Professional rugby returns to South Africa this weekend with SuperFan Saturday, months after the Super Rugby and international calendar was wiped out by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed.
Fans of the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers can finally get their teeth into some competitive action with two fixtures taking place at an empty Loftus Versfeld.
The four franchises compete in Pretoria on Saturday, with the Bulls facing the Sharks at 16.30 (SAST) before the Lions play the Stormers at 19.00.
SuperFan Saturday will be a chance for the four squads to blow away the cobwebs ahead of a domestic season that will break new ground by running over the festive period and into January.
South Africa’s Springboks are available, with the national side’s participation in the proposed Rugby Championship in Australia still up in the air.
The internationals will rub shoulders with a bundle of new signings and youngsters out to make their mark, with the substitutes benches extended to 11.
Eight Springboks are included in the Stormers squad, including captain Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant, who will make his debut at full-back.
Elton Jantjies will captain a Lions side that also includes Jaco Kriel at flank and Ruan Dreyer in the front row.
The Bulls will be lead out by Duane Vermeulen, who will be joined in a blue shirt for the first time by Nizaam Carr on his return from England.
Morne Steyn and Cornal Hendricks add a wealth of experience to the backs, with Muller Uys among the youngsters stepping up into the 30-man squad.
The Sharks have lost star wing Makazole Mapimpi to Japan during the pandemic – and they’ll have to do without a host of injured players this weekend, too.
Aphelele Fassi, Venters Henco and James, Kerron van Vuuren, Madosh Tambwe and Sibusiso Nkosi all miss out as South African rugby makes its long-awaited return.
Super Fan Saturday: Teams
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Leolin Zas, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Hannes Gouws, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel, 24 Michal Haznar, 25 Angelo Davids, 26 Tristan Leyds.
Forwards: Ox Nche, Mzamo Majola, Dylan Richardson, Dan Jooste, Thomas du Toit, John-Hubert Meyer, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Hyron Andrews, Emile van Heerden, Evan Roos, Adam Mountfort, Celimpilo Gumede, Tera Mtembu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi.
Backs: Grant Williams, Sanele Nohamba, Jaden Hendrikse, Curwin Bosch, Jordan Chait, Muller du Plessis, Caleb Dingaan, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lukhanyo Am, JP Pietersen, Werner Kok, Manie Libbok, Thaakir Abrahams.
Backs: Gio Aplon, David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Jade Stighling, Stravino Jacobs, Travis Ismaiel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Clinton Swart, Stedman Gans, Morné Steyn, Chris Smith, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Forwards: Duane Vermeulen (captain), Arno Botha, Nizaam Carr, Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, Muller Uys, Ruan Nortjé, Sintu Manjezi, Juandré Kruger, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Mornay Smith, Jacques van Rooyen, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Schalk Erasmus, Corniel Els
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: Sti Sithole, Jan-Henning Campher, Carlu Sadie, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Reinhard Nothnagel, MJ Pelser, Francke Horn, Len Massyn, Dillon Smit, Gianni Lombard, Stean Pienaar, Daniel Kriel, Manuel Rass, Jamba Ulengo, EW Viljoe.
This article was initially published at extratime.media