And the KwaZulu-Natalians will be buoyed by their last match against their foes from Johannesburg, which they the won by 43-5 at Emirates Airline Park – the Emirates Lions’ biggest home defeat in the last nine years of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Robert du Preez’s team have also won their last two encounters against the Emirates Lions, which should also give them a bit of hope of winning only their third home match this season, but before that, the Gautengers had won seven straight games against their rivals from KwaZulu-Natal.
The Cell C Sharks seem to have struggled against local teams in Durban in recent seasons – they have lost five of their last seven South African derbies at Jonsson Kings Park, including their last two on the bounce, against the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers earlier this year.
Contrary to this, the Emirates Lions had won 10 of their last 13 Vodacom Super Rugby matches visiting the other South African teams. There was one draw (against the DHL Stormers in 2015), while the two defeats were in their last two away games, earlier this year in Cape Town and last season in Durban.
Du Preez has made five changes to his starting line-up for this encounter. Most of the changes are in the pack, with Mzamo Majola coming in for Thomas du Toit at loosehead prop, while Ruben van Heerden is back at lock, with Hyron Andrews moving to the bench.
Dan du Preez is back at No 8, with Philip van der Walt moving back to flank and Jacques Vermeulen named amongst the replacements, where he will be joined by the uncapped Dylan Richardson (hooker), as Akker van der Merwe and Craig Burden are not available due to injuries.
The final change to the team is at inside centre, where Andre Esterhuizen is slotting back into a settled backline in place of Marius Louw.
Kwagga Smith will lead the Emirates Lions at Jonsson Kings Park, with Malcolm Marx sitting out this week and Jan-Henning Campher starting at hooker – his first for the Gautengers.
Ross Cronje will undergo a small operation which will keep him out of action for a week, so Nic Groom will start at scrumhalf.
What they said:
Cell C Sharks midfielder Andre Esterhuizen said Saturday’s encounter is very important considering how congested the standings are: “Every game is vital from now on, there are just a few points that separate the teams in the South African Conference, so we know the importance of every single game. But we aren’t putting pressure on ourselves; we’re going out there to enjoy it and play for each other. That’s what we thrived on during the tour and it worked for us.”
Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola. Replacements: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi; 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom; 8 Kwagga Smith (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinard Nothnagel, 20 Vincent Tshituka, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green.
Head to head:
Cell C Sharks won: 12
Emirates Lions: 9
Cell C Sharks points: 563
Emirates Lions points: 465
Average score: 26-21
Date: Saturday, 25 May 2019
SA time: 17h15
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Stephan Geldenhuys
Television Match Official: Christie du Preez