Vodacom Super Rugby Round 19 Preview

Picture : Rugby.SA
JOHANNESBURG: The Emirates Lions tackle the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday afternoon with the knowledge that a victory in the Gauteng derby will secure them the SA Conference title and home ground advantage in next week’s playoffs. Kick-off at Emirates Airline Park is at 15h05.Two hours later, the Cell C Sharks face the Jaguares in an equally important home tie at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban (17h15). The KwaZulu-Natalians still have an outside chance to reach the playoffs, but that prospect depends on the result of the early morning clash between the Highlanders and the Rebels in Dunedin (07h15 SA time).

The Rebels are currently on 35 points compared to the Durbanites’ 32 and a win in Dunedin will see them advance to the knockout stages irrespective of the result in Durban.

The DHL Stormers finished their commitments last week with a home win over the Cell C Sharks and are not in action this weekend.

Team news:

Emirates Lions coach Swys de Bruin announced three changes for the Gauteng derby against the Vodacom Bulls. Springbok wing Courtnall Skosan is set to start his first Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season after recovering from a long-term injury. He replaces fellow Springbok Aphiwe Dyantyi, who now plays off the bench. Nic Groom comes in at scrumhalf for Ross Cronje, while Jacques van Rooyen starts at loosehead prop in place of Dylan Smith.

The Vodacom Bulls picked Manie Libbok at flyhalf as replacement for the injured Handré Pollard while Ivan van Zyl completes the halfback combination. Springbok lock RG Snyman will captain the side in the injury absence of regular captains Burger Odendaal and Pollard. Meanwhile, Travis Ismaiel is fit again and returns on the wing. There are some tweaks in the pack, with Jannes Kirsten moving to lock and Thembelani Bholi coming in at flank.

Cell C Sharks coach Robert du Preez has kept changes to a minimum for their important match against the Jaguares. Experienced Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira returns in place of Juan Schoeman after having his workload reduced last week, and Kobus van Wyk starts on the wing in place of the injured Sbu Nkosi. Good news for the Durbanites is that loose forward Dan du Preez has been cleared to play after taking a blow to neck last week in Cape Town, and the 22-year-old will take his place at No 8.

What they said:

According to Emirates Lions captain Warren Whiteley, he and his team are looking forward to playing in front of the Johannesburg faithful again: “We are excited because it’s been a while since we played here due to the international break and our bye of last week. We don’t focus too much on the permutations because we know the Vodacom Bulls will come hard at us – it’s a local derby, and we have to be prepared for that.”

Vodacom Bulls coach John Mitchell has challenged his squad to deliver one more good performance: “I asked the team for an extraordinary performance to close the season out. The other option is to just settle for an easy way to end the season, but that is not who we are as a team.”

Cell C Sharks lock Tyler Paul admitted there is no getting away from the fact that there is enormous pressure on the Cell C Sharks this week: “You want to play in high pressure games in professional rugby; these are the moments that make or break players or teams. So, this weekend is do or die for us, we must win. Unfortunately, there is another result we have to count on but if that goes our way then we will have to do the job.”