Vodacom Super Rugby
SA S15 sides to play catchup
Johannesburg - South African Super Rugby franchises have an opportunity to catch up to their Australasian rivals this weekend with no local derbies taking place for the first time this season.
Catch Sport24 editor Tank Lanning's S15 predictions
While the Stormers and Cheetahs are guaranteed four log points for having a bye, the Bulls, Sharks and Lions have tough, and important, assignments to complete.
The Bulls are the first team in action when they take on the Western Force on Saturday afternoon in their final match on tour.
Having already bagged a win on the road, another victory would give the defending champions a 50% success rate in what has to be the toughest phase of their campaign.
The Sharks host the Hurricanes in Durban later on Saturday when all eyes will be on young Pat Lambie to produce the same flair that contributed to his side's solid start to the competition.
Lambie returns after recovering from the hand injury he picked up against the Chiefs last month which saw Jacques-Louis Potgieter starting at flyhalf in his absence.
Another important change to the Sharks squad sees skipper John Smit starting at hooker for the first time this season because of an injury that keeps Bismarck du Plessis out of the match.
Smit's hooker berth comes just six days after Springbok coach Peter de Villiers approached the union to request that he is utilised in the position where he successfully led the national side to their second World Cup title in 2007.
In the final match of the weekend the Lions host the Chiefs in Johannesburg on Saturday night.
The Lions will be desperate to achieve success at home and will face a side that also prefers carrying the ball as opposed to kicking for territory.
However, the retention of Burton Francis at flyhalf could be an indication of the Lions' intention to play a more conservative game against some of the most experienced players in All Black history.
The last time these sides met, 14 tries were scored with the Chiefs recording a 72-65 victory.
And although it is highly unlikely that there will be a repeat of the try-fest, the match should nonetheless provide great entertainment as both sides have several game breakers in their ranks.
For the Lions, the return of flank Josh Strauss to the bench -- Strauss recovered from concussion that kept him out of last week's match against the Stormers -- and Lionel Mapoe to the starting line-up could provide the competition's lowest ranked team with the spark needed to win at home.