Appetising Saturday Double Header Headlines Super Weekend Of PRO14

With the local franchises still to resume contact training, it appears South African fans still have a wait ahead of them until their favourite sport is back but this weekend’s timeous return of the Guinness PRO14 will provide plenty of fodder to fill rugby starved empty stomachs.

 There’s plenty of opportunity for South African fans to combine rugby watching with the way they map out their weekend from a culinary perspective. That is particularly so on Saturday, when it may be a struggle to keep eyes on the braai fires while Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh face off in what should be a cracking Scottish derby that will serve as an appetiser to the main event, which is the showdown between Johan van Graan’s Munster and champions Leinster.

 But even on Friday and Sunday, there are rugby and food matching opportunities to look forward to. If you made Friday your pasta and pizza night it would be apt as former Cheetahs mentor Franco Smith runs his eye over his options for the forthcoming resumption of the Six Nations when Benetton and Zebre clash in Treviso.

Then on Sunday, the end of weekend sundowner can be paired with watching another Aviva Stadium Irish derby, this time between Connacht and Ulster.

 It should be what looks close to a Super Saturday doubleheader though that grabs the most intense interest, both from a historical rivalry perspective as well as because of the number of South Africans who will be involved. The Scottish derby is for the 1872 Cup, so named because it was in that year that two district sides from Glasgow and Edinburgh faced off for the first time in what has now been a 148 year rivalry.

 No-one who saw the Scotstoun protagonists face off earlier in the year will argue against the point that these two sides tend to produce highly competitive and entertaining face-offs when they play each other. The Warriors won the first game, in fact, it was the last time that Edinburgh lost in the PRO14, while Edinburgh fought back with a win the following week. Former Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman spearheaded that win, which was built around a dominant Edinburgh scrum.

 With former Stormers and Southern Kings hooker Michael Willemse potentially joining Schoeman to make it a front-row with a South African flavour, Edinburgh will again be looking to their scrum to front the charge. Although they do have the potent attacking force of former SA under-20 wing Duhan van der Merwe at the back, Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill was not shy to admit in the build-up week that it may well be a case of the Edinburgh forwards up against the Warriors backs.

 Of course, Huw Jones is a key figure in the Glasgow midfield, while there are two additional former Stormers on the Warriors books in the form of flyhalf Brandon Thomson, who is also a former South African age-group star, and loosehead prop Oli Kebble. The other South African player on the Glasgow books is Kyle Steyn.

 Edinburgh has a lot to play for as they seek the wins that will secure a home semi-final and put them in with a chance of securing their first-ever PRO14 title.

 There will also be a South African flavour to the Dublin game played immediately after the Glasgow derby, with former Bok assistant coach Van Graan being able to call on the World Cup-winning duo of RG Snyman and Damian de Allende for the first time. The red of Munster has tended to come second to the blue of Leinster in recent times, but Van Graan is hoping that the injection of his two-star countrymen will make all the difference to his team.

 Of all the teams in contention for the PRO14 title, it is Leinster who has the least to play for in that they have already qualified for a home semi-final. The fact that the final league games will be followed by a pretty busy period for Leinster - they go into the European play-offs when this PRO14 season ends followed probably quite closely by the start of the next season - could just make them vulnerable.

Two weekends of derby games will lead into the play-off rounds as the 2019/2020 season that was interrupted by the arrival of coronavirus is fast-tracked to what should be an exciting conclusion.

Weekend PRO14 fixtures (all SA time)

Benetton v Zebre (Treviso, Friday 19.55 on Supersport 1)
Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Llanelli, Saturday 16.00)
Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh (Glasgow, Saturday 18.15 on Supersport 1)
Leinster v Munster (Dublin, Saturday 20.35 on Supersport 1)
Ospreys v Dragons (Swansea, Sunday 15.15)
Connacht v Ulster (Sunday, Dublin 17.30 on Supersport 1)