South Africa's four Super Rugby franchise teams return to competitive rugby on Saturday in an exciting double header at Loftus Versfeld, where the Vodacom Super Fan Saturday will restart the local season that was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The host union, the Bulls, will kick proceedings off against the Sharks at 4.30pm and the Lions up against the Stormers will follow at 7pm.
This is what I am hoping to get out of the first game back.
What I am hoping to see from the Bulls
The Bulls have splashed out on some high-priced imports and hopefully, for Jake White's sake, they hit the ground running and show that they will make a difference to the battling outfit. Gio Aplon, Nizaam Carr, Arno Botha, Jason Jenkins and Jacques van Rooyen are all quality players who have been lured from overseas and they will want to prove they are prized acquisitions.
What I am hoping to see from the Sharks
The brilliance of Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi and Louis Schreuder left the Sharks at the top of the Super Rugby table when rugby stopped, but now the KwaZulu-Natalians are without those backline stars. Playing at Loftus Versfeld encourages running rugby and the Sharks will certainly be trying to maintain their up-tempo style, and hopefully Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Lukhanyo Am and Jeremy Ward can continue to spark the attacking approach, with the likes of Manie Libbok, Marius Louw, Werner Kok and veteran JP Pietersen being valuable contributors to it as well.
Also read: Loftus 'ghost town' awaits South Africa's Super Rugby players
Who I am excited to see in action in the Bulls team
Jake White has spoken about locks being an area of focus for him, expressing his desire to bring back the sort of yster second-rower Bulls rugby is famous for. Jason Jenkins is the sort of rampaging No 4 who could fit the bill. Given the injuries at lock in the Springbok squad, Jenkins should be roaring around the field on Saturday.
Who I am excited to see in action in the Sharks team
Coach Sean Everitt has spoken about the great returns his team have obtained from contestable kicks, giving them plenty of turnover ball to play from, and it will be interesting to see whether scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba has the applicable skills to drive this. "We've lost experience at scrumhalf in Cameron Wright and Louis Schreuder, but we have good depth. Sanele, Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams haven't had much opportunity though. Sanele is quick, he can get around the field and is a threat on the counter-attack, our link between forwards and backs. Jaden was voted the best U20 player in South Africa and Grant is as quick as a guy like Mapimpi," Everitt said this week.
How I see things unfolding in this match
Jake White has assembled a very good pack, so if they can deny the Sharks at source then it will be tough for the visitors. But the Sharks are a fine attacking side, able to exploit any mistakes and defensive weaknesses offered to them by the Bulls. It should be a very good clash of styles.
For more news your way, download The Citizen's app for iOS and Android.