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The Cell C Sharks and the Emirates Lions clash in Durban on Saturday in what promises to be thrilling local Vodacom Super Rugby derby. These two teams are currently occupying the top two spots on the Africa Conference 2 log standings.

The visitors will be hoping to return to winning ways after losing to the Crusaders last weekend, while the home side returns to action following their bye. The match kick off at 17h05. In another Saturday clash, the Southern Kings face the Vodacom Bulls at home in Port Elizabeth. Their match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium starts at 19h15 and is the second successive home game for the Kings after their morale-boosting win over the Sunwolves last weekend.

The Sunwolves continue their South African tour on Friday when they will be in action at DHL Newlands in Cape Town against the DHL Stormers. This evening fixture gets underway at 19h00. Elsewhere, the in-form Chiefs entertain fellow New Zealand side, the Blues, in the early morning kick-off on Friday. This match will be followed by the Force versus Crusaders clash in Perth. The Hurricanes will be hosting the Jaguares on Saturday morning, to be followed by the Reds encounter against the Highlanders later on in the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

 

DHL Stormers vs SunwolvesDate: Friday, 8 April 2016

SA Time: 19h00

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: Nic Berry

Assistant referees: Angus Gardner, AJ Jacobs

Television match official: Johan Greeff

Team News:

· Springbok centre Damian de Allende and lock Rynhardt Elstadt are both set to make their first appearances this season for the Cape side. Both are on the bench for the first-ever match against the newcomers after recovering from pre-season injuries.

· Pieter-Steph du Toit returns at lock after being rested against the Jaguares, whilst JD Schickerling will join him in the second row following an injury to Eben Etzebeth.

· The final change upfront sees experienced Springbok loose forward Schalk Burger back into the starting line-up at No 8, with Nizaam Carr named as reserve for the first time this season.

· Because of the injury to halfbacks Nic Groom and Kurt Coleman, scrumhalf Louis Schreuder will now partner flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis on his DHL Stormers starting debut. Godlen Masimla provides cover from the bench.

· In the front row a rotational switch sees props Oli Kebble and Vincent Koch returning to the starting line-up, with JC Janse van Rensburg and Frans Malherbe moving to the bench.

· Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett has shuffled his team that lost 33-28 to the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend. He selected two new starting props in Masataka Mikami and Takuma Asahara, while Shinya Makabe comes in at lock to partner Timothy Bond.

· Argentine international Tomas Leonardi is also back and starting at No 8. Ed Quirk moves to flank and Andrew Durutalo is now starting off the bench.

· In the backline, there is a new starting halfback pair in Yuki Yatomi and Yu Tamura, who replace Kaito Shigeno and Tusi Pisi respectively.

· The new centre partnership is Derek Carpenter and Mifiposeti Paea and they replace Yu Tamura and Harumichi Tatekawa.

Stats:

· The Sunwolves’ last three games against South African opposition have been decided by five points or fewer and they’ve scored 55 points in their last two games against teams from SA.

· Interestingly, the DHL Stormers are the only South African team who are yet to trail at the half-time break so far this season.

· The DHL Stormers have won six of their last seven regular season matches at home when hosting a team from outside of South Africa.

· The home side will miss the influence of injured lock Eben Etzebeth, who has stolen nine lineouts so far this season, the most of any player in the competition. The big lock also won an additional 22 on his side’s throw in so far.

· Sunwolves lock Tim Bond made 14 carries in their Round 6 loss to the Kings, the joint second most of any player across the round, with teammate Tusi Pisi (13) just one behind him.

Quotes:

DHL Stormers coach, Robbie Fleck: “The bye was definitely welcome after five hard games to start the season, and the challenge now is to build on what we have achieved thus far. It is great to be back at DHL Newlands, and hopefully we will be able to make the most of the home support.”

Teams:

DHL Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Oli Kebble. Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Damian de Allende.

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Mifiposeti Paea, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Tim Bond, 4 Shinya Makabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (captain), 1 Masataka Mikami. Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.

Cell C Sharks vs Emirates Lions

Date: Saturday, 9 April 2016

SA Time: 17h05

Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban

Referee: Angus Gardner

Assistant referees: Nic Berry, Rodney Boneparte

Television match official: Marius Jonker

Team News:

· Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold made only one change to the starting team that lost to the Crusaders at home on March 26 – No 8 Philip van der Walt, who suffered a neck injury against the Crusaders, is still recovering and his place is taken by Daniel du Preez.

· The experienced Keegan Daniel fills the gap left by Du Preez on the bench.

· Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann announced two changes to his side that lost 43-37 at home to the Crusaders last weekend.

· The changes are both in the backline, with Ross Cronje starting at scrumhalf in place of Faf de Klerk.

· Hard-running Rohan Janse van Rensburg comes in at inside centre for Howard Mnisi. De Klerk and Mnisi both move down to the bench.

Stats:

· The Cell C Sharks have won nine and drawn one of their last 12 matches against the Emirates Lions, though the Johannesburg side will be looking for back-to-back wins against the Sharks for the first time after defeating them 23-21 in their last encounter.

· The Cell C Sharks average just 16.8 points scored per game across their last four Vodacom Super Rugby fixtures, though they’ve managed to win twice and draw once in that span.

Odwa Ndungane needs two more tries to equal the Cell C Sharks all-time Vodacom Super Rugby try scoring record, held by Stefan Terblanche.
· The Emirates Lions have enjoyed some success, winning three and drawing one of their last five away from home and each result mirroring the half-time status.

· Elton Jantjies has kicked 23 goals so far this season, the third most of any player in the competition and the most of any South African-based player.

· Paul Jordaan has missed just three of 54 tackle attempts this season, giving him the second best tackle success (94.4%) of any player to have made more than 50 attempts.

Quotes:

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold: “This is going to be an incredibly tough fixture, made even tougher by the fact that the Lions are in our pool. The outcome of this game is going to be significant to the status of this pool at a later stage.

“We want to play with more ball in hand and ask questions of our own. The set-piece battle is going to be important and it will lay the foundation for us to launch our attacks. It is important for us to put in a good performance before our overseas tour, which we hope will set the tone for a tough but exciting three weeks in New Zealand.”

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann: “Both these inclusions are part of the rotational system that we have in place to manage to big squad of players in a very long Vodacom Super Rugby competition.”

Teams:

Cell C Sharks: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Joe Pietersen, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain). Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Michael Claassens, 22. Garth April, 23. Odwa Ndungane.
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith. Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco van der Walt.
Southern Kings vs Vodacom Bulls

Date: Saturday, 9 April 2016

SA Time: 19h15

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Referee: Shuhei Kubo

Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, Archie Sehlako

Television match official: Christie du Preez

Team News:

· Southern Kings head coach, Deon Davids, has kept his pack relatively unchanged, with one switch in the tight five. Tom Botha moves up from the bench to take over from Jacobie Adriaanse, who has rib injury.

· Loose forward Chris Cloete was cleared to play on Thursday morning after sustaining a dislocated finger against the Sunwolves. Cloete comes in for CJ Velleman, who moves to the bench, in a rotational change.

· Among the backs, scrumhalf Ntando Kebe moves out to the bench and James Hall, who has recovered from a neck injury, is now in the starting line-up.

· Stefan Watermeyer will run inside centre in place of Shane Gates, who is batting with a foot injury, and Lukhanyo Am comes in at outside centre. Luzuko Vulindlu is fit again and replaces Siyanda Grey on the wing. Grey, in turn, hurt his knee last week.

· With Botha now starting, Justin Ackerman gets a place on the bench. With Elgar Watts still battling with a hamstring injury, that the team is weighing either Leighton Eksteen or JP du Plessis as alternates.

· SP Marais will start at fullback in Port Elizabeth in what will be his 37th appearance in the competition for the versatile Vodacom Bulls outside back. The outing is only his second appearance for the Pretoria-side after his replacement stint against the Toyota Cheetahs last week. He has previously played for the Kings (eight times) and Cell C Sharks (27 matches).

· Marais takes over from Jesse Kriel, who will resume his midfield partnership with fellow Springbok centre Jan Serfontein. Kriel was picked at outside centre, with Serfontein moving to the inside berth to plug the gap left by the injured Burger Odendaal. Kriel’s twin brother, Dan, comes in on the bench and will make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut should he take to the field.

· Regular scrumhalf Rudy Paige is also out injured, meaning Piet van Zyl will start now start at No 9 for the first time this year while Ivan van Zyl is the back-up scrumhalf.

· In the forwards Arno Botha returns to the No 8 slot, replacing Nic de Jager, while Lappies Labuschagne is also back in the starting pack. The latter takes over from Roelof Smit (bench).

· Prop Trevor Nyakane gets the nod while Lizo Gqoboka drops out. Marvin Orie and Werner Kruger are the two new faces amongst the reserves. Orie replaces Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Kruger takes the seat of Nyakane.

Stats:

· The Vodacom Bulls beat the Kings by a combined 82-18 in their only two previous encounters back in 2013, keeping the Kings scoreless in their maiden encounter.

· The Kings earned their first victory of 2016 against the Sunwolves in Round 5 and will now be looking to snare consecutive wins for the first time in their Vodacom Super Rugby history.

· The Vodacom Bulls are undefeated (W3, D1) in their last four matches, the last time they went longer without a loss was in 2013 when they managed a run of nine straight wins.

Quotes:

Nollis Marais, Vodacom Bulls coach: “There is no doubt that the Kings will be tails up for this one. They really deserved their win against the Sunwolves, a team we battled to put away in Singapore recently. So with that as yardstick, it is clear we will have to play very well if we want to return from Port Elizabeth with a win. Although showed good grit against the Toyota Cheetahs last week, we have to be more consistent at this level.”

Adriaan Strauss, Vodacom Bulls captain: “There is no doubt that the Kings will target the scrums. We did not do well in that department last weekend, while they scrummed well against the Sunwolves, so they will see this area as opportunity to attack us.”

Southern Kings: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 James Hall, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Justin Ackerman, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 CJ Velleman, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Leighton Eksteen / JP du Plessis, 23 Jaco van Tonder.

Vodacom Bulls: 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dan Kriel.

Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 8 April
08h35 Chiefs vs Blues – FMB Stadium, Hamilton

13h00 Force vs Crusaders – NIB Stadium, Perth

Saturday, 9 April
08h35 Hurricanes vs Jaguares – Westpac Stadium, Wellington

10h45 Reds vs Highlanders – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Byes this weekend: Brumbies, Rebels and Waratahs

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