SA Preparation Series, Week One - teams and predictions
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: The name says it all. It is an opportunity for South African teams to prepare, with the move to the Northern Hemisphere in mind.
For the four main franchises – with apologies to the Cheetahs – this is about putting in place the building blocks with the big picture in mind.
However, the others – Eastern Province Kings, Griquas, Pumas and to a lesser extent the Cheetahs – it is opportunities to claim some big scalps.
There are some intriguing face-offs – we’ll get to those soon – but a chat with the coaches soon tells you the vastly different approaches to the next month or so.
It all starts on Friday when the Lions host the Pumas in Johannesburg.
The Stormers then take on the Cheetahs at their new home – the Cape Town Stadium – on Saturday.
The first of Sunday’s two matches start with the battle of the former Springbok coaches – Jake White (Bulls) against Peter de Villiers (Eastern Province Elephants) in Pretoria.
It will turn back the clock more than a decade – when De Villiers took over from White as national team coach in 2008.
The weekend’s action is concluded when the Sharks host Griquas in Durban.
While Friday’s Ellis Park showdown is already a hit of the contrasts we see, it is in Pretoria where it will be most intriguing.
The EP Elephants’ new coach promised that his team will “cause a few upsets” along the way.
(Continue below video …)
While De Villiers suggested Sunday’s outing at Loftus is “just another game” and that he will prepare his team as he always does, he also spoke about the importance of the quality of his team’s performance.
“We never prepare for specific teams, we prepare for games,” he said, adding: “We will do our best and tick all the boxes to create a high-performance environment.”
The Elephants coach dismissed the notion that it is a “preparation” game or a “friendly”.
De Villiers said it will be “full-on” on Sunday.
“When you are on the field those terms don’t exist. It is flesh against flesh, it is mind against mind and bodies against bodies.”
De Villiers said his players will be empowered to “play the situation” on the field.
“People always think the messages just come from the [coaching box] on the touchline,” the new Elephants coach said.
“On Sunday I will allow them to take the opportunities they see,” he added.
In stark contrast, Lions boss Ivan van Rooyen sees the next few weeks as an opportunity to get some game time into guys who haven’t played a lot in the domestic competitions – like the Unlocked and Currie Cup matches.
“It is also a great opportunity to look at some junior players,” Van Rooyen said about their encounter with the powerful Pumas team.
They will be fielding a team of mainly young players, with a sprinkling of senior and experienced players.
“The majority of the seniors [only] started [training] this week, so it is too early to put them in,” Van Rooyen explained, when asked about his team selection
“It is an opportunity for us over the next four games to get some game time into everyone.”
He added that the senior players will be going through a mini ‘pre-season’ – going through rugby-specific conditioning to get them ready for what is expected to be a jam-packed year.
“The first two games is probably too soon for them [senior players], so we’ll be looking at games three and four [for them to play].”
Asked about the young players facing a battle-hardened Pumas team, he said: “It is still a good team. We do have some good experience, with some exciting younger players.”
Former Baby Bok assistant coach and Lions Under-21 mentor Mziwakhe Nkosi, who will take charge of the team for the next few weeks, said it is a great opportunity to blood some youngsters into the senior ranks.
“We are pretty confident they will make the step up,” Nkosi said, adding: “We would not have selected them if we didn’t have confidence in their abilities.”
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie, with no trophy on offer and no clear indication for what the future holds for his team, also used the opportunity to give his wider squad a run.
“We will rotate our squad and ensure the player get more experience,” Fourie said of his plans for the Cheetahs.
“After this competition, I want to have a better idea as to who are my best 23 [players].
“Everybody will have a fair shot [at securing their places in the starting XV]. It is good for the players they will all get a chance to stake their claims.”
Asked about playing in the Cape Town Stadium – the first team to be hosted at the new home of the Stormers – Fourie said they are “excited” about the outing.
“It is a very good surface,” he said of the purpose-built stadium – one of the main venues of the 2010 soccer World Cup.
“The players will enjoy playing in the stadium,” the Cheetahs mentor said, adding: “In 2016, when I was at the University of Stellenbosch, some of the Varsity Cup games were played in that stadium. The players thoroughly enjoyed playing there.
“We are all looking forward to playing in what is a beautiful stadium.”
Stormers coach John Dobson is also using the next few weeks to give some fringe players a run.
He said one of the frustrations of the times they find themselves in – as a result of the COVID-enforced restrictions – is that there are limited opportunities for fringe players, because there are no other competitions.
“We haven’t had a chance to look at our depth,” he said
“We could be going to the Rainbow Cup,” Dobson said of the plans to move north.
“We want to look at some players that might be on the plane [to Europe].
“We also have to be realistic. The Springboks could be away from us for month.”
Week One’s teams and predictions!
Friday, February 26
Lions v Pumas
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Pumas by 15 points
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen; 14 Prince Nkabinde, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 James Mollentze, 11 Divan Rossouw; 10 Tiaan Swanepoel, 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Francke Horn, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Emmanuel Tshituka, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Replacements: Dameon Venter, Banele Mthenjane, Jannie du Plessis, Ruhan Straeuli, MJ Pelser, Dillon Smit, Luke Rossouw, Ngia Selengbe, Ruan Dreyer, Izan Esterhuizen, Sibusiso Sangweni.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Ettiene Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouché, 9 Giovan Snyman, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Eward Potgieter, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter van Vuuren (captain), 4 Brandon Valentine, 3 Ig Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Dewald Maritz, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Ginter Smuts, 22 Ali Mgjima, 23 Tapiwa Mafura.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, Ashleigh Murray
TMO: Stuart Berry
Saturday, February 27′
Stormers v Cheetahs
(Cape Town Stadium – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Stormers by eight points
Stormers: 15 Tristan Leyds, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Cornel Smit, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Johan du Toit, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Mnombo Zwelendaba.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Chris Smit, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 George Cronje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi , 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Conraad van Vuuren, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Dries Swanepoel, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Divan Uys, Dylan November
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni
Sunday, February 28
Bulls v Eastern Province
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by 18 points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marnus Potgieter, 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 WJ Steenkamp, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Nizaam Carr (captain), 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – form: 16 Janco Uys, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Gerhard van der Merwe, 19 Raynard Roets, 20 Uzile Tele, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Jandré Burger, 23 Diego Appollis, 24 Reinhardt Ludwig, 25 Werner Gouws, 26 Dawid Kellerman.
Eastern Province Elephants: 15 Riaan Arendse, 14 Josiah Twum-Boafo, 13 Christopher Hollis, 12 Sherwin Slater, 11 Qeutyne Oerson, 10 Innocent Radebe (captain), 9 Luvo Claasen, 8 Luigy van Jaarsveld, 7 Anele Lungisa, 6 Cyril-John Velleman, 5 Mncedisi Diwengu, 4 Athenkosi Manenze, 3 Luphumlo Mguca, 2 Robin Stevens, 1 Lyle Lombard.
Replacements: 16 Thembiso Befile, 17 Siya Nzuzo, 18 Emile Klassen, 19 Ronald Scheckle, 20 Arnold Kleyn, 21 Diego Williams, 22 Josh Allderman, 23 Keanu Vers.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, Ashleigh Murray
TMO: Jaco Peyper
Sharks v Griquas
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Sharks by 25 points
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Murray Koster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuka Mchunu, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Mpilo Gumede, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jordan Chait, 23 Thaakir Abrahams.
Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Siba Qoma, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Nqobisizwe Mxoli.
Replacements – from: 16 Hendrick Luus, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Tijde Visser, 19 Ewan Coetzee, 20 Jo-Hanko de Villiers, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Ederies Arendse, 24 Bandisa Ndlovu, 25 Carl Els, 26 Berton Klaasen.
Referee: AM Jacobs
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker