DHL Stormers Set To Make It Three From Four In A Row Against Cell C Sharks

 

The pressure on the South African Vodacom United Rugby Championship franchises will strike a new level this weekend as the competition hits the fourth-last pool round and the race for playoff spots moves up a few notches.

The DHL Stormers will host the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town on Saturday at 14h30 (SA Time) in a match that could prove to be decisive as every point will count with all but one of the 16 teams in the competition still in with a mathematical chance of making it to the quarter-final stages.

The DHL Stormers, who are currently in second place on the table with 54 points, will be desperate to make the most of their home ground advantage at the DHL Stadium to stay ahead of the chasing pack, especially with the third-placed Ulster trailing them by only five points, for a possible home semi-final later in the competition.

The DHL Stadium has become somewhat of a fortress for the DHL Stormers, who have won 14 straight matches at the venue in Green Point since their defeat in Cape Town against the Emirates Lions in December 2021, their first Vodacom URC clash at the stadium.

They will, however, be bracing themselves for a fierce contest against the seventh-placed Cell C Sharks, who will be wary of the fact that a defeat could place their spot in the top eight in jeopardy in the next few weeks.

The Capetonians will draw confidence from the fact that they boast a better record on attack and defence so far this season, but they will be mindful that the Kwa-Zulu Natalians have everything to play for, especially after suffering a disappointing home defeat against Ulster last week in their postponed round six clash.

The visitors, meanwhile, will look to take advantage of the fact that they have had extra game time and will come into the encounter with some momentum, as the DHL Stormers come off a bye.

Spicing things up, the DHL Stormers have won two of their three Vodacom URC matches against the Durbanites, with the other match playing out to a draw, which will set the scene for an exciting battle.

But the Cell C Sharks’ only loss in their last four South African derbies was by 19-46 at home to the DHL Stormers, a month ago in a rearranged round one fixture.

Prediction - DHL Stormers by 12

DHL Stormers coach John Dobson made six changes to his starting line-up for the clash against the Cell C Sharks, with Angelo Davids and Paul de Wet handed the No 11 and 9 jerseys.

Up front, Ali Vermaak and Joseph Dweba will start in the front row, with Ernst van Rhyn at lock in place of Gary Porter, who has been ruled out with a concussion, while Ben-Jason Dixon will run out at blindside flank.

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell also made a number of changes to last week’s side that played against Ulster, including a new front row of Dian Bleuler, Fez Mbatha and Hanro Jacobs, Emile van Heerden getting a start at lock and two new loose forwards in Henco Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

The captaincy reins have been handed to Curwin Bosch this week and the only changes in the backline are at wing and outside centre, where Aphelele Fassi and Marnus Potgieter will start.

Teams:

DHL Stormers: 15. Clayton Blommetjies, 14. Angelo Davids, 13. Ruhan Nel, 12. Dan du Plessis, 11. Seabelo Senatla, 10. Manie Libbok, 9. Paul de Wet, 8. Marcel Theunissen, 7. Ben-Jason Dixon, 6. Deon Fourie (c), 5. Ruben van Heerden, 4. Ernst van Rhyn, 3. Neethling Fouche, 2. Joseph Dweba, 1. Ali Vermaak. Replacements: 16. JJ Kotze, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Sazi Sandi, 19. Connor Evans, 20. Willie Engelbrecht, 21. Herschel Jantjies, 22. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 23. Suleiman Hartzenberg.

Cell C Sharks: 15. Boeta Chamberlain, 14. Werner Kok, 13. Marnus Potgieter, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Aphelele Fassi, 10. Curwin Bosch (c), 9. Grant Williams, 8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7. Vincent Tshituka, 6. Henco Venter, 5. Gerbrandt Grobler, 4. Emile van Heerden, 3. Hanro Jacobs, 2. Fez Mbatha, 1. Dian Bleuler. Replacements: 16. Kerron van Vuuren, 17. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18. Carlü Sadie, 19. Jeandre Labuschagne, 20. Phepsi Buthelezi, 21. James Venter, 22. Cameron Wright, 23. Yaw Penxe.