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PREVIEW: SA sides make welcome URC return

South African rugby fans have two mouth-watering URC derby games to look forward to this weekend as the Lions host the Sharks and Stormers travel to the Bulls.

Phepsi Buthelezi of the Sharks
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

South African rugby fans have two mouth-watering URC derby games to look forward to this weekend as the Lions host the Sharks and Stormers travel to the Bulls.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Saturday 22 January

Lions 5/2 | Draw 25/1 | Sharks 3/10

On paper, this looks to be a straightforward fixture for the Durban side who make the trip up the N3 with a host of Springboks in their ranks. The Lions, however, boast some of the hottest prospects in South African rugby at the minute.

This game will likely be won and lost up front. I’m not sure whether the Lions pack is well-equipped enough to deal with the threat this Sharks’ front row poses. Even without the rested Bongi Mbonambi; Ox Nche, Kerron van Vuuren and Thomas du Toit should have a field day here.

Where things get interesting, however, is in the backs. We needn’t say too much about the Sharks’ backline. It’s pretty much at full strength, with Jaden Hendrikse returning to the bench following the horror injury he picked up against Argentina last year.

Keep an eye out for Sharks’ debutant Ben Tapuai. A Super Rugby winner with the Reds in 2011 alongside the likes of Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper and Will Genia; he dons the 12 jumper alongside skipper Lukhanyo Am.

The Sharks will need to keep things tight. This Lions side can punish anyone in world rugby from broken play. Edwill van der Merwe and Rabz Maxwane are lethal wingers while the power and pace of Wandisile Simelane will keep the KZN side’s midfield honest.

I reckon the Sharks should win this quite comfortably. Even without the rested Siya Kolisi and Mbonambi, they just boast too much class across the pitch as well as on the bench. If their pack gains ascendancy – which they really should – their deadly backs should have a field day against an improving Lions outfit. At 3/10, perhaps one for the multiples. 

Lions

15 EW Viljoen
14, Edwill van der Merwe
13 Wandisile Simelane
12 Burger Odendaal (captain)
11 Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane
10 Fred Zeilinga
9 Andre Warner
8 Francke Horn
7 Ruhan Straeuli
6 Jaco Kriel
5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren
4 Ruben Schoeman
3 Carlu Sadie
2 Jaco Visagie
1 Sti Sithole

16 PJ Botha
17 Morgan Naude
18 Ruan Dreyer
19 Willem Alberts
20 Emmanuel Tshituka
21 Morne van den Berg
22 Matt More
23 Tiaan Swanepoel

Sharks

15 Aphelele Fassi
14 Sbu Nkosi
13 Lukhanyo Am (captain)
12 Ben Tapuai
11 Makazole Mapimpi
10 Boeta Chamberlain
9 Grant Williams
8 Phepsi Buthelezi
7 Jeandre Labuschagne
6 James Venter
5 Hyron Andrews
4  Ruben van Heerden
3 Thomas du Toit
2 Kerron van Vuuren
1 Ox Nche

16 Fez Mbatha
17 Ntuthuko Mchunu
18 Khutha Mchunu
19 Reniel Hugo
20 Henco Venter
21 Jaden Hendrikse
22 Tito Bonilla
23 Jeremy Ward

Bulls 1/5 | Draw 28/1 | Stormers 33/10

These two sides have some very recent history, with the Bulls beating Western Province in a Currie Cup tie earlier this week. While the Bulls ran out 21-40 winners at the Cape Town Stadium, the Tshwane outfit named a XV you could argue more closely resembles their URC side.

Bismarck du Plessis, Marcel Coetzee, Morne Steyn and Lionel Mapoe all got starts against a very junior Province side. The Stormers will field a completely changed run-on XV for this weekend with Damian Willemse, Herschel Jantjies, Steven Kitschoff and a host of other URC regulars back.

du Plessis, Coetzee and Steyn have made the bench for this weekend’s game. Cornal Hendricks will captain the side and will play in midfield alongside Mapoe. Chris Smith starts at pivot with Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier at 9.

This Bulls front row doesn’t fill me with confidence. They were decimated by the Sharks in December, with Lizo Gqoboka – ordinarily a loosehead – coming on in that game for Robert Hunt on the tighthead side as Jake White tried to limit the damage. 

Gerhard Steenkamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith are set to do duty this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how they go against a Stormers front row that boasts two Springboks in Kitschoff and Scarra Ntubeni. 

The last time these two sides were in URC action, the Bulls were handily beaten by the Sharks as their pack crumbled in the face of the Durban side’s power. The Stormers, meanwhile, went down against the Lions in what was widely considered to be an upset.

Both sides will be desperate to win their games in hand, with the Bulls occupying 15th spot on the standings and the Stormers 14th. Only Zebra are worse off at this stage of the competition.

I like the look of this Stormers side. They’ll be fresh and raring to go against a Bulls who just haven’t looked like the all-conquering force that they were prior to their hammering against Treviso in the Rainbow Cup final. A small bet on the Stormers is the way to go. 

Stormers

15 Damian Willemse
14 Sergeal Petersen
13 Ruhan Nel
12 Rikus Pretorius
11 Seabelo Senatla
10 Manie Libbok
9 Herschel Jantjies
8 Evan Roos
7 Ernst van Rhyn
6 Deon Fourie
5 Marvin Orie
4 Salmaan Moerat (co-captain)
3 Sazi Sandi
2 Scarra Ntubeni
1 Steven Kitshoff (co-captain).

16 Andre-Hugo Venter
17 Leon Lyons
18 Brok Harris
19 Adre Smith
20 Hacjivah Dayimani
21 Paul de Wet
22 Dan du Plessis
23 Warrick Gelant

Bulls

15 David Kriel
14 Madosh Tambwe
13 Lionel Mapoe
12 Cornal Hendricks (captain)
11 Kurt-Lee Arendse
10 Chris Smith
9 Embrose Papier
8 Elrigh Louw
7 Reinhardt Ludwig
6 Arno Botha
5 Ruan Nortje
4 Walt Steenkamp
3 Mornay Smith
2 Johan Grobbelaar
1 Gerhard Steenkamp

16 Bismarck du Plessis
17 Lizo Gqoboka
18 Jacques van Rooyen
19 Janko Swanepoel
20 Marcell Coetzee
21 Zak Burger
22 Morne Steyn
23 Harold Vorster

Standings provided by SofaScore LiveScore
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