A lot of South African flavour in Sydney
South Africa step to the fore in the second half of Super Rugby's Week Two - even in the game not involving SA teams.
In Part Two of our preview we look at the Stormers, who join the action after their bye last weekend and will get their campaign underway when they take on the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
However, before that game the Sharks will put their impressive early season form to the test in the first cross-conference game - with New Zealand's Hurricanes arriving in Durban.
And then, on Sunday morning in Sydney, a substantial number of South African exports will be in action in the Aussie derby between the Waratahs and Western Force.
Wilhelm Steenkamp, Brynard Stander, Sias Ebersohn and Marcel Brache will feature in the Force matchday squad, while Jacques Potgieter is on the bench for the Waratahs.
Jan de Koning looks at the second half of the Round Two matches!
Saturday, February 22
Sharks v Hurricanes
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT; 04.05, AM Sunday, February 23 NZ time)
The Hurricanes, who have a preference to get their South Africa expedition out the way early in the season, start their campaign against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
The Durban clash is the first of two games in South Africa for the Hurricanes, who play SA teams in three of their first four matches.
Following their trip to Durban they head to Cape Town to take on the Stormers, then host the Brumbies and Cheetahs in Wellington.
Of the 27-strong touring party for the first two games, seven will make their Hurricanes debuts should they take the field. Lock Mark Abbott, loose forward Adam Hill, and props Brendon Edmonds and Chris Eves are newcomers in the forwards, while the backline includes Cardiff Vaega and Marty Banks. Former Kings player Hadleigh Parkes will also make his debut in the black and yellow jersey.
The Sharks, now under the guidance of Jake White, who led the unheralded Brumbies to the Final last year, do have the ability to play an abrasive game, but like the Hurricanes, their strength is their ability to transition from defence to attack in the blink of the eye.
White, who watched his team demolish the Bulls last week, said the unique aspect of Super Rugby is that when you have ticked one box the next challenge comes.
"It is not getting easier," White told this website, when asked about the visitors from New Zealand.
"The competition is so unique that you play another country and another team and another style."
Despite some patchy performance in their pre-season build-up, White warned against underestimating the visitors.
"There are 10 All Blacks in this Hurricanes team," the World Cup-winning former Bok coach told this website, adding: "They are not an average team, they have some World Cup winners in this group.
"It is a different kind of challenge, but the message is clear: We have to make sure we do what we have to do well."
The Sharks mentor said while the Hurricanes are known for a flamboyant style and running from everywhere, they've transformed the way they play.
He said that while it is perilous and hard to assume they will run from everywhere, as they might come with a different plan, they will still ask serious questions of the Sharks' defence.
"The key defence element for this weekend is quite simple," White said, adding: "You can't afford to get too many guys stuck into breakdowns, because we need to cover the width of the field.
"Against the Bulls we needed numbers at the breakdown, because they were running onto the ball. This defence is about understanding you can only commit one, maybe two guys to that breakdown maximum. You don't want to be leaving gaps out wide, because they will try and move the ball from edge to edge."
2012: Hurricanes won 42-18, Wellington
2011: Sharks won 40-24, Durban
2010: Sharks won 29-26, Wellington
2009: Sharks won 33-17, Durban
2008: Sharks and Hurricanes drew 13-13, Wellington
2007: Sharks won 27-14, Durban
Prediction: The Hurricanes are missing a few key players - Tim Bateman and Victor Vito - while a lack of experience may also count against them. Durban's notorious humidity could be another factor making it tough for the Hurricanes to employ their expansive game plan. They may well put up a bigger fight than the Bulls, but the Sharks should still win with space to spare - by 16 points.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 S'bura Sithole.
Hurricanes: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Hadleigh Parks, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 James Marshall.
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
Lions v Stormers
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
With more than 40,000 tickets already sold for Saturday's game between the Lions and the Stormers, the people of Johannesburg are voting with their feet.
Admittedly, the Stormers always have a substantial following in Gauteng, but Saturday they may face some 'hostility' both on and off the pitch.
Following their surprising win over the Cheetahs last week, Johan Ackermann admitted this week will be a much bigger challenge for his Lions.
To add to their concerns there is the loss, through injury, of star scrumhalf Michael Bondesio and midfielder Lionel Mapoe.
While the Stormers will field a relatively inexperienced backline, the Capetonians do look very powerful up front though - with only Argentinean lock Manuel Carizza new to Super Rugby.
No doubt the Stormers will turn to their powerful maul and trusty defence in an effort to subdue the free-running Lions.
"They have very good players, including the Springbok captain [Jean de Villiers] and a legend like Schalk Burger in their side," Ackermann told this website.
"We all know defence is one of their strengths, and that will present us with a new challenge," the Lions mentor said.
The Stormers skipper, Jean de Villiers, said his team knows their strengths and weaknesses and will play towards that.
"We want to get our forwards in the game and make sure that they carry the ball well," the Stormers and Bok skipper said.
He said they won't be too fancy at the beginning, bit if the opportunity arises where there is space out wide they will hopefully have the skill to get it out wide.
"It is about identifying space and getting the ball into that space. Whether it is from a kick or from running."
2012: Stormers won 27-17, Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 24-19, Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 33-19, Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 19-16, Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 26-13, Johannesburg
2009: Stormers won 56-18, Cape Town
Prediction: The Lions are still pretty much an enigma, with last week's win over the Cheetahs not answering all the questions. The Stormers' pack should provide the platform for a win - probably by 10 to 15 points.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jacobus Jonker, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Ryno Eksteen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Sunday, February 23
Waratahs v Force
(Allianz Stadium, Sydney - Kick-off: 16:05; 13.05 WA time; 05.05 GMT)
The Western Force are very proud of their South African imports, constantly telling all and sundry how they bring a 'physical edge' to their game.
The Waratahs' counter is their solitary Springbok, Jacques Potgieter.
No doubt this little sideshow will add plenty of spice to what is often a dour Australian derby.
Force hooker Nathan Charles spoke of the 'un-familiar' faces in the Perth-based team's line-up - with giant lock Wilhelm Steenkamp, who joined from the Bulls, top of the pops in Western Australia.
"This big man has brought in a lot of 'South African flavour' with his determination to always want to go forward," Charles said, adding that it is a mindset that has been strongly adopted by the rest of the team.
"As someone who also brings a great deal of line-out knowledge with him to the team, I, for one, am very excited to see him play."
Then there is Sharks discard Brynard Stander, whom Charles said has only two gears: 110 percent and above.
"I am just glad he is on my team, I can't wait to see him out there on Sunday," the Force hooker added.
The Waratahs had similar plaudits for their marquee signing, Jacques Potgieter, who joined them as a lock, after having spent two seasons with the Bulls.
They are hoping the three-Test Springbok will produce the uncompromising form that saw elevated to international status in 2012.
''He tears in, you go to training and he's 100 mile an hour, it's going to push everyone else to that level,'' Kane Douglas said.
''Sometimes you go to training and it's hard saying 60 percent [effort] or 70 percent - you're either all out or you're playing touch footy.
''He brings that every time, you have to hold your own … It's going to pay off at the weekend.''
2013: Waratahs won 28-13, Perth
2013: Waratahs won 23-19, Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 23-18, Perth
2012: Force won 21-20, Sydney
2011: Waratahs won 20-15, Sydney
2011: Waratahs won 31-3, Perth
Prediction: It is going to be interesting seeing the influence of all the South Africans on this game. It might just make it one of the more entertaining Australian derbies. The Waratahs, at home, should have the edge over a Force team that will push them all the way, only to fall short by single digits.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles/Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro/Cam Crawford.
Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache/Patrick Dellit, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn/Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson/Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman/Brynard Stander, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Chris Alcock/Angus Cottrell, 5 Hugh McMeniman/Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Ollie Hoskins/Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles/Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan/Tetera Faulkner
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)