The big derby in Cape Town between the DHL Stormers and the Emirates Lions top the bill for this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby Round 2 action in South Africa, with kick off set for 17h15.
The only other local match sees the Cell C Sharks host the Blues from 15h05 in Durban, while the Vodacom Bulls will be in Buenos Aires for a late-evening clash with the Jaguares (23h40).
Cell C Sharks ready to circle the Blues
The Cell C Sharks host the Blues in their first home match of the season and Robert du Preez’s men are in confident mood following their excellent away triumph over the Sunwolves in Singapore last weekend.
Their starting line-up remains unchanged from last week’s splendid win, while Springboks Thomas du Toit and Curwin Bosch are both included on the bench.
The coastal outfit have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Blues, going back more than a decade, and finished on the winning side in each of their previous five home fixtures against all opposition, while the Blues have fallen to defeats in their last three games.
Meanwhile, the Blues welcome three All Blacks into their starting line-up as props Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe join centre Sonny Bill Williams in the run-on side. Melani Nanai, starting at fullback, and No 8 Akira Ioane will both be making their 50th appearances for the Blues.
What they said:
Cell C Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez said they want to show consistency this year: “The opposition brings the best out of you, we knew these would be really big games, but we have to change our mindset around this – we can’t be up for a Kiwi game and not get up for an Aussie game. They’re a new team and we expect a good battle out there on Saturday.”
Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe. Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Tanielu Tele’a.
Head to head:
Cell C Sharks won: 15
Blues won: 9
Cell C Sharks points: 633
Blues points: 608
Average score: 26-25
Date: Saturday, 23 February
SA time: 15h05
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Griffon Colby
Television Match Official: Marius Jonker
Prediction: Cell C Sharks by five.
Emirates Lions expect backlash from DHL Stormers
In the feature SA match on Saturday, the DHL Stormers host the Emirates Lions in what is expected to be another top-notch local derby. The Cape side will be eager to bounce back after their hurting defeat to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, while the Highvelders travel down south on the back of a first ever away win over the tough Jaguares.
Springbok tour squad member Sergeal Petersen will make his DHL Stormers debut on Saturday and he starts on the right wing in one of four changes to the home side. The other changes to the backline see Jean-Luc du Plessis start at flyhalf, with Damian Willemse shifting to fullback in place of the injured Dillyn Leyds, while Joshua Stander comes onto the bench.
The only change to the forward pack is in the second row, with Chris van Zyl at lock in place of the injured Salmaan Moerat. Fit-again Springboks Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth are among the replacements, along with flank Jaco Coetzee, who is also set to get his first run of the campaign.
Emirates Lions coach Swys de Bruin made three changes to his starting XV which beat the Jaguares 25-16 in Buenos Aires. In a rotational switch in the backline, one Springbok replaces another as Ruan Combrinck comes in for Aphiwe Dyantyi at left wing, with the latter on the bench.
Former Blitzbok star Kwagga Smith is back amongst the forwards, replacing Hacjivah Dayimani in the No 7 jersey, while Stephan Lewies and comes in for Rhyno Herbst at lock. Sti Sithole, Gianni Lombard and Sylvian Mahuza are the newcomers on the bench.
The Emirates Lions are on an excellent winning streak against their SA opposition and they are undefeated in 22 of their last 23 matches against local opposition (W21, L1, D1), so they will be fairly confident of continuing with that impressive trend.
Aimee Barret-Theron will become the first South African woman assistant referee in a Vodacom Super Rugby fixture when she takes the touchline flag on Saturday in Cape Town.
What they said:
DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said his team are looking forward to playing in front of their home supporters: “It is always special to play at DHL Newlands in front of our passionate fans, so we will be giving it everything we have got on Saturday. We are determined to raise our standards and deliver the type of rugby that we can be proud of.”
Emirates Lions coach Swys de Bruin expects a huge battle from the Cape side in front of their passionate supporters: “The DHL Stormers are a proud side and they will be eager to give a performance that will make their supporters very proud of them. Local derbies are always tough and closely fought battles so we are ready for a backlash on Saturday.”
DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak. Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Dan du Plessis.
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Sti Sithole, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimane, 21 Gianni Lombard, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Head to head:
DHL Stormers won: 11
Emirates Lions won: 6
DHL Stormers points: 424
Emirates Lions points: 357
Average score: 25-21
Date: Saturday, 23 February
SA time: 17h15
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Divan Uys, Aimee Barret-Theron
Television Match Official: Christie du Preez
Prediction: Emirates Lions by 10.
Physical Buenos Aires battle awaits Vodacom Bulls
The last match of the weekend will be played in Buenos Aires, between the Jaguares and the Vodacom Bulls where a very physical battle is expected and Cornal Hendricks will be making an emotional return to Vodacom Super Rugby action as replacement for Johnny Kotze (meningitis).
Hendriks, the former Springbok wing, will play his first Vodacom Super Rugby match since 2015, when he was forced out of action due to illness. Saturday’s battle in Buenos Aires will see him complete his comeback to top-flight action.
The Pretoria side got their swagger back following their sublime win over the DHL Stormers at Loftus and the late-evening tie in South America has all the makings of a fascinating clash.
Each of the previous four meetings in this fixture has been won by the home team on the day, with each side having won twice.
The Argentine franchise want to avoid back-to-back losses on home soil for the first time since March 2018 after their defeat to the Emirates Lions last week.
What they said:
Vodacom Bulls coach Pote Human is expecting a fiery backlash from the Jaguares, especially after they lost to the Emirates Lions in their opening game: “It’s going to be tough especially if the crowd gets behind them and they come with their passion. I think we played the right game plan against the Stormers and if we can continue on that, we can do well.”
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage.
Head to head:
Jaguares won: 2
Vodacom Bulls won: 2
Jaguares points: 130
Vodacom Bulls points: 104
Average score: 33-26
Date: Saturday 23 February
SA time: 23h40
Venue: Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Mike Fraser
Television Match Official: Santiago Borsani
Prediction: Vodacom Blues by five.
Other Round 2 fixtures (SA kick-off-times):
Friday 22 February
08h35: Highlanders v Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Saturday 23 February:
06h15: Sunwolves v Waratahs, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo
08h35: Crusaders v Hurricanes, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
10h45: Brumbies v Chiefs, GIO Stadium, Canberra