SA coaches amped for Super Hero Sunday

    2020-01-09 21:42

    Johannesburg - Siya Kolisi, among a host of World Cup champions, will step out onto the FNB Stadium turf for next weekend's Super Hero Sunday.

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    "That's the plan," said Stormers coach John Dobson, who expects to give his other World Cup stars, bar the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder), a run against the Sharks.

    The first match of the double-header takes place at 13:00.

    The teams will play in their jerseys inspired by the Marvel characters Captain America (Bulls), Thor (Stormers), Spider-Man (Lions) and Black Panther (Sharks).

    Dobson, like his other local coaching rivals, is preparing for a full-blown physical contest, knowing that anything less will leave his team underdone for the coming Vodacom Super Rugby season.

    Pote Human, the Bulls coach, was taken aback by the suggestion the match might be anything other than a full-bore physical contest.

    "This is the Jukskei derby," he chuckled of the age-old rivalry against the Lions, which resumes at 15:15 next Sunday.

    World Cup player Warrick Gelant will likely start, although a niggly hamstring injury is likely to keep out Trevor Nyakane, the popular prop.

    The Lions, meanwhile, will rely on their playmaker Elton Jantjies, still basking in the afterglow of South Africa's World Cup triumph two months ago.

    New Lions coach Cash van Rooyen is understandably keen to take an early look at how his players shape, particularly as his speciality is conditioning.

    "It's an opportunity to let the players test their conditioning and to get some contact," he said of the match against the Bulls.

    He'd mindful, too, of the need to contribute to the day’s entertainment and is likely to give his players the freedom to play instinctively.

    The Sharks are adopting a similar approach, so Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, the World Cup try scorers, will be in the black and white in a backline stacked with power and athleticism.

    Sharks coach Sean Everitt is enthusiastic to be playing at FNB Stadium.

    "It's always exciting to be playing in an international quality stadium and it will be a first for most of the players. We are looking forward to the occasion and the top-class rugby on offer will be a treat for fans."

    Human has experience of FNB Stadium - as coach of the University of Pretoria's Varsity Cup team, his team played there several times, so the trip down the Ben Schoeman Highway will hold few fears.

    Although match-winner Handre Pollard has moved to France, there will be a familiar man in the No 10 jersey as Morne Steyn makes his return in the light blue. Several other veterans will also turn out next weekend, among them Juandre Kruger and Josh Strauss, both back in South Africa after long stints in Europe.

    Human expects the World Cup success to put pressure on the SA teams, but he says this status can only help, rather than hinder, SA ambitions.

    "We are the best in the world and we must play like it."

    For Dobson, the World Cup win demonstrated how well South Africa plays with a physical pack, so expect Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, the World Cup hard men, to be given top billing next weekend.

    "We've been lured in the past into playing multi-phase stuff, which takes away our power," Dobson explains, suggesting that a return to tradition might be the key to converting goals into glory after almost 10 years of Antipodean dominance.

    Dobson is also adamant that a home playoff is vital, more so that Newlands is on its last legs as a home base for the Stormers. "That would be a great farewell."

    Ahead of next weekend's match, Dobson said his players are excited, especially after the success of last year's event in Cape Town.

    "They like the day and the occasion, and playing in Soweto adds a great dimension. We expect it to be hard too - getting the hard knocks is important so that we aren't shocked by the intensity of the Hurricanes (in our first Super Rugby match)."

    Everitt, citing consistency as the chief element he wants to see from the Sharks, says that the Lions have pointed the way in the past four years. It's why he has no doubt that SA teams can rise to the occasion. Next weekend thus allows him the best opportunity to see how effective the off-season has been.

    Van Rooyen will be using the success of the Springboks to encourage his team to follow suit in Super Rugby. "We have to learn every week and adapt to the weekly challenges quickly and wisely."

    The Sharks and Stormers will kick off the action at 1pm, followed by the match between the Bulls and Lions at 3.15pm.

    With entertainment and action central to the cause, tickets - available at Computicket - have been pegged at an appealing R60 or four for R200, ensuring a value-for-money family day out.

    An integrated security and transport plan will be in place for what is shaping to be a compelling start to the 2020 season.

    - SuperSport

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    • Sharks v Bulls, Jonsson Kings Park Stadium 19:10
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