URC finally resumes in South Africa this weekend

Heading into this weekend, the Lions are the highest placed local team on the URC combined log in 11th place with Scottish side Edinburgh topping the table.

Sharks players during training on 2 December 2021. Picture: @SharksRugby/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - After COVID-19 disruptions that led to a rejigged rugby schedule, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship resumes in South Africa this weekend for the first time since early December, with two games happening in Gauteng.

On Saturday, the Emirates Lions host the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg while the Vodacom Bulls take on the DHL Western Province in Pretoria. These matches were due to take place last year before SA was put on the international travel red list.

Heading into this weekend, the Lions are the highest placed local team on the URC combined log in 11th place with Scottish side Edinburgh topping the table.

The Johannesburg side is followed by the Sharks (12th), Stormers (14th) and Bulls (15th) on the table. The four sides will also be playing in front of 2,000 fully vaccinated fans at the two venues.

First up on Saturday will be Sharks visiting Emirates Airline Park and they have picked a few Springboks to start of the 2022 campaign.

An all-Bok back three has been selected by coach Sean Everitt with Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi making up the trio. Fassi hasn’t played a match since he featured against Argentina in the Rugby Championship last year but has been with the national side throughout the Lions tour, Rugby Championship, and the end-of-year tour.

Bok teammates, Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi, have not been selected for this game.

Everitt explained why: “They had an extended break in December. They are still in their pre-season phase. We feel they will be better off with another week of training under the belt.”

Sharks Starting team:

1 Ox Nche
2 Kerron van Vuuren
3 Thomas du Toit (v/c)
4 Ruben van Heerden
5 Hyron Andrews
6 James Venter
7 Jeandre Labuschagne
8 Phepsi Buthelezi
9 Grant Williams
10 Boeta Chamberlain
11 Makazole Mapimpi
12 Ben Tapuai
13 Lukhanyo Am (c)
14 Sbu Nkosi
15 Aphelele Fassi

Replacements: Fez Mbatha, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Khutha Mchunu, Reniel Hugo, Henco Venter, Jaden Hendrikse, Tito Bonilla, Jeremy Ward.

The home team, the Lions, will be captained by Burger Odendaal and will be without the power star flanker Vincent Tshituka for the clash.

Tshituka has been ruled out with injury and his place will be taken by Ruhan Straeuli, while former Pumas lock Pieter Jansen van Vuren makes a return to the match day 23.

There’s also a return for Tiaan Swanepoel, who was sidelined for six months with a knee ligament tear.

Lions Starting team:

.Sti Sithole
2 Jaco Visagie
3Carlu Sadie
4 Ruben Schoeman,
5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren
6 Jaco Kriel
7 Ruhan Straeuli
8 Francke Horn
9 Andre Warner
10 Fred Zeilinga
11 Rabs Maxwane
12 Burger Odendaal (c)
13 Wandisile Simelane
14 Edwill van der Merwe
15 EW Viljoen

Replacements: PJ Botha, Morgan Naude, Ruan Dreyer, Willem Alberts, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morne van der Berg, Matt More, Tiaan Swanepoel.

Kick off is at 3 pm.