In Jozi, the Emirates Lions and the Vodacom Bulls go into battle in the first encounter starting at 15h05, when the two neighbours will both be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeats.
In the following match, the Cell C Sharks host the DHL Stormers in Durban from 17h15, while the remaining South African Conference team, the Jaguares, host the Blues in Buenos Aires at 23h40 SA time.
Injury has robbed the Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls of their captains – Warren Whiteley is out for up to eight weeks while Lood de Jager will spend two weeks on the sideline. Apart from a change in leadership, both of the rivals on opposite sides of the Jukskei River will be determined to return to winning ways following their second-round defeats in Cape Town and Buenos Aires respectively.
With regular skipper Whiteley out injured, Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx will lead the Pride of Jozi on Saturday. Apart from his renowned ball-poaching abilities, the 24-year-old star hooker also shares the team’s try-scoring record of 27 tries with outside backs Courtnall Skosan and Lionel Mapoe.
Overall, the Emirates Lions have named three changes in their starting line-up, as well as a positional shift. Rhyno Herbst comes in for Marvin Orie, who has a groin niggle, a rotational switch sees Springbok flyer Aphiwe Dyantyi swap places with Skosan, while Ruan Combrinck moves from left wing over to the right. Hacjivah Dayimani gets the nod as replacement for Whiteley.
Meanwhile, Emirates Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies is set to become only the fifth player in tournament history to score more than 1,000 points, should he manage to add four points to his current tally of 996 career points. The others who have surpassed this mark are Dan Carter, Morne Steyn, Beauden Barrett and Stirling Mortlock.
News from Pretoria is that former Junior Springbok lock Eli Snyman and former Blitzbok star Dylan Sage are set to make first starts for the Vodacom Bulls. Snyman comes in for De Jager and Sage replaces Burger Odendaal in a new midfield combination with Jesse Kriel.
What they said:
Malcolm Marx, Emirates Lions skipper, said his side has put their last-minute loss to the DHL Stormers behind them and they are aiming for an improved display in front of the Joburg faithful: “There’s always a lot of pride at stake in these games. We want to return to winning ways as soon as possible but the Vodacom Bulls will be equally motivated to show their loss to the Jaguares was just a hiccup, so we are prepared for a massive challenge from a very quality side.”
Vodacom Bulls coach Pote Human reckons his men need to play a perfect match against their Gauteng foes: “We got punished last weekend (in Buenos Aires) by not retaining our ball on attack and against the Emirates Lions, who are so ruthless on counter-attack, we cannot afford to do so again. They are at home for the first time this year and will come out all guns blazing and it’s going to be a typical physical derby.”
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Marnus Schoeman, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (captain), 1 Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Vincent Tshituka, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Courtnall Skosan.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Head to head:
Emirates Lions won: 6
Vodacom Bulls won: 11
Emirates Lions points: 454
Vodacom Bulls points: 473
Average score: 25-26
Date: Saturday 2 March
SA time: 15h05
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Griffon Colby
Television Match Official: Marius Jonker