Super Rugby

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT | Bulls v Lions ... all-time Super Rugby XVs

Bryan Habana (right) and Louis Ludik challenge for the ball (Gallo) in 2009.
Bryan Habana (right) and Louis Ludik challenge for the ball (Gallo) in 2009.

The future of Super Rugby 2020 appears bleak as with each passing week it's less likely sides will get back on the park this year. 

Register your interest for the British & Irish Lions tickets in South Africa 2021

The impact of the coronavirus has been felt all over the world, and rugby has not been spared. 

A look at the 2020 fixture list reveals that, this Saturday, the Bulls were due to host the Lions at Loftus Versfeld in a local derby that is rich in history.

It promised to be an intriguing clash, with both once-proud franchises having struggled this season before the tournament was suspended after Round 7. 

A trip down memory lane, however, tells a story of happier times for both unions. 

The Bulls won Super Rugby three times between 2007 and 2010 while the Lions were runners-up three times in a row between 2016 and 2018. 

With that in mind, the Sport24 team thought this an ideal time to come up with an all-time best XV for both franchises.

Remember, this is based on their Super Rugby history! In the case of the Lions, players who represented the Cats were also deemed available for selection. 

In this game of 'selector', Herman Mostert picked a Bulls side, while Lloyd Burnard named a Lions line-up.

Who do you think would've won this match? 

BULLS

15 - Zane Kirchner. A very underrated player who far too often copped unfair criticism. The 31-Test capped Springbok was sound under the high ball and his prodigious tactical boot played a big role in the Bulls' victorious 2009 and 2010 campaigns.

14 - A forgotten stalwart from the early days of Super 12, the versatile Jacques Olivier was instrumental in helping Northern Transvaal reach the semi-finals of the inaugural season in 1996. He played 17 Tests and had pace and a skillset second to none. (Had to sneak him onto the right wing).

13 - Andre Snyman was another star of the early days of Super 12. The Springbok had all the attributes required of a modern-day centre: big, strong and fast with an eye for a gap.

12 - A try-scoring machine, Ettienne Botha was not your stereotypical Bulls midfielder. He had an eye for a gap and was intent on attacking the spaces instead of the man. Scored heaps of tries, had a great swerve and side-step and was deceptively quick for a centre. Had it not been for his untimely death at 26 in a car crash in 2005, he may have become a Springbok.  

11 - Probably one of the easiest choices, Springbok legend Bryan Habana was another try-scoring machine with pace to burn. Scored the match-winning try after the hooter in the 2007 final in Durban and was again instrumental with a brace of tries in the 2009 final when the Chiefs were annihilated 61-17.

10 - Derick Hougaard and Handre Pollard deserve notable mentions, but my No 10 jersey goes to Morne Steyn, who was the Bulls pivot during their best period in the competition. Steyn's deadly accurate boot always kept the scoreboard ticking in the Bulls' favour and his temperament under pressure was impressive.

9 - You have to be pretty darn good to eclipse the great-late Joost van der Westhuizen, but Fourie du Preez's tactical genius gives him the nod at scrumhalf. As is the case with Steyn, his calm demeanour was vital. The sign of a good player is always one who appears to have a lot of time under pressure and Du Preez was exactly that...

8 - Pierre Spies has athleticism and speed not many could match and was an omnipresent figure in the champion Bulls teams of 2007, 2009 and 2010.  

7 - Every great team needs a versatile old warhorse and Danie Rossouw fitted that description to a tee. No-one will ever forget his role as loose forward in the 2007 World Cup final, including the potentially match-saving tackle on England's Mark Cueto, but he was equally valuable in the Bulls cause during their golden era of the late 2000s.

6 - The late Ruben Kruger was a hard as nails flanker but had a great all-round game with a terrific skillset. The 1995 World Cup winner was dubbed the "silent assassin" as he did his talking on the field. His life was tragically cut short when he died of brain cancer, aged 39 in 2010.

5- Skipper Victor Matfield was a great leader and a genius at lineout time. He will go down as an all-time great in Bulls and Springbok circles.

4 - Bakkies Botha. The hardest man in South African rugby and his mere presence inflicted fear into the opposition. His combination with Matfield - at Test and provincial level - will forever be described as legendary.

3 - He played most of his rugby just prior to the Bulls' title run, but Richard Bands was a standout during a tough era for the men from Pretoria. A strong scrummager and quite mobile too, who will ever forget his wonder try against the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2003?

2- Gary Botha, the Bulls' hooker in two of their victorious finals (2007 and 2010), will be remembered for his accuracy at lineout time, as well as his hard work on the ground, almost acting like an extra loose forward.

1 - It's hard not to pick a loosehead prop that played in three winning Super Rugby finals and therefore 53 Test-capped Springbok Gurthro Steenkamp was an easy choice.

LIONS

15 - Andries Coetzee was the man at the back for the Lions through their recent golden period, but I'm going for Gavin Johnson here. The 1995 World Cup winner scored bucket loads of points for the Lions in the mid-to-late 1990s. He always ran probing lines and had a superb boot on him - both at goal and out of hand. 

14 - A left wing naturally, Ashwin Willemse shifts across to the right for this one. Made a name for himself as one of South Africa's best finishers during a time when the Lions were struggling and went on to play 19 Test matches for the Springboks. 

13 - He was part of a Lions side that underperformed more than it thrived from 2003-2009, but the natural ability and pedigree of Jaque Fourie make him impossible to ignore. Adds potency to any midfield.

12 - There were other options, but for me Gcobani Bobo is one of the most underrated centres South African rugby has ever seen. A burst of pace, strength in the tackle and ability to offload were hallmarks. Would have loved to see him operate in that Lions side that threatened to win titles. 

11 - There are not many from the classes of 2016-2018 that remain at Ellis Park, but Courtnall Skosan is one of them. Scored tries for fun during that period where he established himself as one of the most natural wingers in the country. Bok honours naturally followed. 

10 - The general throughout the Lions' finals run, Elton Jantjies is the only option here. Over the years, he has become one of the tournament's most enterprising playmakers and he will go down as a Lions great when he leaves. 

9 - Now plying his trade overseas, Faf de Klerk was a fan favourite at Ellis Park. Worked beautifully with Jantjies and had a natural x-factor that, combined with his creative freedom, sparked countless attacks for his side. 

8 - Warren Whiteley will captain this side. Injuries cut his career short, but Whiteley's leadership was key to the culture at the Lions when they had their success between 2016 and 2018, while he was the perfect link man between the forwards and backs.

7 - He might be one with the earth and isolating in Costa Rica these days, but few will forget the impact Joe van Niekerk had on South African rugby. Physical yet skilful, quick and dynamic, Van Niekerk ended up winning 52 caps for the Springboks. 

6 - Francois Pienaar is picked here, purely on his playing ability. He was massive for the Lions in those early years of Super 12. 

5 - There are few Test teams in the world that wouldn't give Franco Mostert their No 5 jersey. A towering figure, he has developed into one of the globe's best in his position and much of that development came during his time at the Lions through where he showed a superhuman work-rate. 

4 - For sheer intimidation factor and physicality, Kobus Wiese cracks the nod in my second row. How he would have coped in the modern era is anybody's guess, but Wiese was a specimen during his playing days. 

3 - Having spent seven full seasons at the Lions, Ruan Dreyer was also a key part of the title-challenging side between 2016-2018, starting two of those three finals. He has won four Test caps - no small feat given the South African depth at tighthead. 

2 - James Dalton came close, but it is easy to forget what a powerful force Malcolm Marx has been not only in South African rugby, but world rugby in recent years. His muscle in all departments, but particularly on the ground, gives him the edge over most. 

1 - Lawrence Sephaka, with 24 Test caps, was close to getting in here but Jacques van Rooyen played in all three of those Lions finals. The side's gameplan then was centred around being expansive, but the work of the front row during that time was paramount in laying the foundation