Who can dethrone the Bulls?

It is with this burning question in mind that the three other South African franchise teams will enter the Rainbow Cup SA competition this weekend, marking the start of a new era for the local teams.

The kick-off times for the first four rounds were confirmed at the weekend with the Stormers hosting the Sharks this coming weekend and the Bulls welcoming the Lions to Loftus.

Rounds four to six will see a reverse of the first three “Super Saturday” rounds, with each team playing six matches on a home and away basis (three home and three away), while 29 May has been set aside for a bye round.

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The Bulls will be without players like prop Trevor Nyakane, centre Stedman Gans and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, while there is still a cloud hanging over the availability of the captain Duane Vermeulen, who is battling with a knee injury.

Having said goodbye to feisty flank Marco van Staden, it is unlikely though that the Bulls will immediately expose new Bok signing Marcell Coetzee to combat after he only joined the Pretoria outfit last week.

With the Bulls having won the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles, the Lions will still have their work cut out for them to avoid a fourth straight defeat by their cross-Jukskei rivals.

Three of the four teams involved in the Rainbow Cup SA could start the hastily re-organised competition with a new skipper.

Only the Sharks are guaranteed continuity in that area at the moment, with regular skipper and Bok centre Lukhanyo Am at the helm.

The Lions will enter the next phase of the year with lock Willem Alberts providing new fire, taking over the captaincy from flyhalf Elton Jantjies, with Fred Zeilinga looking set to become the first-choice flyhalf.

The Stormers will also have a new skipper, with Bok prop Steven Kitshoff taking over from the now departed Siya Kolisi.

Kolisi, who scored a try for the Sharks in their 45-12 runaway win over the weakened Bulls in the last Preparation Series match, should be seen in action for the first time back in Cape Town this weekend.

ALSO READ: How Willem Alberts returned to the Lions and became team leader

There is also talk doing the rounds that the Stormers’ Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi may also be on his way to Durban and that could unsettle their preparations.

Following an injury to their new starting No 8 Juarno Augustus, they are left having to choose between Evan Roos (formerly of the Sharks) or Willie Engelbrecht, currently on loan from the Pumas.

The Rainbow Cup SA games will also be played under the points system stipulated in the  Pro14 rules.

Teams will be awarded four points for a win and a bonus point for scoring four tries or more, in contrast to Super Rugby’s three or more tries.

Kick-off in Cape Town on Saturday is 2pm, while the Loftus game will get underway at 7pm.

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