Rainbow Cup SA, Round Three - teams and predictions
DANCE OF THE DESPERATES: The focus is on the top-of-the-table clash in Pretoria, but 50-odd kilometres down the N1 there is an equally intriguing encounter.
The Lions and the Stormers meet in Johannesburg, both desperate to end their respective losing streaks.
The Lions, from three-time Super Rugby finalists three years ago, has slumped to a team that gives the impression of an easy bonus-point win for the opposition.
The Stormers, ever more embarrassingly, given their vast player resources, are also zero from two and in need of a win.
The two teams with a 100 percent record – the table-topping Sharks and the Bulls – meet at Loftus Versfeld in the late match on Saturday.
The Sharks followed up their thrilling victory at the Stormers in Round One by beating the Lions 34-26 last week.
Sean Everitt’s side played a period of the game with 13 men after yellow cards for Thomas Du Toit and Fezokuhle Mbatha.
Although disappointed with his team’s ill-discipline, Everitt felt his players “showed amazing character” in holding the Lions out.
The Bulls also made it two wins from two last weekend, when Madosh Tambwe scored two tries in a 20-16 victory over the Stormers – having beaten the Lions in Round One.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted that the desire to end the losing streak is “part of their focus” this week.
“We have spoken about it [getting the win] extensively this week,” he told a virtual media briefing.
“We feel we did enough to be able to beat the Sharks last week.”
He added that the goal is to cut out the costly errors that resulted in the loss.
“The guys saw and understand how expensive those small things [errors] can be,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “For us it is an opportunity this week to change that.
“Both teams will be desperate to get that first win – it is up to us as a team.”
Stormers coach John Dobson said that his team is looking for an accurate performance in Johannesburg.
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“We want to show that we are capable of delivering an 80-minute performance and this is a great opportunity to do so,” Dobson said.
“The team has trained well this week and we are determined to put together a cohesive effort to get the result that we need.”
The Stormers coach said they are expecting a “high-paced” game at Ellis Park.
“We are expecting a high-tempo, all-action match,” he said of the Ellis Park outing.
Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff admitted they are also “desperate” to avoid a three-peat in the losing column.
“The spirit in the camp is still good,” he said, adding: that while doing their analyses after last week’s loss to the Bulls they realised how many opportunities they wasted.
“It will require a big effort [at Ellis Park this week] and it is never a ‘walk in the park’ in Johannesburg.
“However, it is in our own hands and we know exactly what the Lions bring to the game.”
The top of the table clash between the current front runners is a tantalising thought, with both the Bulls and Sharks having enjoyed victories over each other since the resumption of rugby last year.
This weekend’s meeting will be no different, according to Bulls: Director of Rugby, Jake White.
“We’ve had a few epic battles thus far and the Sharks will be keen to get one over us at Loftus as it is something they’ve yet to do,” said White.
“The forward tussle is going to set the tone while both backlines are brimming with relentless talent so it should make for an exciting but hard encounter,” he added.
White said it is a bit of déjà vu for him.
“When I arrived here [at Loftus Versfeld] almost a year ago, they [the Sharks] were sitting at the top of the [SANZAAR] Super Rugby competition,”he told @rugby365com.
“Now, a year later, it is exactly the same. They are riding the crest of the wave, with 10 points from two matches.
“They beat the Stormers convincingly in Cape Town. They are the form team and they have a lot of confidence in their group.
“The Sharks know how we play and we know how they play. It required 100 minutes for us to beat them in the Currie Cup Final here at Loftus in January.
“It is a must-win for us, because they are already two points ahead of us with those two bonus points.”
The Sharks readily admit it won’t be easy at Loftus.
However, the two bonus-point victories so far clearly show they are on the right track.
“With the freedom we’re given to play, decision-making becomes crucially important,” seasoned flyhalf Curwin Bosch said.
“That’s knowing when to run, when to kick and with all the hard work put in with that in mind, hopefully, we can put in the perfect performance this weekend.”
* The Round Three teams and predictions follow below the video …
Saturday, May 15
Lions v Stormers
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kickoff: 13.30; 11-30 GMT)
It has not been the start either side envisaged as they meet, having each lost their opening two games.
The Lions, in fact, have been defeated in their last three matches since beating the Sharks in Johannesburg in March.
But the Lions will be buoyed by their record at this venue having won four in a row in all tournaments since losing to the Bulls in November.
The Stormers have won 14 of their 21 meetings but have prevailed on only two of their previous six visits to Johannesburg.
They have won their last three encounters with the Lions and picked up three victories in their previous five road trips.
@rugby365com: Stormers by five 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 Francke Horn, 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.
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 David Meihuizen, 4 Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Allister Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ben-Jason Dixon, 20 Johan du Toit, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Morne Ferreira
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni
Bulls v Sharks
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 18.15; 16.15 GMT)
Something will have to give as these sides clash in Pretoria looking to maintain their 100 percent starts.
The Bulls have a formidable record at this venue – having won 12 in a row here since going down to Jaguares in Super Rugby in February 2020.
Their sole loss in eight matches did come at the hand of the Sharks, though, albeit in Durban in March.
You have to go back to June 2011 for the last time the Sharks celebrated victory at Loftus Versfeld, although they did earn a 16-all draw in Super Rugby five years later.
While the Sharks have won three in a row, the home side has triumphed in the previous three meetings between the sides.
@rugby365com: Bulls by six points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Janse van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 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 Le Roux Roets, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Griffon Colby, Paul Mente
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
* Additional reporting by @PRO14Official