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By Derek Alberts
The SA rugby season in 2020 finally kicks off (Friday 9 October), much to the anticipation of fans in South Africa starved of action over the past six months. A revamped domestic season has delivered a blend of Super Rugby and Currie Cup rugby in the form of two local competitions that will crown a Super Rugby Unlocked winner in about eight weeks, and in mid-January, a Currie Cup champion.
The Super Rugby Unlocked competition kicks off this evening with six of the seven sides involved with strutting their stuff this weekend. While the Stormers have a bye, the Sharks will host the Lions on Friday evening, followed by the clashes between the Cheetahs and Pumas, and the Bulls taking on the Griquas outfit from Kimberley.
The Sharks, the in-form side before the early termination of Super Rugby action thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, will hope homeground advantage – albeit in a deserted King’s Park – will give them the platform against their upcountry rivals.
Coming off a loss against the Bulls in the season-opening showdown last weekend, Sharks coach Sean Everitt would have had time to prepare his team and also bring in some of the stalwart players who, for one reason or another, did not make the trip to Pretoria last weekend.
The Lions too would be hoping for a more commanding performance after going down to the Stormers in the other match of the double header. Pretty much an unknown quantity, the Lions can expect to rely on the boot of stand-in Bok flyhalf Elton Jantjies.
The battle between the old rivals may well be decided up front with both the Sharks and Lions fielding a number of Bok hopefuls in their packs. The teams will hope for the set pieces to flow smoothly and create space for both backlines brimming with serious pace out wide.
The Cheetahs have plenty to play for when they host the neighbouring Griquas in Bloemfontein in the early match on Saturday. Having been ejected from the PRO14, the boys from Bloem will be keen to put down a marker and remind the administrators of their contribution to the local game.
The Bulls, fresh off their win over the Sharks, will be confident against the team from Mpumalanga when they meet under lights at Loftus Versveld. The Nelspruit-based team has, over the years, accounted for the scalps of better resourced teams. However, the prospect of the Pumas pulling off a surprise win against the Jake White-coached Bulls is unlikely.
Super Rugby Unlocked fixtures
Friday, 9 October: 7 pm: Sharks vs Lions
Saturday, 10 October: 4.30 pm: Cheetahs vs Pumas
7 pm: Bulls vs Griquas
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