Rainbow Cup SA, Round Four - teams and predictions
MOMENTOUS SHOWDOWN IN SHARK TANK: It will be brutal when the Sharks and Stormers go head-to-head in a crunch match in Durban on Saturday.
The Sharks are desperate to put their campaign back on track, after conceding top spot on the standings to the Bulls – the latter delivering a body blow to the coastal side with a 43-9 win at Loftus Versfeld last week.
The Stormers, meanwhile, arrive on the back of a dramatic late victory in their clash with the Lions, who were downed by a last-gasp penalty from Tim Swiel in a 10-try thriller in Johannesburg.
The win at Ellis Park ended the Stormers’ losing streak in the domestic series.
The winless Lions, meanwhile, are at home again this weekend, with the Bulls – now three points clear at the top of the table – their visitors this time around.
Another victory for the Bulls would put next month’s north-versus-south Final within their reach with a further two games to follow, at home to the Stormers and away to the Sharks.
And it is the two teams in Durban who are desperate to stay in touch with the pace-setting Bulls.
Stormers coach John Dobson this week downplayed the significance of the Final as an incentive.
However, Sharks counterpart Sean Everitt made no bones about his team’s desire to face of against one of Europe’s best – if the proposed Final overcomes the myriad of COVID-induced challenges.
The Bulls lead the standings with 13 points (three wins from three), followed by the Sharks (10 points – two from three) and the Stormers (seven points – one from three).
The Lions are propping up the basement with just three losing bonus points.
“I know [reaching] the Final is a big thing elsewhere, but we haven’t even talked about it,” Stormers coach John Dobson told @rugby365com, when asked about the ‘prize’ at the end of the Rainbow Cup campaign.
“However, for our own pride and what we set out to do in the competition, it has already been dented by those two home defeats [30-33 to the Sharks in Round One and 16-20 to the Bulls in Round Two],” Dobson added.
“We are trying to win every single game we can now.”
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He admitted that having already lost two games, even if the Stormers win all their remaining games they may not reach the Final.
“For us, it is helluva important that we do get the result [victories] in the next three rounds.
“[Reaching] the Final is not a factor for us, but the result are very important.”
The Sharks mentor, Everitt, admitted that the next three matches are vital if they are to reach their goals – which include a potential Final.
“We have played in a single-round Currie Cup before and we know the pressure [that comes with an abridged competition],” he said, adding: “You can’t afford to drop a single match.
“We have put ourselves in the position by not winning at Loftus [last week].
“What we have to do with our two remaining home games [the Stormers this week and the Bulls in the last round] is make sure we win those.”
He said there is no doubt that his team wants to play of the Final.
“What a great experience it would be to travel to Europe to play the best they have,” the Sharks coach told @rugby365com.
Everitt added it would give the Sharks a great benchmark to work from, with the view of joining the Pro16 later in the year.
“It will give the guys great experience and an idea of what they will face.
“It will also give us a bit of a measure of where we are at going into a competition of that stature.
“Everyone wants to win this [Rainbow Cup] competition and the players certainly wants that experience.”
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White spoke of the “small margins” in the competition and suggested his team will not have it all their own way in the Trans-Jukskei derby against their southern neighbours, the Lions.
However, making sure they are in top spot – should the Final materialises – remains a priority.
“The more we are successful on the pitch, the bigger the target on our back gets,” White said.
“The Lions will not be happy with their returns over the first three matches and they will come out hunting this weekend.
“We need to be effective in playing our brand of rugby and keeping our momentum going,” he added.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted they face a tough task against the high-flying, table-topping Bulls.
“They showed last week [in the 43-9 demolition of the Sharks] that you have front up physically,” the Lions mentor said.
He added that they are “excited” to be at home again.
The Round Four teams and predictions follow below the video …
Saturday, May 22
Sharks v Stormers
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 13.00; 11.00 GMT)
Reniel Hugo scored a hat-trick of tries as the Sharks recovered from a 7-23 deficit to win 33-30 when these sides met in Cape Town in Round One.
The Stormers have been involved in another two tight affairs since then, losing 16-20 to the Bulls, before beating the Lions 39-37.
However, they have not won back-to-back away games since beating the Cheetahs and the Bulls in Super Rugby in July 2017.
The head-to-head record between these sides is fairly even, with the Sharks edging it with 18 victories from 32 fixtures, although the Stormers are heading to a venue where the hosts have won their last eight matches.
@rugby365com: Sharks by seven points
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willie Engelbrecht, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements – from: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Adre Smith, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel, 24 Marcel Theunissen, 25 Dan du Plessis.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Ashleigh Murray-Pretorius
TMO: Stuart Berry
Lions v Bulls
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.30; 13.30 GMT)
The Bulls beat the Lions 22-9 at Loftus Versfeld earlier in the Rainbow Cup and have won 16 of the teams’ 22 previous meetings.
Having lost at home to the Stormers in agonising fashion last time out, the Lions are bidding to avoid losing back-to-back matches at Ellis Airline Park for the first time since 2015.
The Bulls, who will be putting their 100 percent winning record on the line, have won the last six matches they have played against the Lions – since losing 12-38 at Ellis Park in Super Rugby in July 2018.
@rugby365com: Bulls by 15 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 Pieter Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Manuel Rass.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Stravino Jacobs.
Additional players: 24 Jacques van Rooyen, 25 Jan Uys, 26 Muller Uys, 27 Morne Steyn, 28 Keagan Johannes.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Morne Ferreira (both SARU)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
* Additional reporting by @PRO14Official
* Picture credit: @HowardCleland3