Preview – The Sharks Host The Lions In Super Rugby Unlocked Opener


Fierce franchise rivalry resumes on Friday evening when Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked kicks off with the Cell C Sharks hosting the Emirates Lions in an exciting opening round encounter to re-start the local rugby season interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kick-off in Durban is scheduled for 19h00.

The exciting encounter in Durban is one of three first-round matches scheduled for this weekend – all of which will be televised live on SuperSport. No spectators will be allowed at any of the matches due to COVID-19 regulations.

The Sharks will miss their star backline players from earlier in the year but would bet on their forwards to get enough quality ball to their backs. The "new" backline of the Sharks could well prove to be not only dangerous but also a match-winning combination.

The Lions themselves have a "new" backline who needs to impress. However, the performance of their forwards, as well as a leaking defence, could end their championship dreams prematurely.

Vital battle: Everybody's eyes will be on the front row battle especially between Carlu Sadie and Ox Nche, Sadie gave Nche a lot of problems when he came on as a replacement during the Castle Lager Springbok Showdown. However, Nche ended the stronger player before being replaced. Sadie's support from Willem Alberts during scrum time may just give him the edge in today's battle.

Newcomers Manie Libbok and Werner Kok were named in the Cell C Sharks’ starting team that includes thirteen players who featured in Saturday’s Green and Gold match that has been named by head coach Sean Everitt for the clash, including the entire front row

Libbok recently joined the Cell C Sharks from the Vodacom Bulls and will run out at fullback, while Kok, a former Blitzbok stalwart, will start at left wing. Cell C Sharks coach Sean Everitt selected 13 players who featured in last Saturday's Castle Lager Springbok Showdown between the Green and Gold squads, including the entire front row.

Cell C Sharks flank James Venter admits that the energy and excitement in the camp are driving the players towards delivering a big performance on Friday evening.

“Our pre-season has gone really well, we’ve trained hard and executed well. But we’ve learned our lessons from that Bulls game and now it’s about executing against the Lions. The camp is really excited. We knew going into the Bulls game that it was a warm-up match and we took that in our stride, although we learned a lot and will bounce back. This week has been about prepping for the Lions and we have trained hard, the vibe in the camp is great and we’re really excited to get stuck into Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked.”

Jaco Visagie, Rabz Maxwane, Burger Odendaal and EW Viljoen are all set to make their first appearances for the Emirates Lions’ visit to Durban.

Odendaal (centre) and Visagie (hooker) are former Vodacom Bulls players who made the switch across the Jukskei River from Pretoria to Johannesburg during the lockdown, while the versatile Viljoen, who can operate with equal efficiency in midfield, previously played for the DHL Stormers.

Maxwane (wing) also relocated to Johannesburg recently after making a name for himself as a try-scoring machine for the Toyota Cheetahs in the Guinness PRO14.

Cell C Sharks: 1. Ox Nche, 2. Dylan Richardson, 3. Thomas du Toit, 4. Ruben van Heerden, 5. Hyron Andrews, 6. James Venter, 7. Phepsi Buthelezi, 8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 9. Sanele Nohamba, 10. Curwin Bosch, 11. Werner Kok, 12. Marius Louw, 13. Lukhanyo Am (c), 14. JP Pietersen, 15. Manie Libbok. Replacements: 16. Dan Jooste, 17. Mzamo Majola, 18. John-Hubert Meyer, 19. JJ van der Mescht, 20. Mpilo Gumede, 21. Grant Williams, 22. Jeremy Ward, 23. Thaakir Abrahams.

Emirates Lions: 15. EW Viljoen, 14. Jamba Ulengo, 13. Burger Odendaal, 12. Dan Kriel, 11. Rabz Maxwane, 10. Elton Jantjies (C), 9. Dillon Smit, 8. Len Massyn, 7. Vincent Tshituka, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Marvin Oie, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Carlu Sadie, 2. Jaco Visagie, 1. Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16. Jan-Henning Campher, 17. Dylan Smith, 18. Wiehahn Herbst, 19. Wilhelm vd Sluys, 20. MJ Pelser, 21. Hacjivah Dayimani, 22. Morné van den Berg, 23. Gianni Lombard 24. Wandisile Simelane, 25. Ruan Dreyer.