The Cell C Sharks XV get their Supersport Rugby Challenge campaign started this weekend when they host Griquas at Growthpoint KINGS PARK in the curtain-raiser to the Vodacom Super Rugby clash between the senior side and the Rebels.
Veteran wing Odwa Ndungane will lead our young side coached by Paul Anthony and Ricardo Loubscher in this first match of a brand new tournament.
The side isn’t completely inexperienced though and joining the captain who has amassed over 200 caps for the province, are props Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, lock Hyron Andrews, loose forwards Jacques Vermeulen and Khaya Majola, outside centre S’bura Sithole and reserve prop Gerhard Engelbrecht, all of who have tasted either Super Rugby or Currie Cup rugby with the Cell C Sharks, or featured in both competitions.
“We’ve had some good pre-season hit-outs,” explains Paul Anthony, but we’re going to have to be on our toes on Saturday, they’re a really good side. Both sides are at full strength so we believe this is going to be an absolute classic.
“We have no illusions about how tough it’s going to be, they’re one of the better teams in the competition. But we have a good blend of senior and younger players, with Odwa playing in his 231st senior match for The Sharks. The boys have gelled really well and we’re looking forward to the competition.”
For Ricardo Loubscher, this is a challenge befitting the tournament’s name. “They’re a very strong team upfront with good backs, so they have all-round strengths,” he points out. “Both teams will be looking for a good start to the competition.
“We’re in a good space, there’s good energy in the side with a lot of youngsters making debuts, and it’s important that their first game is a good one. We see the seniors playing a massive role there.
“There is continuity within our structures and our brand of rugby will be exactly that of our senior team. The most important thing right now is to gel, and that’s what part of the focus of the pre-season games was all about.”
This year marks the inaugural SuperSport Rugby Challenge, replacing the Vodacom Cup and the Currie Cup qualifiers, which was South Africa’s second competition that ran parallel to Vodacom Super Rugby, featuring teams from all over the country, and beyond.
15 teams feature in three geographic groups (five teams per group) representing the Northern Section, the Central Section (in which the Cell C Sharks XV are playing, included together with Free State, the Griffons, Griquas and Leopards). The final conference is the Southern Section.
Teams play each other within their conference on a home and away basis (eight pool matches), before the quarter-finals (2 July), semi-finals (9 July) and the final on 16 July.
After Saturday’s opening fixture against Griquas, the Cell C Sharks XV will play the Griffons (away), Leopards, Free State and Griffons (all home), followed by three away matches against the Leopards, Griquas and Free State.
Cell C Sharks XV
1. Juan Schoeman
2. Stephan Coetzee
3. John-Hubert Meyer
4. Rikus Zwarts
5. Hyron Andrews
6. Khaya Majola V/C
7. Wian Vosloo
8. Jean Droste
9. Damian Stevens
10. Danrich Visagie
11. Sbu Nkosi
12. Johan Deysel
13. S’bura Sithole
14. Odwa Ndungane (Captain)
15. Courtney Winnaar
16. Kerron van Vuuren
17. Mzamo Majola
18. Gerhard Engelbrecht
19. Bandisa Ndlovu
20. Graham Geldenhuys
21. Rowan Gouws
22. Marius Louw