ZIMBABWE rugby enthusiast will have another rare opportunity to watch some of South Africa’s finest players in action on home soil, when the much-awaited Old Mutual Super Rugby Weekend gets underway at the National Sports Stadium in Harare today.
BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA
The event, now in its second year, will see reigning Currie Cup champions Toyota Cheetahs clash with the DHL Stormers, while the Vodacom Bulls take on last year’s Super Rugby losing finalists the Emirates Lions.
Excitement has been building up in the lead-up to the event after the four South African Super Rugby franchises included most of their big name players in their squads for today’s clashes.
The Vodacom Bulls, who were impressed by a similar pre-season tour when they visited Zimbabwe for the first time last year, are travelling with a full house after announcing a 39-member touring squad led by coach, Nollis Marais.
Marais, who last week said qualifying for Super Rugby’s play-offs was a not negotiable for his side this season, is set to unleash a full-strength side with the likes of Boks Handre Pollard, Lood de Jager, Jesse Kriel, Trevor Nyakane and Tiaan Strauss all set to start against the Lions.
The Bulls last won the Super Rugby competition seven years ago during a golden era, where they became the first South African side to win the coveted title in 2007, and then followed it up with two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, the Lions could have their work cut out against the Bulls after deciding to give a break to a group of senior players who have just returned from Japan.
Some of the star players missing from the Johannesburg-based franchise’s squad include flanker, Jaco Kriel, No 8 and skipper Warren Whiteley, lock Franco Mostert, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and centre Lionel Mapoe.
An epic contest is also expected in the final clash of the day when the DHL Stormers clash against the Toyota Cheetahs, who are also returning to Zimbabwe after their maiden trip last year, when they humbled the Bulls.
A bumper crowd is expected at the National Sports Stadium after the event organisers, Kyros Sports reduced the cheapest ticket prices from $10 last year to $2.
The match programme kick-offs with curtain raisers at 10am, when Harare Sports Club Under-21 take on their Old Hararians counterparts after which a schoolboy rugby showcase is expected between powerhouses Prince Edward and Kyle College.
At 1pm, the Bulls will go against the Lions before the main show at 3:15pm between the Cheetahs and Stormers.