URC: All the South African squads for Europe
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Four South African franchises are heading into unknown territory as the inaugural United Rugby Championship kicks off on September 24.
While they will be battling for a play-off berth in the overall league table, they will also fight for the South African Shield.
Here is a look at the four South African franchises:
They are South Africa’s best hope at winning this coveted trophy.
Fresh from a back-to-back Currie Cup trophy wins, the Bulls will be out to avenge their Rainbow Cup defeat to Benetton as they will want to prove themselves in Europe.
A blockbuster opening fixture against Leinster promises to provide the highlight of the first weekend and should give some indication of how two of the favourites for the title measure up against each other.
Forwards: Lizo Gqoboka, Simphiwe Matanzima, Gerhard Steenekamp, Mornay Smith, Jacques van Rooyen, Robert Hunt, Bismarck du Plessis, Jan Hendrik Wessels, Joe van Zyl, Sidney Tobias, Schalk Erasmus, Walt Steenkamp, Sintu Manjezi, Reinhardt Ludwig, Ruan Nortje, Janko Swanepoel, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Jacques du Plessis, Muller Uys, Elrigh Louw, WJ Steenkamp
Backs: Zak Burger, Embrose Papier, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Keagan Johannes, Johan Goosen Chris Smith, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Stedman Gans, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Madosh Tambwe, Stravino Jacobs, Ruan Combrinck, David Kriel
This could finally be the tournament the Sharks might add to their trophy cabinet.
Thus far the Durban franchise has played second-fiddle to a much more imposing Bulls side.
The Durban outfit reached two consecutive finals of the Currie Cup but suffered defeats against the Bulls on both occasions.
While it will be a huge challenge, the franchise does have an exciting squad which features Ruan Pienaar and Tian Meyer – both of whom have PRO14 experience on their CVs.
They have joined the Sharks from the Cheetahs on short-term loan deals.
Forwards: Dan Jooste, Dylan Richardson, Fez Mbatha, Gebrandt Grobler, Henco Venter, Hyron Andrews, James Venter, Kerron van Vuuren, Khutha Mchunu, Khwezi Mona, Le Roux Roets, Lourens Adriaanse, Mpilo Gumede, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), Reniel Hugo, Ruben van Heerden, Thembelani Bholi, Thomas du Toit, Wiehahn Herbst
Backs: Anthony Volmink, Boeta Chamberlain, Curwin Bosch, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Marnus Potgieter, Murray Koster, Ruan Pienaar, Rynhardt Jonker, Sanele Nohamba, Thaakir Abrahams, Tian Meyer, Werner Kok, Yaw Penxe.
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The Stormers head to Europe under a cloud of uncertainly as the off-field drama between the franchise’s top managers dominate the headlines.
Nonetheless, the Cape Town side will be eager to leave the sideshow in SA while they embark on the tough tour.
The Stormers will hope to succeed where the Bulls failed when they travel to Rainbow Cup champions Benetton on the opening weekend.
Forwards: Justin Basson, Dian Bleuler, Kwenzo Blose, Willie Engelbrecht, Neethling Fouche, Deon Fourie, Brok Harris, JJ Kotze, Leon Lyons, Salmaan Moerat (co-captain), Scarra Ntubeni, Junior Pokomela, Evan Roos, Sazi Sandi, Adre Smith, Marcel Theunissen, Ernst van Rhyn (co-captain), Andre-Hugo Venter, Nama Xaba.
Backs: Juan de Jongh, Paul de Wet, Dan du Plessis, Warrick Gelant, Tristan Leyds, Manie Libbok, Godlen Masimla, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen, Rikus Pretorius, Tim Swiel, Stefan Ungerer, Edwill van der Merwe, Leolin Zas.
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Coached by Ivan van Rooyen the Lions head into the URC under loads of pressure.
Having finished bottom of the Rainbow Cup SA, they occupied the same place at the end of the most recent staging of the Currie Cup.
The Johannesburg outfit will feature in the new tournament’s curtain-raiser as they kick off their campaign against Zebre in Parma on the opening night.
Forwards: PJ Botha, Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie Du Plessis, Francke Horn, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel, Morgan Naude, Reinhard Nothnagel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Jaco Visagie.
Backs: Eddie Fouche, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane, Matt More, Burger Odendaal, Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Divan Rossouw, Wandisile Simelane, Ginter Smuts, Jamba Ulengo, Morne Van den Berg, EW Viljoen and Andre Warner.
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks