Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-final between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg will only be the fifth all-South African playoff in the history of the competition, which is now in its 22nd season.
And with the visitors winning two of the four derby knock-outs, the KwaZulu-Natalians will be fancying their chances against last year’s runners up at Emirates Airline Park, even though they will have to half a 13-match home winning streak by the Emirates Lions.
This weekend, the Cell C Sharks will also want to use their playoff experience to good effect. This will be their 14th Vodacom Super Rugby knock-out encounter, making them South Africa’s most-experienced side when it comes to do-or-die matches.
The Cell C Sharks – who have lost their last five matches against the Emirates Lions – were the receiving end of a home defeat when they lost the 2007 final in Durban. A few years later though, in 2012, they produced a massive upset by travelling back from Brisbane to beat the table-topping DHL Stormers in a Cape Town semi-final.
That was one of seven defeats in eight playoff appearances for the DHL Stormers – a less-than-ideal historical trend they would like to reverse when they host the Chiefs in the last quarter-final on Saturday, in what will be their ninth appearance in a Vodacom Super Rugby playoff.The Capetonians have only ever won one of these – back in 2010 – and will be keen to send the Kiwis back to Waikato on the back of their second knock-out victory.
The DHL Stormers – along with the Sunwolves the only non-Kiwi team to have beaten New Zealand sides this year – have won six of their 10 encounters with the Chiefs at DHL Newlands and lead their overall duel by 10-9. However, it’s in the playoffs where the men from Waikato hold the upper hand, having won six out of 11 knock-out matches compared to the Capetonians’ one from eight.
In terms of team selection, all three sides have opted for continuity. The Emirates Lions’ match-23 is unchanged from last week and Springbok wing Ruan Combrinck will earn his 50th cap at this level.
For the Cell C Sharks, Junior Springbok Curwin Bosch’s inclusion at flyhalf, for Garth April, who moves to the bench, is the only change to their squad from last weekend.
And the DHL Stormers have recalled fit-again fullback SP Marais and flank Rynhardt Elstadt in the only changes to their starting line-up, with Dillyn Leyds moving to wing, and Seabelo Senatla and Sikhumbuzo Notshe moving to the bench, where they will be joined by Oli Kebble and Wilco Louw.
Vodacom Super Rugby Resources:
2017 MEDIA GUIDE | MATCH PACKS | MATCH CENTRE
Teams and match information:
Emirates Lions v Cell C Sharks
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: 16. Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Cell C Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S’busiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit. Replacements: 16 Franco Marais / Stephan Coetzee, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Date: Saturday 22 July 2017
SA Time: 14h30
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Egon Seconds
Television match official: Marius Jonker
DHL Stormers v Chiefs
DHL Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (vice-captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Date: Saturday 22 July 2017
SA Time: 17h00
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Quinton Immelman
Television match official: Johan Greeff
Other quarter-final encounters:
Friday 21 July:
11h35: Brumbies v Hurricanes (Canberra)
Saturday 22 July:
09h35: Crusaders v Highlanders (Christchurch)