United Rugby Championship: Duane Vermeulen leads Ulster against Zebre Parma while Stormers field young side for Scarlets clash

Adam Kyriacou
United Rugby Championship: Duane Vermeulen with the ball for Ulster.

Duane Vermeulen of Ulster on the attack during the United Rugby Championship 2021/22 match between the Stormers and Ulster held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town on 26 March 2022 ©Shaun Roy/Sports Inc

The United Rugby Championship continues on Friday as two matches take place, with the Stormers and Ulster hosting the Scarlets and Zebre Parma in their respective fixtures.

Stormers v Scarlets

Second-row Gary Porter will make his debut for the Stormers as one of a number of changes for their encounter against the Scarlets in Cape Town.

The United Rugby Championship clash with the Welsh region at DHL Stadium kicks off at 19:00 local time, which is 17:00 GMT.

Also making their first starts of the season are centre Cornel Smit, fly-half Kade Wolhuter and flank Marcel Theunissen, while Leon Lyons, Connor Evans and Jean-Luc du Plessis all come onto the replacements bench.

Ernst van Rhyn will lead the side from alongside Porter in the engine room, while Leolin Zas, Joseph Dweba, Sazi Sandi, JJ Kotze and Herschel Jantjies all make their return from national duties.

Meanwhile, Scarlets welcome back a number of players from injury and suspension for the resumption of the United Rugby Championship season.

The experienced Scott Williams returns in midfield, while Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson, Tomás Lezana and Dan Davis are also back in the ranks.

Williams is the lone change to the backline that took the field in the defeat to Leinster in round seven. He comes in at inside centre with skipper Jonathan Davies reverting to his more accustomed 13 jersey.

Up front, Steff Thomas, Daf Hughes and Harri O’Connor continue in the front-row, while in the second-row Sam Lousi returns from international duty with Tonga to partner Tom Price.

Vaea Fifita is unavailable for this game. The Tonga international is set to join the squad for the round nine fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg.

The one change in the back-row sees openside Dan Davis come in for his first appearance of the season.

Hooker Taylor Davies is another who could make his URC seasonal bow after being named on the bench, while Thomson and Lezana provide second-row and back-row cover.

19-year-old scrum-half Archie Hughes, Rhys Patchell and Steff Evans cover the backs.

The teams:

Stormers15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Angelo Davids, 13 Cornel Smit, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Marcel Theunissen, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Gary Porter, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (c), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ali Vermaak
16 JJ Kotze, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Nama Xaba, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tom Price, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Harri O’Connor, 2 Daf Hughes, 1 Steff Thomas
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Archie Hughes, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Steff Evans

Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 19:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Morne Ferreira (South Africa), Paul Mente (South Africa)
TMO: Frank Murphy (Ireland)

Ulster v Zebre

Dan McFarland’s side will look to continue their winning form this Friday in front of a packed-out Kingspan Stadium as the Italians arrive in Belfast.

Following a break in play for the Autumn Nations Series, Ulster are back and ready to kick-start the upcoming 10-game block in the right way under lights.

With a bumper crowd of over 16,000 expected, supporters will be out in force as the province, currently sat second in the table with a postponed game to play, take on Zebre Parma – the only team in the league yet to secure a win this season.

Duane Vermeulen will lead the Ulster men out as he captains the side for the first time since arriving in the province last season. Alongside the number eight will be brothers Matty and Marcus Rea, who get the nod at blindside and openside flanker respectively.

Emerging Ireland graduate, Cormac Izuchukwu, who recently signed a new contract to stay at the club until at least 2026, will be joined in the second-row by Wallaby, Sam Carter.

While Marty Moore, who scored a try in the Ireland ‘A’ game against the All Blacks XV a couple of weeks ago in his return to the green jersey, is joined by Ulster Rugby Academy graduates, Callum Reid and Tom Stewart.

Meanwhile, fly-half Jake Flannery is set to earn his first Ulster cap when he forms the half-back partnership with 20-year-old Nathan Doak.

Wing, Jacob Stockdale, makes a welcome return from injury and is joined in the back three by Ethan McIlroy and Stewart Moore.

Forward cover from the bench will be provided by John Andrew, Andy Warwick, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Iain Henderson, who both make a return from international duty, along with David McCann.

If called upon, Michael McDonald, a new signing this season, will make his debut for the province, with Angus Curtis and Ben Moxham providing the additional backline reinforcements.

For Zebre, they have handed new signing Matt Kvesic his debut in their number eight jersey as he joins Giacomo Ferrari and Guido Volpi in the back-row.

Enrico Lucchin captains the side at centre and will combine with Richard Kriel in midfield, with Chris Cook and Geronimo Prisciantelli the half-back pairing.

Zebre Parma are sitting bottom of the United Rugby Championship table after suffering seven defeats out of seven games thus far ahead of a daunting match.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stewart Moore, 14 Ethan McIlroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jake Flannery, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Cormac Izuchukwu, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Callum Reid
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 David McCann, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 Ben Moxham

Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Richard Kriel, 12 Enrico Lucchin (c), 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Giacomo Ferrari, 6 Guido Volpi, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Jacques Du Toit, 1 Juan Pitinari
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Riccardo Genovese, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Iacopo Bianchi, 21 Ratko Jelic, 22 Joey Caputo, 23 Erich Cronjé

Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland), Robbie Jenkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

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