With just two weeks to go before the 2019 edition of Super Rugby kicks off there is plenty to occupy the thoughts of the Lions’ Swys de Bruin, the Bulls’ Pote Human, the Sharks’ Rob du Preez and the Stormers Robbie Fleck this weekend.
What the final results are in the two matches will mean nothing to the four wise men; they’ll be more interested in seeing how their teams go against strong opposition, how they can transfer what they learned on the training ground to the field of action, and how some of their senior players and also the newcomers perform just 14 days out from Super Rugby kick-off.
Most neutral eyes will be keen to see how the Bulls’ two major off-season signings, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits, go against their former team, the Stormers, while fullback Warrick Gelant is also back from injury after a stunted 2018.
New coach Human has also opted to give former Cheetahs man Paul Schoeman a chance at openside flank, while the performance of the two props, Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane, will provide some answers as to who will start in the No 1 and No 3 jerseys this year.
In the Stormers set-up, which is hardly a full-strength side, coach Fleck is hoping to see how much of his back-up go against strong opposition in the Bulls and here one thinks of the exciting Juarno Augustus at No 8, Salmaan Moerat at lock and Josh Stander at flyhalf.
In the first game of the day, the Lions and Sharks will do battle, with the three-times runners-up pushing a near full-strength side into the field, after most of the first choice men were rested against the Bulls last weekend.
No less than nine Boks are in the starting team picked by De Bruin, with the key picks being those of Hacjivah Dayimani at blindside flank and Carlu Sadie at tighthead prop. They are two players the Lions will hope can step into positions that have been left vacant by some big name stars who have left the union.
Sharks boss Du Preez’s most interesting pick is that of Curwin Bosch at No 10, while Thomas du Toit continues at tighthead. Hooker Kerron van Vuuren is a new man on the block hoping to make a big impression. Jacques van der Westhuyzen@jacq_west