Three local franchises, the DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks, started the competition with a bang last week as they registered morale-boosting bonus-point victories. They will undoubtedly look to continue this form as most of the teams begin to find their feet in the competition.
The Toyota Cheetahs and Vodacom Bulls, meanwhile, will be determined to improve on their form in the opening round and register their first victories of the season to avoid slipping further behind the pace-setters early in the competition.
SA’s sixth franchise, the Southern Kings, have a bye.
The Emirates Lions will be the first South African franchise to take to the field on Saturday morning as they go up against the Chiefs in Hamilton in their second tour game at 06h15.South Africa’s rugby faithful will be in for a treat later in the day, with three back-to-back home games between the Vodacom Bulls and Rebels at Loftus Versfeld at 15h00, the Toyota Cheetahs and DHL Stormers at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein at 17h15, and the Cell C Sharks taking on the Jaguares at Growthpoint Kings Point in Durban at 19h20.
In the other matches, the Crusaders meet the Blues in Christchurch and the Waratahs host the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday, and on Saturday last season’s finalists, the Highlanders and Hurricanes, meet in Dunedin, and the Reds go up against the Force in Brisbane.
Emirates Lions vs Chiefs
Date: Saturday, 5 March
SA Time: 06h15
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Angus Mabey
Television match official: Aaron Paterson
- Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made six changes to his squad for the clash against the Chiefs – three in the starting team and three on the bench.
- Harold Vorster has replaced Howard Mnisi in the midfield, and will pair up in a new combination with Lionel Mapoe.
- Up-front former KES players Malcolm Marx and Dylan Smith will reunite for their first starts in the front row.
- Among the replacements, Akker van der Merwe, Corné Fourie and Fabian Booysen have been included on the bench. A run for Booysen will mark his Vodacom Super Rugby debut.
- The Emirates Lions will boast new-look jersey numbers for the match in support of the Els for Autism foundation.
- The Emirates Lions and Chiefs have faced each other eight times with the Chiefs winning six of those matches and losing two, with a score average score of 34-27.
- The Chiefs have won all of their matches against the Emirates Lions in Hamilton.
- The teams hold the record as scoring the most points ever in a single Vodacom Super Rugby match (137 points) in Johannesburg. The score was 72-65 to the Chiefs.
- The Emirates Lions have won their last three overseas matches, which included a historical win in Tokyo last week against the Sunwolves, and will be looking to extend this record run to four matches against the Chiefs.
The teams are:
Emirates Lions: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel,Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Julian Redelinghuys, Malcolm Marx, Dylan Smith. Replacements:Akker van der Merwe, Corné Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, Robert Kruger, Fabian Booysen, Jaco van der Walt, Howard Mnisi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Latu Vaeno, Seta Tamanivalu, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Maama Vaipulu, Sam Cane (co-captain), Tom Sanders, Brodie Retallick, Michael Allardis, Hiroshi Yamashita, Rhys Marshall, Pauliasi Manu. Replacements:Nathan Harris, Mitchell Graham, Siate Tokolahi, Taleni Seu, Michael Leitch, Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Glen Fisiiahi.
Vodacom Bulls vs Rebels
Date: Saturday, 5 March
SA Time: 15h00
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Stuart Berry
Television match official: Marius Jonker
- Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais has made only one personnel change to his starting team with centre Burger Odendaal replacing Springbok Jesse Kriel, who has been ruled out due to concussion.
- Dries Swanepoel has been named as a replacement centre on the bench, and should he take to the field, he will make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut.
- The match will mark a significant milestone in lock Grant Hattingh’s career as he will earn his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby cap. Hattingh made his debut in the series for the Emirates Lions in 2012 and played nine matches for the Johannesburg franchise.
- The Vodacom Bulls will enter the match with the same pack that featured against the DHL Stormers last week.
- The Vodacom Bulls and Rebels have faced each other four times with the Bulls winning three matches and losing only one, by one point last season in Melbourne. The average score between the sides is 37-18.
- The Vodacom Bulls need a victory to avoid back-to-back defeats against the Rebels for the first time.
- A victory for the Vodacom Bulls would allow them to end their losing run of six matches, which marks their longest winless streak since the 2002 season.
- This will mark the Vodacom Bulls first home match of the season.
Vodacom Bulls head coach Nollis Marais: “I said last week that I back our squad and although we let ourselves and our supporters down, and I am confident that we can turn things around. We performed poorly in some areas of our game and paid the price. But I am confident that we can deliver a much better result in our first home match of the season.
“The Rebels will certainly not make it any easier for us. They showed against the Force last weekend that they can win tough matches away from home and play for 80 minutes. They edged us last year, so they will travel here with a lot of confidence. In fact, I think they are the favourites.”
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, Grant Hattingh, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Hencus van Wyk, Jason Jenkins, Roelof Smit, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Dries Swanepoel.
Toyota Cheetahs vs DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 5 March
SA Time: 17h10
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Rodney Boneparte, AJ Jacobs
Television match official: Willie Vos
- Toyota Cheetahs flanker Paul Schoeman has been handed a started with Boom Prinsloo moving to the bench in a rotational switch.
- In the only change on the Toyota Cheetahs bench, Francois Uys, who captained the side last year, replaces Reniel Hugo.
- DHL Stormers coach Robbie Fleck also made only one change to his starting team that defeated the Vodacom Bulls, with Junior Springbok wing Leolin Zas earning his first start as a replacement for Kobus van Wyk, who is nursing an ankle injury.
- Huw Jones has been named on the DHL Stormers bench.
- The Toyota Cheetahs and DHL Stormers have faced one another 15 times in Vodacom Super Rugby, with the Bloemfontein side winning five of those matches. The remaining 10 were won by the DHL Stormers. The average score between the teams is 25-19 to the Capetonians.
- The Toyota Cheetahs have suffered defeats in their last four matches and will be determined to avoid a fifth defeat this weekend.
- Toyota Cheetahs centre Francois Venter and wing Raymond Rhule recorded the most metres gained (141m) in the opening round of the competition.
- The DHL Stormers were the top tacklers in the opening round of the competition with a 96% success rate.
Toyota Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith: “The tries we conceded last week served as hard lessons, so we have looked at that area. The Stormers’ pack and the way they drove last week certainly served as warning signs for us, and we have worked really hard this week to counter that… Russell Winter is doing an excellent job with their forwards. Their lineouts are solid and their pack has become more physical, so they have a decent pack of forwards that are well coached.”
DHL Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck: “It was encouraging that we finished so strongly against the Vodacom Bulls, but there are still plenty of areas in which we can improve, so we want to take another step forward in Bloemfontein. The impact that our replacements made was considerable, and it is great to be in a position where there is such fierce competition for starting places.”
The teams are:
Toyota Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (captain), William Small-Smith, Raymond Rhule, Fred Zeilinga, Shaun Venter, Niell Jordaan, Uzair Cassiem, Paul Schoeman, Lood de Jager, Carl Wegner, Maks van Dyk, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Charles Marais. Replacements:Jacques du Toit, Ox Nche, Luan de Bruin, Francois Uys, Boom Prinsloo, Henco Venter, Tian Meyer, Niel Marais.
DHL Stormers: Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds, Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh (co-captain), Leoplin Zas, Robert du Preez, Jano Vermaak, Nizaam Carr, Schalk Burger, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Oli Kebble. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, JC Janse van Rensburg, Frans Malherbe (co-captain), JD Schickerling, Siya Kolisi, Nic Groom, Kurt Coleman, Huw Jones.
Cell C Sharks vs Jaguares
Date: Saturday, 5 March
SA Time: 19h20
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cwengile Jadezweni
Television match official: Johan Greeff
- Springbok and Cell C Sharks wing JP Pietersen will start the match as a replacement for his national team-mate Lwazi Mvovo, who suffered an ankle injury against the Southern Kings last week.
- The other change to the starting team is at lock, where Springbok Stephan Lewies returns from a serious knee injury in place of Hyron Andrews. Andrews in turn takes over from David McDuling on the bench.
- Pietersen will be the most experienced player on the field for the Durban side with 122 Vodacom Super Rugby caps to his name.
- This will mark the first encounter between the Cell C Sharks and the Jaguares and the Argentinean team’s second outing in Vodacom Super Rugby.
- A victory for the Cell C Sharks would mark their fifth on the trot – a feat they last achieved across the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
- The Cell C Sharks have won 20 of their last 24 matches in Durban against overseas opposition, although the last four of these victories were by six points or less.
Cell C Sharks head coach Gary Gold: “There were a lot of positives to take away from our match last weekend. I was happy with our intent, skill level and the way we executed our tries.
“The Jaguares are a brilliant team full of internationals. Many of these guys are hugely experienced and had good success at the World Cup. Last week against the Cheetahs, this Argentine side showed that they have adapted well to the competition.
“We’ve had a good week and are preparing to take on a full battle of international players and we’re excited about the challenge ahead. This match is really going to test us to see how far we’ve come this year.”
The teams are:
Cell C Sharks: Willie le Roux, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Joe Pietersen, Cobus Reinach, Daniel du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Franco Marais, Tendai Mtawarira (captain). Replacements:Kyle Cooper, Juan Schoeman, Lourens Adriaanse, Hyron Andrews, Philip van der Walt, Michael Claassens, Garth April, S’bura Sithole.
Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 4 March
08h35: Crusaders vs Blues – AMI Stadium, Christchurch
10h45: Brumbies vs Waratahs – GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday, 5 March
08h35: Highlanders vs Hurricanes – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
10h40: Reds vs Force – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane