The Sharks and the Stormers are among the leaders after their first five matches and only one defeat each after five rounds, but the reality is that the South African sides’ rugby is not up to standard.
Yes, that goes not only for the struggling Lions and Bulls, but also for the abovementioned two, and especially the Stormers who have not really convinced to date.
With the further bad news of Pieter-Steph du Toit’s thigh injury which necessitated an operation on Sunday and a less serious procedure on Monday, and injuries to their World Cup captain and hooker, the Stormers have a weekend off to lick their Blues wounds before they play the Sharks in Durban prior to their visit to Argentina to face the Jaguares.
The Sharks, after three four wins in their four Australasian fixtures, face the Jaguares in Durban on Saturday (15:05). The Argentinians, top team of the SA Conference last year, lost to the Stormers at Newlands, beat the Bulls at Loftus and need to win at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Jaguares will be tired after two matches on the road. So will the Sharks, with the difference that the Durban side have just returned from Australasia, played four matches away and could be somewhat fatigued while the Jaguares are rather “settled” after their more than two weeks in South Africa.
The Durban side can top the South African Conference if they beat the formidable South American outfit, as the Stormers, who are currently in the lead on the log, have a bye this weekend.
The Lions and the Bulls have both made changes to their starting line-ups for their weekend fixtures, and both seriously need good wins.
The Lions will be the first South African team in action on Saturday in their round-six encounter with the Rebels in Melbourne, where the action gets underway at 10:15.
In Pretoria, meanwhile, the Bulls will be desperate for their first win of the season when they host the Highlanders in a late afternoon kick-off at Loftus Versfeld (17:15).
♦ The Sunwolves will be playing a “curtain-raiser” against the Brumbies at Wollongong on Saturday where the Waratahs host the Chiefs afterwards. The Japanese side will pay all their home matches in Australasia for the foreseeable future because of the Coronavirus.
Match preview from SA Rugby Communications
Alberts and Simelane start for Lions in Melbourne
The inclusion of Springbok flank Willem Alberts is one of three changes to the Lions starting team for their clash against the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday.
Alberts, who-rejoined the Joburg side earlier this year after playing club rugby in France, comes into the starting team in the back row to replace the injured Vincent Tshituka.
In the front row, Pieter Jansen is handed a start in the No 2-jersey, with Jan-Henning Campher moving to the replacement bench. The outside centre berth goes to Wandisile Simelane and Manuel Rass drops out of the matchday 23 this week.
Sbu Nkosi returns for Jaguares clash in Durban
Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi is back in the Sharks’ starting team as one of several changes for Saturday’s clash with the Jaguares.
The KwaZulu-Natalians have returned home to Jonsson Kings Park brimming with confidence following three good victories on the road in New Zealand and Australia.
Last week, Sharks head coach Sean Everitt rested flankers James Venter and Tyler Paul, and both have been restored to the starting line-up alongside Nkosi, who has regained fitness following his injury layoff.
Meanwhile, the Jaguares will feel confident of a good performance in Durban following their success over the Bulls last weekend in Pretoria.
Bulls hand out two debuts for Highlanders clash
Former Junior Springbok No 8 Muller Uys and Ian Groenewald (lock) will make their Super Rugby debuts when the Bulls host the Highlanders in Pretoria on Saturday (17:15).
Bulls coach Pote Human made four changes in total to the side that lost to the Jaguares with Ruan Nortje partnering Groenewald in a new-look second row combination. Former Springbok lock Juandré Kruger is not in the match-23
There is one change in the backline, where Manie Libbok gets his first start of the season at flyhalf as Morné Steyn is shifted to the bench.
All the fixtures –
05:45: Sunwolves vs Brumbies, Wollongong
08:05: Crusaders vs Reds, Christchurch
10:15: Waratahs vs Chiefs, Wollongong
08:05: Hurricanes vs Blues, Wellington
10:15: Rebels vs Lions, Melbourne
15:05: Sharks vs Jaguares, Kings Park
17:15: Bulls vs Highlanders, Loftus Versfeld
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