Can Vodacom Bulls URC Stars Stop Unbeaten Cell C Sharks?

 

Defending Carling Currie Cup champions, the Vodacom Bulls will be hoping to improve their position on the standings from third when they host the second-placed Cell C Sharks in a replay of the last two finals in Pretoria on Wednesday evening @ 20h00 as the teams resume action in South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition.

Only three points separate the top three sides on the league table at the moment, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both have 18 points from their four wins, while the team from Pretoria has 15 points.

The Vodacom Bulls have lost only one of their previous four matches to date, a 38-25 reverse to the table-topping Free Staters at the beginning of February. While both teams have very good squad depth, the men from Pretoria might fancy themselves as favourites because of their home ground advantage on the Highveld.

In the previous round of matches played two weeks ago, the Vodacom Bulls flexed their muscles to win a tricky fixture in Kimberley against Tafel Lager Griquas (53-27), while the Cell C Sharks did enough to overcome the nuggety Airlink Pumas in Nelspruit (24-20).

Vodacom Bulls head coach, Gert Smal, has made a handful of changes to the team that made a successful trip to Kimberley a week and a half ago.

Cyle Brink will make a return to the Vodacom Bulls side after recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in the opening match of the Carling Currie Cup season earlier in the year. He will start in the No6 jersey alongside loose trio partners Arno Botha, who will captain the side, and WJ Steenkamp.

Kowie Roos, who made his Vodacom Bulls and Carling Currie Cup debut off the bench in Kimberley, has earned himself a starting berth at tighthead prop, where he will buckle down alongside Lizo Gqoboka at loosehead prop and hooker, Schalk Erasmus.

Morne Steyn will earn a starting berth at flyhalf where he will form a halfback pairing with Keagan Johannes, who will start at No 9.

The Vodacom Bulls are bracing themselves for a bruising battle against an unbeaten Cell C Sharks team that claimed a 10-24 win over Airlink Pumas in their previous outing.

“The Cell C Sharks, alongside the Toyota Cheetahs, remain the only teams to have won all four of their matches so far. It goes to show how much of a quality side they are and that they are strong contenders, once again, for the Carling Currie Cup title,” said Smal.

“There will be no room for error against a side that will punish us if we are not clinical. We will therefore need to be at our best if we want to get back to winning ways at Loftus Versfeld.”

Cell C Sharks head coach Etienne Fynn has made a number of changes to the team that defeated the Airlink Pumas in the team’s most recent match.

There’s a new lock partnership with Emile van Heerden and Hyron Andrews taking over from Le Roux Roets and Reniel Hugo, both of whom featured in the Cell C Sharks URC victory over the Scarletts at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Friday evening.

There is also a new halfback pairing as Cameron Wright takes over from Sanele Nohamba at scrumhalf (and also takes on the vice-captaincy from Jeremy Ward who also played in the URC match), while Tito Bonilla starts at flyhalf.

With Ward not involved, Marnus Potgieter shifts to centre and Curwin Gertse gets a start on the wing.

Teams:

Bulls: 15. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14. Canan Moodie, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Madosh Tambwe, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Keagan Johannes, 8. WJ Steenkamp, 7. Arno Botha (c), 6. Cyle Brink, 5. Janko Swanepoel, 4. Walt Steenkamp, 3. Kowie Roos, 2. Schalk Erasmus, 1. Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16. Johan Grobbelaar, 17. Gerhard Steenekamp, 18. Jacques van Rooyen, 19. Ruan Nortje, 20. Elrigh Louw, 21. Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Cornal Hendricks.

Sharks: 15. Inny-Christian Radebe, 14. Yaw Penxe, 13. Marnus Potgieter, 12. Murray Koster, 11. Curwin Gertse, 10. Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9. Cameron Wright, 8. Celimpilo Gumede, 7. Thembelani Bholi, 6. James Venter (c), 5. Hyron Andrews, 4. Emile van Heerden, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1. Dian Bleuler. Replacements: 16. Dan Jooste, 17. Braam Reyneke, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Jeandré Labuschagne, 20. Ntsika Fisanti, 21. Sanele Nohamba, 22. Jordan Chait, 23. Ethan Fisher.