the backline – which kicks off at 3:05pm.
Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi is back in the starting XV to lead the Stormers from the side of the scrum, along with fellow Springboks Frans Malherbe and Damian de Allende, who sat out last week.
Meanwhile, Bulls midfielder Burger Odendaal will be running out in his 50th game for the Pretoria franchise.
Pote Human’s team currently sit on top of the South African conference standings, and they handed their southern rivals a heavy defeat in their first round meeting in Pretoria. However, the Cape side remain a formidable force at home despite their recent indifferent form.
The Stormers have won their last seven fixtures at home against the visitors from Pretoria, who in turn will draw courage from their two previous away wins against the Lions and Sharks respectively.
What they said:
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said the value of his returning players cannot be underestimated: ‘We will need all of our experience on Saturday in what will be a typically fierce derby at Newlands. It is great to welcome back some senior players for this game, but it will require a big effort from every single one of us to deliver the performance we are looking for on Saturday.’
Bulls coach Pote Human wants his side to retain consistency after their win over the Reds was followed by a bye weekend: ‘The last time we had a bye, the result was not a good one, so we are pretty mindful of that. A clash with the Stormers down in Cape Town is always a massive one for us.’
Lions tweak starting fifteen for Crusaders challenge
There are a few changes to the Lions side to face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday from the team that toppled the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend.
Robbie Coetzee, Nic Groom, Shaun Reynolds and Ruan Combrinck all got the nod to start, with Coetzee getting a start in place of Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx, who is back in South Africa as part of the Springbok rest protocols.
In addition, the Lions also suffered a late blow after captain Warren Whiteley was ruled out with injury. As a result, Kwagga Smith will lead the side and start at No 8, rather than at openside flank.
In the Crusaders pack, All Black Codie Taylor is now the starting hooker, while lock Quinten Strange and flank Billy Harmon replace Scott Barrett and Matt Todd, who are rested.
Mitch Drummond has been selected at scrumhalf and there is a reshuffle out wide with All Black George Bridge coming in on left wing, Braydon Ennor (wing) moving to centre and Sevu Reece at right wing.
Bosch at flyhalf for Sharks’ clash in Sydney
Rotation played a key role in the six changes made by Sharks coach Robert du Preez for the clash with the Waratahs at the newly unveiled Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on Saturday morning. One of these include a shift to flyhalf for young Springbok Curwin Bosch.
South Africa’s most-capped Super Rugby player, Beast Mtawarira, will captain the Durbanites in this match.
Following a good victory over the Rebels last weekend, the Waratahs have named a relatively unchanged side, with Curtis Rona to start on the wing.
What they said:
Sharks coach Robert du Preez explained the changes to his side: ‘The plan was to rotate and make changes and we need to make sure that everyone is engaged on this tour.
‘There are a few players in our squad who have played a lot of games and we have been resting some in the last few weeks. We have a very strong playing 23 with a really solid bench and we’re looking forward to a strong showing against the Waratahs.’
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