With the South African Conference in the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament the tightest in years, four of the five teams involved will be chasing crucial wins in Round 13 of the competition on Friday and Saturday.
The Vodacom Bulls play the Crusaders in a vital Vodacom Super Rugby clash on Friday evening in Pretoria. The big match at Loftus Versfeld starts at 19h10 and will be televised live on SuperSport1.
That game is followed by two fixtures on Saturday involving local sides. The Cell C Sharks complete their Australian tour with a visit to Waikato, Hamilton, where they will face the Chiefs from 09h35.
The only local fixture of the weekend sees the Emirates Lions in action against the Waratahs at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, where the kick-off is scheduled for 15h05. The DHL Stormers have a bye this weekend, while the Jaguares – the other team in the South African conference – face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday (07h15), looking to increase their recent unbeaten run.
Brits, Jenkins back for Vodacom Bulls’ Crusaders test
Springboks Schalk Brits and Jason Jenkins are back in the Vodacom Bulls pack for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening, when the Pretoria outfit will be eager to put in another good performance following their 28-21 home win over the Waratahs last weekend.
Brits has served a four week suspension and will start at hooker, while Jenkins is fit again following an injury layoff and will run out at lock. They boost an already powerful pack, where a great battle is expected seeing that both sets of forwards are stacked with experienced international players.
Like Brits, Jenkins last played for the Vodacom Bulls in their 19-16 win over the Cell C Sharks at the end of March. Brits replaces Jaco Visagie and Jenkins takes the place of Jannes Kirsten. Visagie drops to the bench while Kirsten is handed the No 7 jersey in place of the injured Hanro Liebenberg.
In a rotational switch in the backline, Ivan van Zyl drops out of the match 23 and is replaced by André Warner at scrumhalf, while Embrose Papier is included amongst the replacements.
Experienced midfielder Burger Odendaal, a late withdrawal last week against the Waratahs, has been declared fit and starts in the midfield alongside Johnny Kotze, with Dylan Sage dropping out.
The Vodacom Bulls have won five of their last six outings in Pretoria against the defending champions, which includes semi-final victories in 2009 and 2010, although they succumbed to a 62-24 defeat the last time the Crusaders visited Loftus Versfeld, in 2017.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, have won seven from their last eight games in South Africa, including all four of their previous outings in the Republic. The team from Canterbury were held to a thrilling 21-21 home draw last week by the Cell C Sharks.
Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard has succeeded with 48 goal kicks so far this season, the most by any player in the competition, and the Springbok pivot will once more be key figure for the team in light blue jerseys.
What they said:
Vodacom Bulls head coach Pote Human welcomed the return of his two Springboks in the pack: “Schalk has been itching to play for the last couple of weeks and he will be very keen. Jason also recovered well and looked very sharp in training. Both are players of international standard, so it is great to have them back. Our pack will need to step up to the plate if we want to contain the Crusaders and these two are certainly capable of adding to that.”
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty (captain), 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Replacement: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Head to head:
Vodacom Bulls won: 10
Crusaders won: 16
Vodacom Bulls points: 613
Crusaders points: 864
Average score: 24-33
Date: Friday, 10 May
SA time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Egon Seconds
Television Match Official: Willie Vos
Prediction: Crusaders by three.
Cell C Sharks rotate three for Chiefs clash
With six log points from two tour matches, the Cell C Sharks team go into Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs full of confidence, knowing that a good performance in the last match of their Australasian will provide just the push they need for the final stretch of the competition.
Kick off in this Round 13 clash at the FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton is at 09h35 (SA time).
Head coach Robert du Preez has made three rotational changes to the starting line-up that managed to score a very credible 21-21 draw against the Crusaders last weekend.
Upfront, Hyron Andrews (lock) returns to the starting line-up in place of Ruben van Heerden, while Philip van der Walt from moves from flank to No 8 in place of Daniel du Preez with Jacques Vermeulen coming in at flank.
There is just one change to the backline where Marius Louw replaces the hard-running Springbok midfielder Andre Esterhuizen while Fezokuhle Mbatha, Tyler Paul, Luke Stringer and Kobus van Wyk all come onto the bench. Springbok Curwin Bosch has been in outstanding form at flyhalf recently and he will again wear the No 10 jersey in Hamilton.
The performances on tour so far have been outstanding and Durban team is undefeated after victory over the Waratahs and sharing the spoils with the Crusaders, and they will be eager to finish the tour on a high note before flying back to the Republic.
While the Chiefs have won their last four matches at home against the Durbanites, the black and white jerseys are undefeated in their last four games against opponents from New Zealand (W3, D1).
What they said:
Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez summed up the tour so far: “We know how tough it is to tour and how tough this competition is, so to beat the Waratahs for the first time in 19 years in Sydney was a great feat, as was the draw against the Crusaders, where we nearly managed to win it. We’re very pleased with where we are at the moment and looking forward to another good performance in Hamilton.”
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Jesse Parete, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli. Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit. Replacements: 16 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Head to head:
Chiefs won: 11
Cell C Sharks won: 11
Chiefs points: 540
Cell C Sharks points: 568
Average score: 25-26
Date: Saturday, 11 May
SA time: 09h35
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Brendon Pickerill
Television Match Official: Aaron Paterson
Prediction: Cell C Sharks by three.
Whiteley returns to lead Highvelders against Waratahs
Springbok No 8 Warren Whiteley has been declared fit and will resume the captaincy for the Emirates Lions’ starting team in their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Waratahs on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Whiteley has recovered from a knee injury and is one of four changes to the Emirates Lions side that lost in Christchurch two weeks ago. The Highvelders had a bye last weekend.
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx is also back following his rest against the defending champions, while fellow Bok Courtnall Skosan returns for duty on the wing as does midfielder Harold Vorster.
The Pride of Jozi have won their last four matches against the NSW outfit. They seem to have a winning appetite for Australian opposition as they have been successful in 10 out of 12 fixtures featuring Aussie sides, although they were defeated 31-20 by the Brumbies in their last such fixture played on Saturday, 13 April in Canberra.
Emirates Lions: Andries Coetzee; Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje; Warren Whiteley (captain), Vincent Tshituka, Kwagga Smith, Marvin Orie, Stephan Lewies, Carlu Sadie, Malcolm Marx, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher, Dylan Smith, Johannes Jonker, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Marnus Schoeman, Nic Groom, Shaun Reynolds, Tyrone Green.
Waratahs: Kurtley Beale, Alex Newsome, Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt, Curtis Rona, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper (c), Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes. Replacements: Andrew Tuala, Tom Robertson, Chris Talakai, Hugh Sinclair, Will Miller, Jake Gordon, Adam Ashley-Cooper, 23 Cam Clark.
Head to head:
Emirates Lions: 5
Waratahs won: 7
Emirates Lions points: 291
Waratahs points: 375
Average score: 24-31
Date: Saturday, 11 May
SA time: 15h05
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Rasta Rasivhenge
Television Match Official: Willie Vos
Prediction: Emirates Lions by eight.
Other Round 13 matches this weekend:
Friday, 10 May
09h35: Blues v Hurricanes, Eden Park, Auckland
11h45: Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday, 11 May
07h15: Highlanders v Jaguares, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Sunday, 12 May
08h05: Brumbies v Sunwolves, GIO Stadium, Canberra