URC Round Seven - teams and predictions
SPRINGBOK TRIAL: The Springboks won’t play for another seven months, but there will be some interesting head-to-head battles when the South African teams re-enter the United Rugby Championship this coming weekend.
The ever-changing COVID-influenced landscape has forced a resumption of the SA derbies much earlier than anticipated.
However, desperate for some rugby after last week’s cancellation chaos, even fixtures that have been repeated ad nauseam for the past 18 months will do right now.
It starts when the Sharks host the Bulls in Durban on Friday – a day that also sees Edinburgh v Benetton (in Edinburgh) and Leinster meet Connacht in an all-Irish derby in Dublin.
Saturday the Stormers host the Lions in Cape Town, with Ospreys at home to Ulster (in Swansea) and Glasgow Warriors versus Dragons in a Scottish derby in Glasgow.
It is in Durban where there will be a ‘Springbok trial’, with a big collection of international stars on display.
The Bulls’ Director of Rugby Jake White said he was not surprised in the least that the Sharks rushed their Springboks back for this home game.
“The Sharks have been speaking for months and months about how good they are going to be when all their Boks come back,” White told @rugby365com.
“This is it now, they have all their Boks back.
“We know it is going to be a tough test,” he added.
White spoke of the quality of the players the Sharks brought in – like Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Siyamthanda Kolisi and Mbongeni Mbonambi.
“Bongi [Mbonambi] starts every week [for the Boks][ and we have Bismarck du Plessis – with 79 Test matches and he won a World Cup,” White said, adding: “Would like to see how he [Du Plessis] battles with Bongi.
“Marcell Coetzee would love to be the openside flank for South Africa. Siya [Kolisi] has got that [No.6] jumper.
“It is going to be a high-end, top-of-the-SA-table game.”
White said the Bulls are not the team under pressure to produce.
The Sharks have talked themselves up for months on social media and it is a ‘great challenge’ for the Bulls.
“The Sharks have nine Springboks back, they have a Scottish international, a Samoan international and an Australian international,” the Bulls boss said.
“They are playing at home. It does not get much tougher than that.
“They have been telling us for months, so I am looking forward to seeing how good those guys are.
“I can tell you, we are very excited that we will get to measure ourselves against what is essentially an international side now again.
“There’s a bit of a buzz, it’s like a Test match for us.
“It’s a massive test for us to see where we are – whether we are good enough to handle that sort of pressure.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said not only is it “great” to have the Boks back, but they also brought a lot of “energy and enthusiasm” to the squad.
“They have acted like true professionals, returning to the Sharks showing great discipline and preparation from the Springboks, something they’ve passed on to the younger players,” the Everitt said.
“While we’re up against a tough side in the Bulls, this is a Sharks side that grew over the first four rounds of the URC and we’re looking forward to taking the Bulls on in front of our fans, even if it’s a limited number.
“It’s going to be great to have spectators cheering the Sharks on and I’m sure the players will deliver a performance fitting the gratitude they have for their support.”
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On Saturday the action moves to Cape Town, where the Stormers welcome the Lions to the Cape Town Stadium.
The Capetonians had the best return from their early-season tour to the Northern Hemisphere, bagging seven log points after a win and a draw, while the men from Johannesburg sit on six points after their first-round victory in Italy.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and his team would have taken notice of the Stormers’ good defensive record on tour, but the Lions will have an “insider” in their midst on Saturday with Edwill van der Merwe having joined Jozi’s Pride a month ago.
“We’re quite pleased that an arrangement was made by SA Rugby and the URC for local games to be played this weekend after last week’s uncertainty,” said Van Rooyen.
“Despite a change in opposition, we have prepared well and made the mental shift ahead of the match down in Cape Town on Saturday.”
Ricardo Laubscher, the Lions’ backline coach, said that the break of the last four weeks allowed them to reset and refresh.
“We were disappointed not to have had a game last week, but if I look at the energy at training there is a real buzz,” Laubscher said.
He said Saturday will be a “good indication” of where they are as a team.
“With South African derbies it is always about the physicality,” Laubscher said, when asked about the challenge of facing the Stormers in Cape Town.
He said the Stormers had some impressive performances on their European tour, having been “unlucky” in a game or two.
“We know we are in for a tough game against them,” the assistant coach said, adding: “Their ball carries and defence are the two of the key aspects.”
Below the video are all the weekend’s teams and predictions!
Friday, December 3
Sharks v Bulls
(Kings Park Stadium, Durban – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Sharks by nine points
Sharks: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Henry Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Phendulani Buthelezi, 7 Jeandré Labuschagne, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Werner Kok.
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 David Kriel, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Richard Kriel, 12 Morné Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Sintu Manjezi, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Harold Vorster.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barret-Theron (South Africa), Paul Mente (South Africa)
TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Edinburgh v Benetton
(Edinburgh Stadium, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 19.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Edinburgh by 12 points
Edinburgh: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Matt Currie, 12 James Lang, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ben Vellacott, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Charlie Savala, 23 Mark Bennett.
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Leonardo Marin, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Joaquin Riera, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Finlay Brown (Scotland), Ross Mabon (Scotland)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Leinster v Connacht
(RDS, Dublin – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leinster by 16 points
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ryan Baird, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Josh Murphy, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Tommy O’Brien.
Connacht: 15 Oran McNulty, 14 Alex Wootton, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Oisín Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Matthew Burke.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Cian Prendergast, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Farrell.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Saturday, December 4
Stormers v Lions
(Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.00; 15.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Stormers by seven points
Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Rikus Pretorius, 23 Tim Swiel.
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Matt More 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Ospreys v Ulster
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Ulster by five points
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Rhys Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Jack Regan, 20 Ethan Roots, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Angus Curtis, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 David McCann, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Alan O’Connor (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Stewart, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Marcus Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Aaron Parry (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Glasgow Warriors v Dragons
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Glasgow by 11 points
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Cole Forbes, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Richie Gray, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Kiran McDonald, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Nick Grigg.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Dan Babos, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harri Keddie (captain), 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 James Benjamin, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Blain (Scotland), Dunx McClement (Scotland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)