The Emirates Lions face a tricky assignment in Buenos Aires on Saturday against the rugged Jaguares in their quest to finish in the overall top spot of the Vodacom Super Rugby standings. The match is the last of the weekend’s fixtures and kicks off at 23h40 SA time.
As things currently stand, the Highvelders are one point in front of the Chiefs, who are leading a pack of New Zealand sides still in contention for places in the playoffs.
A bonus point win will guarantee the Emirates Lions (52 points) first spot on the overall log and with that the privilege of home ground advantage throughout the playoffs. The Chiefs (51) could make a move for the overall top position with a bonus-point over the Highlanders, however, the Johannesburg side have a far stronger point difference in the event of both teams finish on the same amount of league points.
From a South African perspective, the DHL Stormers (46) have already made sure of their place in the playoffs thanks to a haul of 10 log points collected from their two recent away games in Australia. The Emirates Lions and the DHL Stormers are the two African conference winners, while the Cell C Sharks (39) are currently two points ahead of the Vodacom Bulls in the race for the local wildcard spot.A win over the Sunwolves in Durban on Friday evening should see for the Cell C Sharks clinch eighth place on the combined standings, and with that passage to the knockout stage. Experienced Springbok back JP Pietersen will lead the coastal side in his last home match for Durban franchise.
The Vodacom Bulls are not completely out of the playoff picture yet. The Pretoria-outfit must however depend on the Sunwolves upsetting the Cell C Sharks, while they must beat the Toyota Cheetahs in their crunch encounter in Bloemfontein.
Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss will make Vodacom Super Rugby history when he leads the Pretoria outfit against his former team in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening (19h15). He is set to become the most capped South African hooker in the history of the competition when he runs out to play in his 132nd match. The 30-year-old Bok captain will move past fellow Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who played all of his 131 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the Cell C Sharks.
In other matches this weekend, the Blues host the Waratahs in Auckland on Friday morning (SA time) and the Reds are at home in Brisbane for their encounter with the Rebels. On Saturday the Crusaders and Hurricanes clash in Christchurch, the Highlanders entertain the Chiefs in Dunedin while the Brumbies and Western Force meet in an Australian derby in Canberra.
Cell C Sharks vs Sunwolves
Date: Friday, 15 July 2016
SA time: 19h00
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker
· The Sharks made six changes to their starting team line-up to take on the Sunwolves in Durban on Friday evening.
· Amongst the forwards, Thomas du Toit replaces regular captain Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead prop. Mtawarira drops completely out of the squad and veteran Springbok JP Pietersen will lead the side from outside centre in his final regular home fixture.
· Pietersen will play in his 136th Vodacom Super Rugby match.
· Springbok Pat Lambie, out with concussion since the June 11 Test in Cape Town, is bracketed on the bench alongside Junior Springbok star Curwin Bosch. Lambie will undergo further tests this week before a decision on his availability is made.
· Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle will start at No 2 as Franco Marais also gets a break. Stephan Lewies is now on the bench with Ruan Botha starting while Tera Mthembu replaces Jean-Luc du Preez at blindside flank.
· Odwa Ndungane gets the nod to start at right wing, Sibusiso Sithole drops completely out of the squad and scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer is the starting scrumhalf meaning Michael Claassens is on the bench.
· This will be the first meeting between these teams, though the Cell Sharks have won six of their last nine games against teams from outside of South Africa.
· The coastal side have also won their last three home games, outscoring their opposition by a combined 111-25.
· The Sunwolves have lost each of their six away fixtures and endured a cumulative score line of 97-332. They have also recorded the worst tackle success rate this season (79%) while the Cell C Sharks are boasting with the third best (87%).
· Only two players have scored more tries than Akihito Yamada (9) this season, although both players (Matt Faddes & Israel Folau) have played four games more than the Sunwolves winger, who has played just 10 games.
Cell C Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen (captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit. Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stefan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Curwin Bosch/Pat Lambie, 23 Heimar Williams.
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Hajime Yamashita, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Mifiposeti Paea, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura,10 Yu Tamura (captain), 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Edward Quirk, 7 Taiyo Ando, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki. Replacements: 16 Futoshi Mori, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Naohiro Kotaki, 20 Yoshiya Hosoda, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Kentaro Kodama.
DHL Stormers vs Southern Kings
Date: Saturday, 16 July 2016
SA time: 17h05
Venue: DHL Newlands
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Rodney Boneparte
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
· Lock Chris van Zyl is set to make DHL Stormers debut if he comes off the bench against the Southern Kings at DHL Newlands on Saturday. He captained the DHL Western Province in the Currie Cup Qualifiers this season and is joined on the bench by prop JC Janse van Rensburg and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak. The latter are both back from injury.
· With Daniel du Plessis out with concussion its means Huw Jones will start his first match of the season at outside centre. Scrumhalf Louis Schreuder come into the starting line-up for Nic Groom who is being rested.
· Up front, Rynhardt Elstadt starts at flank with Siya Kolisi set to come off the bench. Scarra Ntubeni comes in at hooker, and as expected JD Schickerling and Jean Kleyn start in place of Springbok lock-pairing Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth who are rested.
· There have been only two previous encounters between these teams in which only 66 points were scored in total, though the DHL Stormers emerged victorious from both fixtures.
· The Cape side come into this game on the back of a three-game winning streak, the last time they won four in a row was the opening four rounds of the 2015 season.
· The Kings have lost their last 11 games away from home and have conceded an average of 46.5 points per game in that run.
· The Kings have boasted a 90% lineout success rate this season, the fifth best in the campaign, however the DHL Stormers have stolen 44 opposition lineouts in 2016, 15 more than any other side.
· Deon Davids, the Southern Kings coach, made three changes to his side.
· Steven Sykes returns to captain the side, replacing Schalk Oelofse at left lock, while Dewald Human gets a starting birth at flyhalf for the first time.
· Oelofse is currently on the bench, but had a niggle with his shoulder during training on Thursday and Davids has bracketed Sintu Manjezi as a possible replacement.
· There is also a rotation at No 8, with Jacques Engelbrecht moving to the starting team and Aidon Davis now on the bench.
DHL Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak. Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Scott van Breda.
Southern Kings: 15. Malcolm Jaer, 14. Lukhanyo Am, 13. Stefan Watermeyer, 12. Shane Gates (vice-captain), 11. Wandile Mjekevu, 10. Dewald Human, 9. James Hall, 8. Jacques Engelbrecht, 7. Stefan Willemse, 6. Andisa Ntsila, 5. JC Astle, 4. Steven Sykes (captain), 3. Jacobie Adriaanse, 2. Edgar Marutlulle, 1. Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16: Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Tom Botha, 19. Schalk Oelofse / Sintu Manjezi, 20. Aidon Davis, 21. Kevin Luiters, 22. Elgar Watts, 23. Jeremy Ward.
Toyota Cheetahs vs Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 16 July 2016
SA time: 19h15
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Lourens van der Merwe
TMO: Johan Greeff
· Franco Smith, the Toyota Cheetahs coach, has made several changes to his side to face the Vodacom Bulls.
· Charles Marais will be starting as loosehead prop, replacing Ox Nche.
· Armandt Koster comes in at lock for Carl Wegner.
· Flank Oupa Mohoje will be taking over the captaincy from Francois Venter who sustained concussion against the Cell C Sharks last weekend in Durban.
· William Small-Smith will be wearing the number 13 jersey and he is also the vice-captain.
· Ryno Benjamin is chosen on the bench, making his return to Vodacom Super Rugby after a lengthy absence because of injury.
· Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais has made two changes to his starting team.
· Flyhalf Tian Schoeman gets a start for the Pretoria side while Marcel van der Merwe returns at tighthead prop. Both were on the bench against the Sunwolves last weekend and they swap places with Francois Brummer and Werner Kruger respectively.
· In the only change to the bench hooker Bandise Maku comes in for Jaco Visagie.
· The Vodacom Bulls have won 14 of their last 16 games against the Bloemfontein side, though five of the last seven encounters between these teams have been decided by margins of fewer than seven points.
· The Toyota Cheetahs have won five of their last nine home games against South African opposition, with a win and a loss against the Vodacom Bulls in that span.
· The men from Pretoria haven’t come back from a half-time deficit to win a game since Round 12, 2014 – against the Cheetahs.
· The Cheetahs have the least successful scrum success in Super Rugby this season (77%), while the Bulls have the third worst (85%).
· No side has conceded more penalties this season than both the Vodacom Bulls (169) and the Toyota Cheetahs (158).
Toyota Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje (captain), 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Maks van Dyks, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais. Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 SP Marais.
· This will be the first meeting between these teams, though the Cell C Sharks have won six of their last nine games against teams from outside of South Africa.
· The Durban side have also won their last three home games, outscoring their opposition by a combined margin of 111-25.
· The Sunwolves have lost each of their six away fixtures and endured a cumulative score line of 97-332.
· The Sunwolves have recorded the worst tackle success rate this season (79%) while the Cell C Sharks have boasted the third best (87%).
· Only two players have scored more tries than Akihito Yamada (9) this season, although both players (Matt Faddes & Israel Folau) have played four games more than the Sunwolves winger who has played just 10 games.
Jaguares vs Emirates Lions
Date: Saturday, 16 July 2016
SA time: 23h40
Venue: Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Referee: Rohan Hoffman
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner, Federico Anselmi
TMO: Santiago Borsani
· Emirates Lions Coach Johan Ackermann decided to rest his first-choice team for the trip to Argentina.
· Scrumhalf Ross Cronje will now captain the side and the experienced centre Howard Mnisi is his deputy.
· Ackermann named a provisional bench with two extra players and he will make his final match-day selection before the weekend.
· There were 76 points scored the only time these teams met in Super Rugby with the Emirates Lions coming away 52-24 victors.
· The Jaguares have led at half-time in four of their last seven games, though they’ve gone on to win only twice.
· The Johannesburg team have won their last five games, a sixth straight win would be their longest streak in competition history.
· Only the Reds (10 yellows, 0 reds) have been shown as many cards this season as the Jaguares (8 yellows, 2 reds), who are the only side to have been given more than one red card this campaign. Jaco Kriel (47) has beaten the most defenders of any forward this season, and the fifth most overall.
Emirates Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Cyle Brink, 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Stef de Witt, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie. Replacements (two to be omitted): 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Clinton Theron, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Shaun Reynolds, 24 Bobby de Wee, 25 Ashlon Davids.
Other fixtures are (all SA times, live on SuperSport 1):
Friday, 15 July
09h35 Blues vs Waratahs, Eden Park, Auckland
11h45 Reds vs Melbourne Rebels, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday, 16 July
07h15 Crusaders vs Hurricanes, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
09h35 Highlanders vs Chiefs, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
11h45 Brumbies vs Force, GIO Stadium, Canberra