South Africa’s big four rugby franchises take one step closer to joining the northern hemisphere action as they kick off their Rainbow Cup campaigns on Saturday.
A tantalizing Cape Town clash sees World Cup-winning Springboks captain Siya Kolisi go up against the team where he made his name, as the Stormers host the Sharks in a fixture packed with international stars.
The competition opener is followed on Saturday night by the Jukskei derby between the Bulls and Lions at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
Covid-19 restrictions put the kibosh on the South African sides playing several matches in Europe against opposition from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, as had been the plan.
It also puts a dent in home preparations for the visit of the touring British & Irish Lions, which is still slated to go ahead on African soil.
The hastily cobbled together format now sees South Africa’s four sides go head-to-head, home and away, over six rounds of domestic action.
It’ll be up to tournament bigwigs and various governments to plot a course for a fully integrated new competition in the meantime, with time running out to make a plan for the northern hemisphere autumn.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Rugby predictions for 1 May
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based on publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing. Due to the notoriously unreliable nature of consistent statistics for rugby union fixtures, the points margin prediction will draw from a variety of sources – including Rugby Vision, Rugby4Cast and Stats Chat NZ. Additionally, because of the restricting of so many competitions, Rainbow Cup predictions does not use the Usual Win % metric as some other competitions do and use win % of the team’s last ten fixtures instead.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Stormers vs Sharks
The curtain comes up on the Rainbow Cup in South Africa on Saturday afternoon, as the Stormers go up against the Sharks in a coastal battle.
All eyes are on national team captain Siya Kolisi, as the Springboks skipper faces his boyhood side for the first time since his switch to Durban.
But there’s plenty more than the flanker to keep an eye on at the Cape Town Stadium, not to mention two heavy duty front rows as Ox Nche, Fez Mbatha and Thomas du Toit square up to the hosts’ Springbok-laden pack.
World Cup winners Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff line up either side of long-serving Scarra Ntubeni, while 2020 World Player of The Year Pieter-Steph du Toit makes his first appearance of 2021.
Stormers Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Dan du Plessis, 24 David Meihuizen, 25 Marcel Theunissen, 26 Leolin Zas.
Sharks Starting XV: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Bulls vs Lions
The first round of Rainbow Cup South Africa action concludes with the Jukskei Derby between the Bulls and the Lions on Saturday night.
Loftus Versfeld is the venue as the Gauteng pair start to test the water ahead of their European battles to come.
Dan Kriel will captain the visitors for the first time, with regular skipper Elton Jantjies released to play in France on a short-term basis.
James Verity-Amm makes his debut at full-back for the home side, who extend Nizaam Carr’s spell as captain in the continued absence of Duane Vermeulen.
Bulls Starting XV: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 David Kriel. 24 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 25 Reinhardt Ludwig, 26 Tim Agaba, 27 Diego Appollis.
Lions Starting XV: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 André Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Sibusiso Sangweni, 22 Morné van den Berg, 23 EW Viljoen.