Rainbow Cup SA, Round One - teams and predictions
MAY DAY: The significance of the date should not be lost on South Africa’s leading players.
May 1 is international workers day, also known as Labour Day and often referred to as May Day.
It is also the day the bulk of the country’s stay at home Springboks start working on their preparations for the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
They have just nine weeks – including six rounds of derby matches – before the visitors from the north arrive.
The Rainbow Cup’s SA version starts with a pair of fascinating fixtures – despite the repetitious nature of the derbies over the last six months.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to travel abroad and compete with European rivals, the South African franchises have a lot riding on the next two months.
The Stormers, Sharks and Bulls will use the matches to give their Springboks proper workouts ahead of the arrival of the B&I Lions in July.
The Johannesburg-based Lions, who don’t have many current or potential Boks, have a very different set of goals.
Injuries to veterans like Willem Alberts, Burger Odendaal and Jaco Visagie means the Lions still field a predominantly young side – similar to that which they finished the Preparation Series with.
They are also missing their one Springbok certainty and regular captain, flyhalf Elton Jantjies – who is on loan to the French Top 14 outfit Pau.
“It is important for us to lay the foundation for what is coming,” Lions Ivan van Rooyen said of the very disparate goals.
He added the ‘building’ of those foundations is not just for the Rainbow Cup, but also the Currie Cup, Pro16 and the years ahead.
“There is great excitement within the group to start afresh.
“Seeing the north [European teams] kick off [the Northern Hemisphere leg] last week was extremely exciting and a great showcase of high-quality rugby,” Van Rooyen said.
“We are excited about the start of the Rainbow Cup SA this weekend.
“It is going to be quick, playing on decent pitches.”
He suggested the motivation of many players to impress the Springboks – ahead of the arrival of the British and Irish Lions – will ensure the level and intensity of the games will be high.
“What is better than four South African teams going hammer-and-tongs every weekend,” he added.
The hosts, the Bulls, will enter the game on a five-match winning streak against their Trans-Jukskei rivals, while they will also draw encouragement from their track record of 15 wins in the last 21 matches between the sides.
“We are definitely excited for the new Rainbow Cup SA tournament and thrilled to kick off the competition at Loftus, against our neighbours the Lions,” said Jake White, the Bulls’ Director of Rugby.
“As always, we have been consistently working and all of us are looking forward to running out on the field again.
“We have a good mix of youth and experience in our group, and we are keen to see them gel together.”
In Cape Town, the focus will be heavily on the Springboks – mostly on Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi and his first game back in Cape Town since his move to the Sharks.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said Kolisi has stood up to the pressure of constantly having the spotlight on him, as a result of his move – part of the deal with his Agency, Roc Nation, and the Sharks’ consortium partner MVM.
“He made some telling contributions he made against the Bulls,” Everitt said of the Sharks’ 45-12 win in Durban back in March.
“He has definitely made the step up.
“He has had really good preparation coming into this game. From a conditioning point of view, he has made a vast improvement and we are happy with where he is.
“On the field, the contributions he makes are telling. His involvement in our system is a lot more than when he was at the Stormers.
“He is a player the team looks up to, from a leadership point of view and they take a lot of confidence out of him being on the field.”
Stormers head coach John Dobson said that his team are determined to start the Rainbow Cup SA on a positive note at their new home.
“This will be our first competitive match at Cape Town Stadium and we want to ensure that we get some early momentum in this competition,” said Dobson.
“The Rainbow Cup SA is something we have all been looking forward to and our focus is on delivering a cohesive team performance that makes the most of the considerable talent we have running out for us on Saturday.”
Teams and predictions below the video
Saturday, May 1
Stormers v Sharks
(Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 GMT)
The Sharks will be looking to maintain their recent run of form against the Stormers.
The Durban outfit has won the last two clashes between the franchises, most recently picking up a 24-14 victory at Kings Park in March last year.
Sean Everitt’s men will be venturing to new territory, however, with the Stormers having moved to Cape Town Stadium from their famous Newlands ground earlier this year.
This will be the Stormers’ third fixture at their new home and they head into the match on the back of two wins in their last three matches.
@rugby365com: Stormers by eight points
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements – from: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Dan du Plessis, 24 David Meihuizen, 25 Marcel Theunissen, 26 Leolin Zas.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Adriaan Jacobs, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Stuart Berry
Bulls v Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Bulls were on a five-game winning streak in all competitions, until they suffered defeat to the Sharks in their most recent outing.
However, they come into their clash with the Lions with a formidable home record, having won their last 11 matches at Loftus Versfeld since Jaguares won there in Super Rugby in February 2020.
The Bulls have also won their last five matches against the Lions, whose only win in their previous four away games was over Eastern Province at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on March 10.
The Lions’ most recent victory at Loftus Versfeld was a 49-35 win in March 2018.
@rugby365com: Bulls by 12 points
Bulls: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – from: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 David Kriel. 24 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 25 Reinhardt Ludwig, 26 Tim Agaba, 27 Diego Appollis.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 André Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Sibusiso Sangweni, 22 Morné van den Berg, 23 EW Viljoen.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Griffon Colby, Paul Mente
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
* Additional reporting by @PRO14Official