Rainbow Cup, Round Five - teams and predictions
MUST WIN: The introduction of the North-South Final has added a significant amount of merit and lodestone to the final two rounds of league action in both hemispheres.
In the north, Pro14, conference several teams are chasing the table-topping Italian outfit Benetton – who have a bye this week and travel to Ospreys next week.
The Pro14 champions Leinster, Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors will look to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Final this weekend.
Leinster are nine points behind, but head to third-placed Glasgow Warriors, who have a six-point cushion over their opponents, on Friday before the Dragons visit the RDS Arena next weekend.
The Ospreys trail Benetton by eight points, but have a game in hand – facing Connacht on Friday.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh and Ulster meet at Murrayfield, before the final match of the round sees Zebre visit Cardiff Blues.
In the south, South African, conference the Bulls remain in pole position to advance to the Final.
The action resumes in the Southern Hemisphere after last week’s bye – which allowed for a Springbok alignment camp – with the Stormers and the Lions having turned the conference upside down with wins in Week Four.
John Dobson’s Stormers made it back-to-back away victories as they saw off the Sharks to go second, while the Lions served up a first defeat of the campaign for the Bulls.
However, the Bulls have a four-point advantage over the Stormers and the Sharks with two rounds remaining – while the Lions are seven points adrift.
Not surprising Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White described Friday’s Loftus Versfeld showdown with the Stormers as a ‘must win’ encounter.
It is the central theme for the entire weekend.
The losers this week can kiss their Final prospects goodbye.
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White said he expects ‘much of the same’ from the Stormers – a brutal, confrontational and uncompromising derby.
“They have a formula that works for them,” the Bulls coach said.
“They like to work with their forward pack. It has been working for them.”
White added that the scrum and maul are key weapons for the Stormers.
“We need to ensure we match them in those areas.”
He said he was happy they still have their destiny in their own hands.
“We are in a very good position. We have a big game against the Stormers, a must-win.
“If we get it right, we continue to have our destiny in our own hands.”
The teams have played each other so often in the last six months – Super Rugby Unlocked, Currie Cup, Preparation Series and earlier this month in the Rainbow Cup – that they almost no longer need to analyse the opposition.
Stormers coach John Dobson said everybody know what the Bulls are about.
“Bringing [Springbok scrumhalf] Ivan [van Zyl] in is a clear sign of intent of how they will play,” he said of the Bulls’ team selection for Friday’s Pretoria encounter.
“They have a much more experienced halfback partnership than us,” he said of the Springbok duo and Van Zyl and veteran Morne Steyn.
“However, we know how they play and know their players really well.”
The decision to select seasoned Springbok Marcell Coetzee – who only recently arrived at Loftus from Munster in Ireland – at openside flank ahead of Marco van Staden is also significant.
“To bring in a guy like Marcell [Coetzee] in is a big boost for them.”
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The other South African derby – Lions against Sharks – is a game that looks more towards the future – as both teams rely on the goodwill of others.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen described it as another opportunity for the team to “move forward”.
The aspect of their game he feels requires the most attention is the breakdown.
“We will look to support [the ball carrier] more, to look after the ball,” Van Rooyen said.
He added that continuing to limit the errors, especially in their own half, is another key aspect.
With their forwards beginning to get more than just parity, the key now is to find a balance between brawn and brain.
“The Sharks’ philosophy is a pressure game.
“If you give them time and space they will squeeze you and if you then make errors they have exciting players that can capitalise on that.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said the absence of players such as Siyamthanda Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am and Curwin Bosch – as well as Retshegofaditswe Nche, Fezokuhle Mbatha, Thomas du Toit, who will sit on the bench as a result of some COVID issues with the backup players – are related to the requirement for national team players to be rested.
However, he was happy to give game time to his fringe players.
Everitt bemoaned the fact that in some games their set pieces didn’t function.
“In some games the scrums didn’t go our way and when the scrums went our way, the line-outs didn’t function,” the Sharks coach said.
“It has been a little bit frustrating for us.
“This past week’s bye was good for us, because it allowed us to work on the aspects of our game that let us down.”
All the Round Five teams and predictions after video …
Friday, June 4
Bulls v Stormers
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Bulls saw their 100 percent start to the competition come to an end with a thrilling 33-34 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
But they have a formidable record at this venue, having won 13 on the trot since losing to the Jaguares in February 2020.
After starting with back-to-back defeats, including a 16-20 loss to the Bulls, the Stormers are now attempting to register three successive wins for the first time since February 2020.
But their last triumph in Pretoria came in July 2017 and they have lost their last three encounters against the Bulls since prevailing at Newlands more than a year ago.
@rugby365com: Bulls by seven points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – from: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Gio Aplon, 24 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 25 Muller Uys, 26 Jan Uys, 27 James Verity-Amm, 28 Keagan Johannes.
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willie Engelbrecht, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements – from: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Dan du Plessis, 23 Sergeal Petersen, 24 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 25 Juarno Augustus.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
Connacht v Ospreys
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 18.00; 17.00 GMT)
Connacht was unable to build on their magnificent Munster victory as they went down 12-20 at Benetton last Saturday.
All three of the Westerners’ last wins have all arrived on the road, with their previous victory in Galway coming against Cardiff in Round 12 of the Pro14 in February.
Ospreys have already tasted victory at this venue – a 26-20 success in Round Eight of the Pro14 – and need to leave triumphant again to stay alive in the battle to reach the Final
The Welsh side has won on two of their three previous visits to an Irish province and have as 23-11 overall win record against Connacht.
@rugby365com: Connacht by five points
Connacht: 15 Alex Wootton, 14 Peter Sullivan, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Ben O’Donnell, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Oisin Dowling, 20 Sean Masterson, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Sammy Arnold.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Dewi Cross, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Ethan Roots, 7 Morgan Morris, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Luke Price, 23 Max Nagy.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Rob O’Sullivan
TMO: Joy Neville
Glasgow v Leinster
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 GMT)
Defeat for either side will end their prospects of advancing to the Final
Glasgow made it three consecutive wins in the championship for the first time since February 2020 when they beat the Dragons in Cardiff and have not won four on the spin since May 2019.
Leinster bounced back from their Round One reverse to Munster by posting a combined 71 points in wins over Connacht and Ulster and have been beaten just once away from home since April 2019.
The Dubliners have won their last five matches against the Warriors, who have lost their previous nine to an Irish province
@rugby365com: Leinster by eight points
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Adam Hastings, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Cole Forbes, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Tom Lambert, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Thomas Gordon, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Stafford McDowall, 23 Niko Matawalu.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Garry Ringrose 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Jimmy O’Brien, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Calean Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 James Ryan, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Ed Byrne.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Jordan Larmour, 23 Cian Kelleher.
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant referees: Fin Brown, Graeme Ormiston
TMO: Andrew McMenemy
Saturday, June 5
Lions v Sharks
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg | – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT)
The Lions snapped a four-game losing run when edging the Bulls in Round Four.
They also have a decent record at this stadium, having lost just once since November – while the Sharks have won there just once since 2014.
The Sharks are looking to avoid three consecutive defeats in the same season for the first time in four years.
But they have won just one of their last four away games, although they have only been beaten once in six meetings with the Lions.
@rugby365com: Lions by three points
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen; 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 André Warner; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser; 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Dan Kriel.
Sharks: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter (captain), 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: AJ Jacobs
Edinburgh v Ulster
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
Ulster head to the Scottish capital seeking a first win in the Rainbow Cup and looking to end a wretched run of form.
The Irish province has gone five matches without a win after Scarlets were awarded the points, following the cancellation of last weekend’s clash due to COVID-19 cases in the camp.
Edinburgh’s record is marginally better with their sole win in their last six matches in all competitions coming against Zebre in Round One.
But Richard Cockerill’s side has won just once at home since early January while Ulster have triumphed on their previous four visits to this stadium.
@rugby365com: Ulster by five points
Edinburgh: 15 Harry Paterson, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 James Johnstone, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Ben Muncaster, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie (captain), 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 WP Nel, 2 Patrick Harrison, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Mesu Kunavula, 20 Harri Morris, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 Cammy Hutchison.
Ulster: 15 Rob Lyttle, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Greg Jones, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Michael Lowry.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Assistant referees: Keith Allen, Ian Kenny
TMO: Neil Paterson
Cardiff v Zebre
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 18.35 GMT)
Cardiff was denied a third successive win and saw their final prospects ended after a late 31-27 defeat to Munster at Thomond Park.
But they will now attempt to finish with a flourish and have won their last eight fixtures against Italian opposition in all competitions.
Zebre and Ulster are the only two sides yet to record a victory in the Rainbow Cup, with Michael Bradley’s side have lost their last seven matches.
The Blues have lost just once in seven against Zebre, who are the only Italian side to have beaten Cardiff in their own backyard having prevailed at the Arms Park back in September 2013.
@rugby365com: Cardiff by 18 points
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Dan Fish, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull (captain), 7 Gwilym Bradley, 6 James Botham, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Harri Millard, 23 Rey Lee-Lo.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 Samuele Ortis, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Paolo Buonfiglio, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Jacopo Trulla, 23 Filippo Di Marco.
Referee: Ben Blain
Assistant referees: Dan Jones, Mike English
TMO: Ian Davies
* Additional reporting by @PRO14Official
* Picture credit: @BlueBullsRugby