JOHANNESBURG - Springbok number eight Warren Whiteley will captain the Lions on Saturday against the Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in the first local derby of the revamped 2018 Super Rugby competition.
Following a restructuring of the competition last year, only four South African franchises will participate in 2018.
The Bulls have a bye in the first round and will kick-off their campaign next week when the rest of the teams from Australia, New Zealand and Japan will also enter the action.
Three players, Carlu Sadie (Stormers), Aphiwe Dyantyi and Hacjivah Dayimani (Lions) are set to get their first taste of Super Rugby action this weekend, while a total of 25 capped Springboks will be in action.
File: Siyamthanda Kolisi of Stormers (C) runs with the ball during the Super Rugby match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Stormers of South Africa in Singapore on March 25, 2017. Credit: AFP
Springbok flanker Siya Kolisi will lead the Stormers in their opening clash against the Jaguares and kick-off is set for 15.05.
Despite the forced absence of star Springbok lock pairing Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, the Capetonians still boast a powerful pack stacked with Springboks, and a bolstered back division with the addition of speedster Raymond Rhule and returning Springbok Sevens star Seabelo Senatla.
Whiteley makes a welcome return to local action after missing most of the second half of last season because of a persistent groin injury. The high-octane local derby in Johannesburg – the second match of the opening weekend – kicks-off at 17.15.
File: Lions' Warren Whiteley scores a try during the Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and Golden Lions at AAMI Park in Melbourne on May 6, 2017. Credit: AFP
Lions prop Jacques van Rooyen will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance when he runs out against the visitors from Durban, while young speedster Aphiwe Dyantyi is set to make his competition debut on the left wing in place of injured Springbok Courtnall Skosan.
SA Rugby Player of the Year Malcolm Marx spearheads the Highveld team’s pack, while the Durbanites have, among others, the experienced Tendai Mtawarira and Lwazi Mvovo in their match 23. The Sharks have appointed lock Ruan Botha to captain them this season.
File: Malcolm Marx during the SARU Player of the Year Awards at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg South Africa on 09 February 2018. Credit: BackpagePix
Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said: “The squad has put in a lot of hard work in preparation for this game, so hopefully we will see that pay off on Saturday. It is always great to start the season in front of our loyal fans at DHL Newlands, so it should be another special occasion.”
Sharks head coach Robert du Preez said, “This squad has worked extremely hard in the pre-season and what’s especially pleasing to see is the vibe and excitement in the group. Every player was given an opportunity during the warm-up games and so many of them put their hands up, which made it extremely difficult to decide on our match-day 23. This is an important game and a great start will set the tone for our campaign.”
Lions head coach Swys de Bruin said, “It was an easy decision to select the team, with no real surprises in the final selection. The guys prepared really well and I must say everyone trained extremely hard in the off-season, so we are looking forward to this huge challenge. Personally, I am very blessed, excited and honoured to take charge of the Emirates Lions team on Saturday.”
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (captain), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman. Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Tendai Mtawarira, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Kobus van Wyk 23, Curwin Bosch.
- Additional Reporting ANA