The Vodacom Bulls will host 2022/23 quarter-finalists Saracens in Pretoria on Saturday in their opening match of the Investec Champions Cup, while the Leicester Tigers will host the DHL Stormers – who both dropped out at the top eight stage last season – at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in England on Sunday.

Spicing up these clashes, a few Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks from the respective teams could be pitted against one another, with the likes of Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese at Leicester Tigers, and the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers featuring the likes of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Damian Willemse among others.

South Africa’s rugby faithful are also in for an exciting EPCR Challenge Cup round as the Toyota Cheetahs meet Zebre Parma in Italy, while the Hollywoodbets Sharks will make their competition debut against Section Paloise in Durban on Saturday, while the Emirates Lions take on Perpignan in France on Sunday.

The Vodacom Bulls will look to carry the momentum they have been building in the Vodacom URC into their clash against Saracens, with the side boasting an impressive five victories in seven outings. The fact that the Pretoria outfit have won all three of their home matches so far this season will also boost their confidence, while they will also want to take advantage of the Gauteng heat against the visitors from England, who have been playing in vastly different conditions in the Gallagher Premiership.

They will, however, face tough competition as Saracens have also established themselves as one of the top sides in the Premiership where they are currently in fourth place on the standings with five victories in eight matches. The visitors will also be determined to bounce back from their disappointing 18-12 defeat against the Northampton Saints last weekend.

The DHL Stormers, in turn, will be under pressure to build on their home Vodacom URC win last weekend – their first victory in five matches – when they face the Leicester Tigers.

The Capetonians lost all four of their matches on their Vodacom URC tour before returning home last weekend, and they will be desperate to avoid another away defeat and build winning momentum.

They can expect intense competition from Leicester, who are on a three-match winning streak in the Premiership, and who will be hunting their third home win in a row when the sides cross paths.

In EPCR Challenge Cup, the Toyota Cheetahs will be the first team in action against Zebre Parma in Italy, with the hosts returning home after a two-week tour of South Africa in the Vodacom URC, where they suffered defeats against the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers.

This, combined with the match marking the Toyota Cheetahs’ first official top-class match of the new season, will add pressure on both sides to register a victory.

The Free Staters, who will participate in the competition for the second season, will look to put their expansive attack to good use against the Italians, but they will have to hit the ground running as Zebre Parma had two decent results at home where they played to a 22-22 draw against Cardiff and pipped the Hollywoodbets Sharks 12-10 before their tour to South Africa.

The KwaZulu-Natalians, meanwhile, will set high standards for themselves in their encounter against Section Paloise after a disappointing start to the Vodacom URC in which they have registered only one victory in seven matches, and especially with the team coming off a heavy 44-10 defeat against the Vodacom Bulls last weekend.

The pressure on them will be enhanced by the fact that Section Paloise, more commonly referred to as Pau, have enjoying a strong start to the French Top 14 season, with the team currently in fourth place on the log with six wins in their nine matches so far this season.

Fortunately for the Hollywoodbets Sharks, they will have home ground advantage, and will enter the match bolstered by the fact that they won their last home game in the Vodacom URC, the Durban conditions could count in their favour and with a passionate home crowd behind them.

The Emirates Lions, meanwhile, will have all the motivation they need to start the competition on a high note against Perpignan after an encouraging start to the tournament last season in which they advanced to the quarter-final and with the side coming fresh off back-to-back victories in the Vodacom URC.

Perpignan on the other hand have had a disappointing start to their Top 14 season with the team ranked second-last on the standings after only two wins in their nine matches – which will undoubtedly serve as a motivational factor to capitalise on their home ground advantage against the Johannesburgers.

The hosts will draw some inspiration from the fact that both their victories this season were at home, but they will be up against a team with increased confidence after two big scores (49 and 61 points respectively). This is expected to set the scene for a thrilling clash.

More information:

  • The 24 clubs in this season’s Investec Champions Cup have a total of 40 EPCR titles between them.
  • Stade Rochelais are bidding to become the second club in history after RC Toulon (2013, 2014 and 2015) to win the title three times in succession.
  • Clubs will play four matches during the pool stage, each against a different opponent, with two at home and two away.
  • The four highest-ranked clubs in each pool will qualify for the Round of 16. The clubs ranked fifth in each of the pools will qualify for Round of 16 of the EPCR Challenge Cup.

Investec Champions Cup match information:

Vodacom Bulls v Saracens
Date: Saturday, 9 December
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
SA Time: 19h30
Referee: Andrea Piardi
TV: SuperSport

Leicester Tigers v DHL Stormers
Date: Sunday, 10 December
Venue: Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Leicester
SA Time: 17h15
Referee: Tual Trainini
TV: SuperSport

EPCR Challenge Cup match Information:

Zebre Parma v Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 9 December
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
SA Time: 15h00
Referee: Jack Makepeace
TV: SuperSport

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Section Paloise
Date: Saturday, 9 December
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
SA Time: 17h15
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
TV: SuperSport

Perpignan v Emirates Lions
Date: Sunday, 10 December
Venue: Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan
SA Time: 15h00
Referee: Adam Leal
TV: SuperSport