Rounds 10 and 11 of the inter-hemisphere showpiece will be dedicated to unearthing, showcasing, and celebrating the diverse backgrounds and locations of the Vodacom URC playing group, with the players set to wear their school or club socks, while fans attending the games are also encouraged to wear their school or club jerseys or socks.

South African fans will be glued to their screens for two enthralling local derbies on Saturday between the Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls in Johannesburg – where they will be supporting CANSA care and support programmes for those affected by cancer through the 22nd edition of the popular Shavathon initiative – and the Hollywoodbets Sharks and DHL Stormers in Durban. This will mark the second successive time that the teams line up against one another – albeit at different venues – after also meeting in round nine.

The Emirates Lions will enter their Gauteng Derby against the Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park determined to make up for their heart-breaking 30-28 defeat in their last encounter in Pretoria, and to alleviate the pressure on themselves to hop into the top eight, especially since every match will count now for playoff places. The Joburg-based team is currently in 10th place on the log with 24 points, trailing the ninth-placed Connacht only by points’ difference.

The Johannesburgers will also want to take full advantage of their home ground advantage and return to the form that earned them three victories in a row before succumbing to their Gauteng rivals in their last outing. Two of those three victories were at home – against Zebre Parma and the Dragons respectively – while the other win was away against the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Durban.

With four wins in nine matches so far in the tournament, Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and his charges will know they have work to do to catch up with the pacesetters, and they will remain well within range with a victory this weekend.

The Vodacom Bulls, in turn, are only four points behind log-leaders, Leinster, on the standings and will be wary of the fact that a victory would keep them at the upper echelons of the table – as well as keep the pressure on the DHL Stormers at the top of the SA Shield – which is exactly where they want to be as the competition picks up pace.

The last Coastal Derby between the DHL Stormers and Hollywoodbets Sharks delivered a one-point thriller.

The last Coastal Derby between the DHL Stormers and Hollywoodbets Sharks delivered a one-point thriller.

With the Emirates Lions having come so close to a possible victory against the Vodacom Bulls last month, and only trailing their counterparts by six log points – while they also boast an impressive eight bonus points in nine matches - they will be highly motivated to make amends for the Loftus Versfeld disappointment.

They will have to be particularly effective on defence, as the Pretoria outfit have scored 324 points to their 258 – but their defence has only been marginally better, meaning it could be another humdinger.

The Coastal Derby between the Hollywoodbets Sharks and DHL Stormers in Durban also has all the ingredients for a mouth-watering clash after the Capetonians snuck through by a single point at home in their last match – this despite the KwaZulu-Natalians being at the foot of the log with nine points in as many matches.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks’ success in the EPCR Challenge Cup up to now, where they topped their pool to host Zebre Parma in their round of 16 match after three wins in four matches, will also boost their confidence.

They will be wary of the pressure on the Capetonians who are in seventh place on the Vodacom URC standings – with their place in the top eight being by only two points, although they will take comfort that they are only eight points behind Leinster – meaning a victory could nudge them into a more comfortable position among the front-runners.

The KwaZulu-Natalians, however, will have to deliver a similarly strong and determined performance to their last Vodacom URC showing against their Cape counterparts to keep alive their hopes of gliding up the log as the opposition have been more effective on attack and defence in the tournament, which will spice up the clash.

Match information:

Emirates Lions v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 17 February
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: AJ Jacobs
SA Time: 15h00
TV: SuperSport

Hollywoodbets Sharks v DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 17 February
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Morne Ferreira
SA Time: 17h05
TV: SuperSport