The battle hots up for the four South African rugby franchises this weekend, with the penultimate round of Rainbow Cup action in SA.
It’s all to play for, with all four sides still in with a shout of topping the domestic log and featuring in the June 19 final in Treviso, taking on the Northern Hemisphere conference winners.
Loftus Versfeld is the venue as the top two meet on Friday night, with the resurgent Stormers looking for a win to sneak above hosts the Bulls at the top of the standings.
The Lions picked up their first win a fortnight ago and return to action at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday when they take on the Sharks.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Rugby predictions for 4-5 June
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based on publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing. Due to the notoriously unreliable nature of consistent statistics for rugby union fixtures, the points margin prediction will draw from a variety of sources – including Rugby Vision, Rugby4Cast and Stats Chat NZ. Additionally, because of the restricting of so many competitions, Rainbow Cup predictions won’t always use the Usual Win % metric as some other competitions do. Instead, win % of in last ten fixtures will be used.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Bulls vs Stormers
It’s a top-of-the-table clash in the Rainbow Cup South Africa competition, as the Bulls host the Stormers under the Friday night lights in Pretoria.
The visitors are out to continue their resurgence in recent weeks that has seen them record narrow victories on the road away to the Lions and the Sharks.
John Dobson’s side are out to make it a hat-trick at Loftus Versfeld, where a win could take them above their hosts at the summit ahead of next weekend’s final round.
The log leaders are far less certain of securing a place in the North vs South final in Italy later this month, having slipped to an agonizing loss at the Lions last time out.
Loan star Rosko Specman starts on the wing as one of four Stormers changes, with Tim Swiel, David Meihuizen and Neethling Fouche all coming in to the starting line up.
Marcell Coetzee makes his first appearance in a Bulls shirt, while Ivan van Zyl makes his comeback from injury at scrum-half and Stravino Jacobs returns on the wing.
Bulls Starting XV: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Gio Aplon, 24 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 25 Muller Uys, 26 Jan Uys, 27 James Verity-Amm, 28 Keagan Johannes.
Stormers Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willie Engelbrecht, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Dan du Plessis, 23 Sergeal Petersen, 24 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 25 Juarno Augustus.
Rainbow Cup South Africa: Lions vs Sharks
The Lions and Sharks meet on Saturday in the penultimate round of Rainbow Cup South Africa fixtures, with both eyeing a last-gasp push for the top of the domestic standings.
Tables have turned in the last couple of rounds, with the visitors following up victories in the opening two round with back-to-back defeats, leaving them trailing the second-placed Stormers on points difference.
They do so with the men from the Cape having exacted revenge at Kings Park a fortnight ago, coming away with a three-point win to avenge the agony of their opening round loss.
The home side are buoyed by collecting their first win of the campaign against table-toppers the Bulls in the Jukskei Derby last time around.
Success by the only point after the hooter has left them just three points adrift of their visitors with two rounds left to play.
World Cup winner Makazole Mapimpi makes his comeback on the wing for the visitors, who replace Curwin Bosch at fly-half with Manie Libbok.
Ntuthuko Mchunu, Kerron van Vuuren and Wiehahn Herbst form a brand new front row for coach Sean Everitt.
Ivan van Rooyen keeps faith with rookie Jordan Hendrikse in the number 10 jersey, as the home side hunt down win number two.
Lions Starting XV: 15 EW Viljoen; 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 André Warner; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser; 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Dan Kriel.
Sharks Starting XV: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter (captain), 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward.