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Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am will lead an exciting Cell C Sharks team in their Vodacom Super Rugby opener with the Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday evening, with a number of players set to make their competition debut for both teams. Kick-off is at 19h10.

Ox Nche (loosehead prop), James Venter (flank) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8) will all make their Cell C Sharks debuts, while there’s also a number of new faces on the bench.

The home team have a Springbok laden backline consisting of Springbok Rugby World Cup winners Makazole Mapimpi (left wing), Sbu Nkosi (right wing) and Am (outside centre), as well as fellow Springboks Andre Esterhuizen (inside centre) and Curwin Bosch (flyhalf).

The Vodacom Bulls welcomes back former Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn, who last played for the Pretoria outfit in 2013 and is the only three-time Vodacom Super Rugby champion that remains within the South African circuit. His duel with Bosch is bound to play a key role in the outcome of the match.

Steyn is joined by two 2019 Rugby World Cup winners in Warrick Gelant (fullback) and Trevor Nyakane (replacement prop), while Josh Strauss (No 8), Jeandré Rudolph (flank), Andries Ferreira (lock) and Wian Vosloo (replacement loose forward) will be running out for the Vodacom Bulls for the first time, and Ryno Pieterse (replacement lock) is set to make his competition debut off the bench.

The rest of the Vodacom Bulls team include four Springboks in Juandré Kruger (lock), Cornal Hendricks (wing), Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier (both scrumhalves).

History favours the visitors with the Vodacom Bulls securing eight wins and a draw in their last nine matches against the Durbanites, who begin their campaign at home for the first time since 2015. The Pretoria side won five of their six South African derbies last season, their most derby victories in a single campaign since 2013 (7 wins).

What they said:

Cell C Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch is excited about kick-off weekend: “There’s a strong vibe in the camp and we’re all looking forward to Vodacom Super Rugby kicking off. Morne Steyn (flyhalf) brings a lot of experience in that role for them (Vodacom Bulls) and I’m looking forward to the challenge of facing him.”

Vodacom Bulls head coach Pote Human said: “We have enjoyed a strong pre-season with few injuries which has allowed us to select our strongest available team to take on a well-oiled Cell C Sharks outfit.”

The teams:

Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward.

Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Jeandré Rudolph, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.

Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Ryno Pieterse, 21 Wian Vosloo, 22 Embrose Papier, 23 Manie Libbok.

Head to head:

Played: 32
Cell C Sharks won: 9
Vodacom Bulls won: 20
Draws: 3
Cell C Sharks points: 662
Vodacom Bulls points: 702
Average score: 21-22

Match information:

Date: Friday, January 31
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19h10
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (SA)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (SA), Egon Seconds (SA)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SA)
TV: SS1

Article courtesy of SA Rugby

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