Home Sport South African URC teams must use squad rotation more effectively

South African URC teams must use squad rotation more effectively

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What the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Stormers and Cheetahs have learnt from the European teams is that it is folly to try and field your best team week in, week out and that home games have to be heavily targeted.

Veteran playmaker Ruan Pienaar has been included in the Cheetahs squad for their European Challenge Cup opener against Zebre in Parma. Picture: Christiaan Kotze, BackpagePix

South Africa’s five leading teams switch to the top European competitions this weekend and it will be a case of once bitten, twice shy as the local teams look to box clever against the best from England, France and their URC rivals.

What the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Stormers and Cheetahs have learnt from the European teams is that it is folly to try and field your best team week in, week out and that home games have to be heavily targeted.

On Saturday night, Stormers coach John Dobson hinted strongly that he will not take his best team to this weekend’s match against Leicester in England and he will leave his best players behind to prepare for next week’s home game against champions La Rochelle at the Cape Town Stadium.

Likewise, it is unlikely that the Saracens team that will visit the Bulls on Saturday will have in their midst star players such as Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje.

The pool games in both the Champions Cup (for the Bulls and Stormers) and the Challenge Cup (Sharks, Lions, Cheetahs) are thus cat-and-mouse affairs and it is only when the play-off rounds are reached that teams play each other at full strength.

Jake White’s Bulls kick off against the champions of England and they have to bank full points because they then have tough away games at Lyon and Bristol. The Bulls then host Bordeaux-Bègles and will hope that they pick up the odd bonus point on the road.

Dobson’s Stormers have been drawn in the ‘pool of death’ for the Champions Cup, alongside Leinster, Sale, Leicester and French giants La Rochelle and Stade Francais.

In the Challenge Cup, the Lions hit the road for their opening duel against Perpignan in France before taking on the Newcastle Falcons and Montpellier in home and away clashes.

The Lions conclude their pool stage against the Ospreys in Johannesburg.

Veteran playmaker Ruan Pienaar has been included in the Cheetahs squad for their European Challenge Cup opener against Zebre in Parma.

The 39-year-old, whose career has spanned more than two decades, signed a one-year extension to his Cheetahs contract in June, guaranteeing that he will be playing after his 40th birthday.

Champions Cup Fixtures

Saturday: Bulls vs Saracens

Sunday: Stormers vs Leicester Tigers

December 16: Lyon vs Bulls; Stormers vs La Rochelle

January 13: Bristol Bears vs Bulls; Stormers vs Sale Sharks

January 20: Bulls vs Bordeaux-Bègles; Stade Francais vs Stormers

Challenge Cup Fixtures

Saturday: Sharks vs Pau; Zebre vs Lions

Sunday: Perpignan vs Lions

December 16: Lions vs Newcastle Falcons

December 17: Cheetahs vs Sharks

January 13: Montpellier vs Lions; Sharks vs Oyonnax

January 14: Cheetahs vs Pau

January 20: Oyonnax vs Cheetahs

January 21: Lions vs Ospreys; Dragons vs Sharks

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