It’s the final weekend of Vodacom Super Rugby action before the competition breaks for the June Tests. For the South African teams, the action will start again on the first weekend of July when the race to the playoff heats up in all earnest.
The Vodacom Bulls will have their 11th straight victory over the Lions in their sights when they travel to Ellis Park in Johannesburg for the penultimate match of Vodacom Super Rugby before the June break.
The closest the Lions ever came to beating the Vodacom Bulls at Ellis Park, was in 2011, when they ended up losing 24-20 with current Lions captain, Warren Whiteley, one of the try-scorers for the home team that day.
The Lions were in the same boat against the DHL Stormers, but they changed that with a superb 34-10 win in round two this year.
Similarly, the Toyota Cheetahs recorded their first-ever victory over the Vodacom Bulls earlier this season in Bloemfontein, also in round two.
The Vodacom Bulls still have their eye on making the top six on the log and will therefore be mindful of the threat posed by the Lions. Johan Ackermann’s team returned from their Australasian tour on Sunday and despite not winning any of their matches abroad, have proven a difficult opponent at Ellis Park this season.
“We have to win every remaining match, so are keen to keep on the winning track,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“It will also be important for us to go into the break with some momentum. We have made some minor changes and I believe we will be competitive against a team that will be very dangerous at home. We cannot afford to let them dominate the pace of the match or the style of play.”
Looking at the two starting line-ups selected for Saturday, no fewer than seven players have crossed the Jukskei River to further their careers. At the Lions, Courtnall Skosan, Marnitz Boshoff, Warwick Tecklenburg, Franco Mostert and Robbie Coetzee have been part of the Blue Bulls’ set-up, while the Vodacom Bulls have selected former-Lions Grant Hattingh and Callie Visagie to start this weekend.
The teams are:
Lions: Coenie van Wyk, Courtnall Skosan, Stokkies Hanekom, Alwyn Hollenbach, Chrysander Botha, Marnitz Boshoff, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Rudi Mathee, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corné Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Deon van Rensburg.
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Marcel van der Merwe, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellett, Werner Kruger, Paul Willemse, Wimpie van der Walt, Piet van Zyl, Louis Fouché, William Small-Smith.
Head to head (since 2006): Vodacom Bulls won 10, lost 0; 323 points scored, 159 conceded; 35 tries scored, 18 conceded; Average score: 32-16
Kick-off SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)