South Africa will host two key local United Rugby Championship (URC) derbies on Saturday which could have a big bearing on the final standings of the domestic sides as the scramble for playoff places reaches a peak.
Only four weeks of round-robin matches remaining.
The Stormers will host the Bulls in Cape Town and the Sharks take on the Lions at Durban, with the only other match scheduled for the weekend a local Welsh derby between Cardiff and Scarlets at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.
Both the Stormers and Bulls will be seeking their fifth victory in a row this year when they meet at Cape Town Stadium, and a victory for either team – depending on the score – could see them leap into contention for a possible home quarter-final later in the season.
Stormers VS Bulls
Lionel Mapoe will make a return to the Bulls’ starting XV in the only change to the team’s starting lineup for their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Bulls have made minimal changes to their team that was victorious against Ulster Rugby at Loftus Versfeld last weekend as Mapoe comes in at outside centre to replace Cornal Hendricks who will provide backline cover from the bench this week.
Experienced hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, will bolster the bench as he returns to URC action as a potential replacement and also on the bench this week is backup lock Janko Swanepoel.
The Bulls are up against the Stormers side that has shown good form in recent weeks where they won four of their most recent five URC matches and they currently occupy the sixth spot on the overall log standings.
The Stormers are the highest ranked South African team in the competition.
Sharks VS Lions
For the Sharks, Reniel Hugo returns to the starting line-up with Le Roux Roets shifting to the bench.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi also gets a start for James Venter who led the Currie Cup side to victory over Griquas on Wednesday evening.
The final change to the pack sees Henco Venter coming in for Jeandre Labushagne who will feature off the bench later in the game.
The Lions will be looking to make it five in a row when they face the Sharks.
The Johannesburg- based side named a match-23 which features experienced scrummager Jannie du Plessis, who’ll face his former franchise for the return leg of the tournament.
Elsewhere, talented flank forward Jarod Cairns, who’s shown consistent performances in this year’s Currie Cup, could get his opportunity off the bench.