There is all to play for in what is arguably the biggest match so far in 2022 in Tshwane on Saturday when the Vodacom Bulls host rivals, the Cell C Sharks, in a Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarter final at Loftus Versfeld.
In their first season of the Vodacom URC, the two South African competitors have made history, alongside the DHL Stormers who will be playing in another playoff match later in the day, by reaching the knockout stages of the premier championship, thus making an immediate impact in the cross-hemisphere competition.
It was a slower-than-expected start to the season for all the SA teams, but the sides finished the round robin stages strongly.
There will be heavy interest in the battle at Fortress Loftus with a packed crowd expected to fill the stadium with a Springbok-laden Cell C Sharks traveling to Tshwane full of confidence after having already beaten the Vodacom Bulls twice this season.
The Vodacom Bulls have kept some continuity, making only one change to their starting XV that was on duty in their previous match – an impressive victory over Ospreys in Wales.
Experienced flanker, Arno Botha, will earn a starting berth in place of Cyle Brink, who sustained an injury in their last outing.
The home side’s bench has been bolstered with the inclusion of Springboks, Lizo Gqoboka, who will provide loosehead prop cover, and veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn.
The side from Tshwane expects another thrilling, but tough challenge against their old rivals.
“I am really proud of our players for what they have achieved in reaching this stage of the Vodacom URC. They have put in the hard work and have shown great determination to overcome some obstacles in the early stages of the season to reach the playoffs,” said Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White, ahead of the match.
“The Cell C Sharks have been an outstanding side throughout the campaign. They have shown their quality with all the Springboks in their squad, their depth with the great talent at their disposal and consistency which has seen them claim some good results.
“The fact that we have lost twice to them in the round robin stages shows the quality of their side. We are expecting a very tough battle. We have done what we can in our preparations for this weekend’s match. Now we will need to now implement and execute our plans well and play our best rugby if we want to overcome a quality outfit like the Cell C Sharks.”
The match will kick off at 13h45 and it will be televised on SuperSport.
The Vodacom Bulls team to take on the Cell C Sharks is:
STARTERS (15-1): Canan Moodie (Pretoria), David Kriel (Tuine), Cornal Hendricks (Northam Rhinos), Harold Vorster (Northam Rhinos), Madosh Tambwe (Pretoria), Chris Smith (Harlequin), Zak Burger (Tuine); Elrigh Louw (UP Tuks), Arno Botha (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Marcell Coetzee (ABE Midas Naka Bulle, CAPT), Ruan Nortje (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Walt Steenkamp (Tuine), Mornay Smith (Betway Centurion), Johan Grobbelaar (UP Tuks), Gerhard Steenekamp (ABE Midas Naka Bulle).
IMPACT (16-23): Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Pretoria), Lizo Gqoboka (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Robert Hunt (Harlequin), Janko Swanepoel (Pretoria), Reinhardt Ludwig (UP Tuks); Embrose Papier (UP Tuks), Morne Steyn (Tuine), Stedman Gans (Northam Rhinos).