Six players that will add to an exciting encounter between the Lions and Sharks
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JOHANNESBURG - On Saturday the Lions will seek to secure their second victory of the Rainbow Cup South Africa, and blow wide open the standings, when they face the Sharks at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 4pm).
Here we look at six players to watch in what is shaping up to be a thrilling encounter.
5 Burger Odendaal
The Lions skipper had a excellent match against the Bulls two weeks ago, running at the defensive line with vigour, taking on the tackles, and defending to the man. It was arguably one of his best performances in the colours of the Joburgers. He also had a fine outing as captain, making the right decisions at the right times and managing the game with a commanding hand.
So far in the 183 minutes he has played this season, he has gained 140m, beaten five defenders, won two turnovers and made 10 tackles, most of those stats occurring in the match against the Pretoria-based side.
4 Jaden Hendrikse
The older brother of Lions flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse, Jaden has been marked as a future Springbok. The 21-year-old is a former Baby Bok, and has brought that experience to the Sharks and continues developing in leaps and bounds.
He has settled in nicely at the back of the Sharks pack, and is making more assured and astute choices as he enjoys further gametime. This weekend he will combine with former Lions player Manie Libbok, and not his usual half-back partner, the vastly more experienced Curwin Bosch; so there will be added responsibility and pressure on the No 9.
3 Sti Sithole and Ox Nche
The burly Lions No 1 has in recent weeks been making a case for inclusion in the Springbok setup, and whether he gets selected will be known on Saturday evening. He will have to put that in the back of his mind as he mentally prepares for another opportunity to take the scrums by the scruff of the neck.
His great rival in the Sharks' pack Nche - a player who is expected to be named by the Boks later on the day to face the British and Irish Lions - is on the bench, and will certainly have an impact when he comes on, but for the first half will most certainly be there for the taking if Sithole and partner Carlu Sadie can boss the set-piece.
2 Makazole Mapimpi
We haven't seen the much beloved Mapimpi in South Africa for far too long as he was in Japan plying his trade. Saturday, therefore, affords the world cup winning wing an opportunity to show the country what he is all about. We can only hope that it is a sperintent performance, one that shows no signs to be concerned about.
The wing will surely also be named later in the day as a member of the 45-man squad to face the BI Lions, making this outing even more important as it will be an indication of how fit and match-ready the 30-year-old, 14-times Test capped speedster is.
1 Wandisile Simelane
It would be an understatement to say that this encounter holds massive significance for the outside-centre. Simelane, affectionately known as Wandi by his teammates, was recently involved in the Bok alignment camp - a confidence boot to be sure - in preparation to face the tourists next month.
We all know he has the X-factor, and translating those skills into a mature and exciting outing on Saturday might just be the tonic to tip the Bok selectors choice in his favour when the BI Lions finally play the national team. Every match he has played so far in his professional career has been building to this moment, and he cannot afford to go unnoticed, or slip-up. Equally, he must employ a measured approach that exhibits all his strengths, while limiting his weaknesses.
Emirates Lions Starting XV: EW Viljoen; Rabz Maxwane, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (capt), Courtnall Skosan; Jordan Hendrikse, André Warner; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser; Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole; Replacements: PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Willem Alberts, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morné van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel.
Cell C Sharks Starting XV: Anthony Volmink, Yaw Penxe, Werner Kok, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi, Manie Libbok, Jaden Hendrikse, Phepsi Buthelezi, Henco Venter (capt), James Venter, Hyron Andrews, JJ van der Mescht, Wiehahn Herbst, Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu; Replacements: Fez Matha, Ox Nche, Thomas du Toit, Ruben van Heerden, Thembelani Bholi, Grant Williams, Boeta Chamberlain, Jeremy Ward.