South African teams will get a chance to dust off the cobwebs, test their squads and players work on their match fitness on the opening weekend of the Rainbow Cup SA to start preparations for the British and Irish Lions tour.
Originally, the Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks were supposed to play cross-hemisphere fixtures against Pro14 teams but tournament organisers opted for a dual competition with South African teams playing against each other as they can’t travel to Europe due to travel restrictions.
As a result of the revised schedule, Rainbow Cup SA will see three consecutive “Super Saturdays” of top-class local rugby action which starts this weekend with the Stormers taking on the Sharks in Cape Town and the Bulls hosting the Lions in Pretoria.
Locally based players will use this tournament to gain the much needed match fitness and confidence as SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber are going to pick them largely based on their performance in the competition.
Stormers vs Sharks
Clashes between the Stormers and the Sharks are always intriguing affairs given their rivalry and focus is on the expected return of Springboks star player and 2019 World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit to action.
Du Toit was sidelined for almost the entire 2020 season by a serious leg injury and his return to the Stormers side is rated as one of the most eagerly awaited comebacks on the domestic front for some time.
On the other hand, Sharks head coach Sean Everitt has chosen a strong side which includes Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and Ox Nche, Fez Mbatha and Thomas du Toit who will offer formidable opposition to the highly rated front row.
Captain Lukhanyo Am will lead the team which includes an exciting backline where Grant Williams will partner Curwin Bosch at halfback, Jeremy Ward and Am the centres and Yaw Penxe, Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi making up the back three.
There is also a welcome return for prop Wiehahn Herbst who has been named on the bench.
Pick: Stormers Wins at 0.65 at BetXChange
Bulls vs Lions
Bulls will take to the field looking to continue their recent dominance on the domestic scene after they were crowned the Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked champions and also to stretch their winning run at Loftus to 12 matches.
The Bulls are on a five-match winning streak against their Johannesburg rivals across all competitions and they will also draw encouragement from their impressive track record of 15 wins in the last 21 matches between the sides.
The Lions go into this match knowing very well that they have what it takes to compete with the Bulls with their last three matches going down to the wire with no more than seven points separating them on the scoreboard.
Pick: Bulls Wins at 0.33 at BetXChange