In the only local Super Rugby derby of the weekend, the Bulls host the Sharks on Saturday from 17h05 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Lions will be out to return to winning ways when they face the Jaguares at home in Johannesburg in the earlier fixture of the day starting at 15h05.
The Stormers have a bye this weekend.
Lions unleash exciting young line-up against Jaguares
Lions coach Swys de Bruin has picked a youthful but exciting line-up for Saturday’s showdown in Johannesburg with the Jaguares, which starts at 15h05.
Wandisile Simelane, a product of Golden Lions rugby since his Under-13 years and last year’s Junior Springbok Player of the Year, Ruan Vermaak and Vincent Tshituka will all start, while on the bench Nathan McBeth, James Venter and Tyrone Green all get an opportunity this weekend.
Simelane will partner Franco Naude in midfield, Sylvian Mahuza comes in at wing, Ross Cronje at scrumhalf, Kwagga Smith moves to No 8, Tshituka slots in at flank while Vermaak forms a new lock combination with Rhyno Herbst.
The Highvelders have made a slow start and their only win to date was over the Jaguares in the opening round in Buenos Aires, followed by losses to the Stormers (away) and Vodacom Bulls (home).
After their initial struggles against the Jaguares, they have now won four of their last five meetings, including this year’s away fixture in the first round. Meanwhile, the Lions will be out to avoid back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since the beginning of 2015.
The Jaguares, in turn, will be aiming to snap a losing run of three away losses after they strung together an impressive run of away wins last year, which included three comeback victories.
Lions head coach Swys de Bruin is excited about the next generation of players coming through. “I believe our future looks bright with these young cubs. We back them, our coaching staff have doing fantastic work to bring them through the system and I want our supporters to be patient because we will reap the rewards.”
Pollard threat looms large as Sharks shuffle team after Stormers defeat
They started off with a bang when they hammered the Stormers, had a hiccup in Buenos Aires against the Jaguares and an impressive win against the Lions. And then the Bulls suffered from the vagaries of rugby.
They have been hit by injuries to star lock and captain, Lood de Jager, as well as the promising second rower Snyman, and Steenkamp, last year’s captain Burger Odendaal and Johnny Kotze.
And shortly before the Super Rugby season they also lost a Springbok lock when RG Snyman was booked off until the end of March at least.
Their depth will be severely tested by the Sharks. Bulls coach Pote Human has made a number of changes to the team that beat the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend for Saturday’s home match against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld.
In a rotational switch, scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl replaces fellow Springbok No 9 Embrose Papier.
Up front, former Blitzbok Tim Agaba comes into the loose trio and takes over the No 7 duties from Hanro Liebenberg, who moves to lock in place of Eli Snyman, next to Jason Jenkins. The two locks will also swap numbers.
Jannes Kirsten is the second change in the loose trio and exchanges places with Ruan Steenkamp.
But Handré Pollard’s team are a tough nut to crack when playing in local derbies. They have won five of their last seven games against loval opposition, including two already this year; against the Stormers and Lions.
Pollard (Picture by GB Jordaan), who will be playing in his 50th Super Rugby match on Saturday, has been in splendid form so far this campaign and is the leading points scorer after three rounds with 52 points.
The Springbok flyhalf looms large as a big threat for the visitors as he has also scored a total of 50 points against them in their last four meetings.
Pollard echoed his coach Human’s words about not letting up op their form of late: “The fact that most games so far have been closely contested shows you the need for consistency. You can’t afford to be up and down because everybody is striving for a solid run.”
♦ After naming the same starting line-up in three successive matches, Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has made four changes to his traveling starting XV.
Upfront, Gideon Koegelenberg will replace Ruan Botha at lock, with the uncapped Ruben van Heerden, a former Junior Springbok who still played provincial rugby in Pretoria last year, named on the bench and Wian Vosloo replacing Tyler Paul at flank. Jacques Vermeulen moves to the other side of the scrum to accommodate Vosloo.
In the backs, Jeremy Ward and André Esterhuizen switch jerseys in midfield and Rhyno Smith replaces the injured Aphelele Fassi at fullback. Curwin Bosch has recovered sufficiently from his niggle to be named amongst the replacements.
The Sharks will strive to up their discipline and handling in the first place, Last weekend there were sloppy lineout work, 11 handling errors, poor touch kicking, a stop-start backline, and scrums that were under pressure.
Sharks lock Hyron Andrews admitted there are areas they would need to fix for this weekend: “Our accuracy at set-piece time let us down last week and we’ve worked hard to rectify it – the boys are up for this one. We expect the Bulls to put pressure on us at lineout and scrum times, so it’s going to be a real set-piece battle on Saturday.”
Super Rugby fixtures on Saturday ‒
06h15: Crusaders vs Chiefs, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
08h35: Blues vs Sunwolves, QBE Stadium, North Harbour
10h45: Waratahs vs Reds, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
15:05: Lions vs Jaguares, Ellis Park.
17:15: Bulls vs Sharks, Loftus Versfeld
Preview adapted from the media release Issued by SA Rugby Communications