Vodacom Super Rugby excitement is building and the two pre-season friendlies that begin with a match against the Vodacom Bulls at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday (6pm) signals the start of the 2018 season.
The Cell C Sharks will play with two teams on the day (a first half team and a second half team). Both teams have been shuffled, with a mixture of youth and experience. Ruan Botha will lead the first half team with Franco Marais captaining in the second half.
“I thought Ruan did a sterling job for us in the Currie Cup, leading us to the final,” head coach Robert du Preez explained of the man who has also been selected to captain the team for this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
“He’s grown as a captain and has the full support of the management as well as the players.”
Du Preez admitted that he expects there to be a huge amount of competition in the squad. “The young players have trained hard and won’t look out of place in Super Rugby.”
This poses a few selection headaches for the coach, but welcome ones.
“Our success is dependent on how well we utilise our squad. Potentially 38 players will be involved in Super Rugby so there are opportunities for everyone.”
In terms of how Super Rugby preparations are going, he explained that, “I believe we’re a much fitter team this year than last. We’re also better in terms of rugby related training and preparation. We spent a lot of time on the players from a conditioning point of view but also as far as skill development goes.”
Du Preez explained that his goals for the two matches against the Bulls and Racing are to assess where the team is insofar as their pre-season goals go.
“I would like to see that the stuff we’ve worked hard on is shown in the games. A big focus is on scoring more tries in Vodacom Super Rugby and we want to see where we’re at. You can practice as much and as hard as you want to, but when it comes to the real thing, it’s a bit different in the game scenario.
“I’m also not too concerned about the results of the warm-up games, but I want to gauge how far we are in terms of our conditioning levels.”
With Coenie Oosthuizen out for an extended period, the Cell C Sharks have held discussions with the Springbok coaching staff and all are in agreement that Thomas du Toit will focus on playing tighthead prop.
Burger Odendaal will lead a 26-man Bulls squad selected by coach John Mitchell
|1. Juan Schoeman||Mzamo Majola|
|2. Akker van der Merwe||Franco Marais (c)||Chiliboy Ralepelle|
|3. Thomas du Toit||John-Hubert Meyer||Khuta Mchunu|
|4. Hyron Andrews||Gideon Koegelenberg|
|5. Ruan Botha (c)||Stephan Lewies|
|6. Jacques Vermeulen||Philip van der Walt|
|7. Tyler Paul||Wian Vosloo|
|8. Keegan Daniel||Tera Mtembu|
|9. Cameron Wright||Louis Schreuder|
|10. Curwin Bosch||Robert du Preez|
|11. Sbu Nkosi||Courtney Winnaar|
|12. Jeremy Ward||Marius Louw|
|13. Lukhanyo Am||Tristan Blewett|
|14. Kobus van Wyk||Makazole Mapimpi|
|15. Lwazi Mvovo||Garth April|