Kings chasing Aussie clean sheet in maiden season – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 12 Preview
May 02, 2013
A rare achievement is in sight for the Springbok and DHL Stormers record-setting wing Bryan Habana, while the Vodacom Bulls will be aiming for their 100th Vodacom Super Rugby victory this weekend.

And considering their results thus far this year, the Southern Kings will be looking forward to their fourth and final match against Australian opposition in 2013.

Habana will be playing in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match for the DHL Stormers, which in itself is special, but in an era of centurions, not spectacular.

But the record-setting Springbok wing has also played in 61 matches for the Vodacom Bulls, which means Habana will on Friday become only the second player ever to play in 50 or more Vodacom Super Rugby matches for two teams. The first one to reach this milestone was Nathan Sharpe, who finished his impressive career on 92 matches for the Force and 70 for the Reds.

Kicking off the weekend is the match between the DHL Stormers and the Blues at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany, north of Auckland, on Friday morning. The last time a South African team played “across the bridge” was in 2007, when The Sharks beat the Blues by 32-25.

The Sharks take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday morning, where they will be looking to reverse a three-match losing streak against the team from Otago, who occupy the last spot on the log and are still without a win this season.

Back home, the Southern Kings will complete their fixtures against Australian teams when they host the Waratahs in Port Elizabeth. The newcomers to Vodacom Super Rugby have not yet lost to an Aussie team this season and will be looking to keep that record intact.

And finally, the Vodacom Bulls won their 99th Vodacom Super Rugby match last weekend. They’ve also lost 100 and drawn four, but if they can beat the Hurricanes this weekend, they will join fellow South Africans the DHL Stormers (105 wins) and The Sharks (104) on a century of victories.

After 10 tough rounds, the Toyota Cheetahs have a bye this week.

Blues v DHL Stormers

The Blues and the DHL Stormers are both on a 50% win record this season, but the team from Auckland are five positions higher than the Capetonians on the Vodacom Super Rugby log, mainly thanks to double the amount of bonus points they’ve collected this season.

These two teams meet at North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Friday morning (SA time) and defeat for the DHL Stormers could severely upset their quest of reaching the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

The DHL Stormers, however, are going into the match on the back of a three-match winning streak against the Blues, of which two were in New Zealand (33-21 in 2010 and 28-26 in 2011).

This will have given the visitors from South Africa some confidence ahead of their second tour match against the Kiwis, who are second in New Zealand Conference and one of three wild card teams currently in playoff contention.

The Blues’ dangerous backline poses a number of challenges for the DHL Stormers, but their defence is also very good this year. The men from Auckland have only conceded 12 tries, which is one more than the DHL Stormers, making these two teams the best defensive sides in the competition thus far in 2013.

Speaking from New Zealand, DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said his team had a good week of preparation ahead of Friday’s match.

“The players understand the magnitude of this game,” said Coetzee.

“We’re expecting a very tough and physical battle against the Blues and will have to be strong in defence, keep our continuity on attack and run hard at them. We also need to build pressure with our kicking game and it’s very important that our set piece must function.

“It will be great a challenge for our backline to play against guys like Rene Ranger, Francis Saili and Charles Piutau, but we also have experienced campaigners in Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon and Bryan Habana.

“The Blues are however at their home ground and have performed very well this season. We know how big this challenge is and have got to be up for it, mentally and physically, on Friday night.”

DHL Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen is on the verge or reaching 100 season points on Friday. He is currently on 97 points for 2013 – the same number he finished the 2012 season on.

The teams are:

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Tom McCartney. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Lolagi Visinia.

DHL Stormers: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Gary van Aswegen, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Pat Cilliers, Eben Etzebeth, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Elton Jantjies, Damian de Allende.

Blues v DHL Stormers
Date: Friday, 3 May
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Highlanders v The Sharks

The Highlanders, on the back of last weekend’s bye, will be hell bent on winning their first match of the Vodacom Super Rugby season when they host The Sharks at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday morning (SA time).

Their eight straight losses in 2013, is the Highlanders’ worst start ever to a Vodacom Super Rugby season. In 2008, they lost their first six of the season before beating the MTN Lions in Dunedin.

The Sharks, on the back of three consecutive defeats, will not underestimate the struggling team from Otago this weekend. The KwaZulu-Natalians showed a lot of resolve last weekend to fight back against the Chiefs, but still didn’t do enough to win.

The Sharks coach John Plumtree was however happy with the four tries his team scored in Hamilton for only their second try-scoring bonus point of the season after they had gone try-less for three matches before that.

“We took a step up in the try-scoring department against the Chiefs when we scored four tries against the current champions and we’re hoping we can continue that this week against the Highlanders,” said Plumtree.

“We took some confidence out of the way we played, but at end of day, we lost and that’s disappointing. The players are really disappointed. They’ve lost three games in a row and we’re under pressure now, we can’t really afford to lose any more and we have to create that desperate edge that will drive us hard on the weekend.

“It’s tough times for all of us but the players need to have the confidence to go out there and play on the weekend – that’s certainly been something we’ve talked about.”

Odwa Ndungane, bracketed on the bench, will play in his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match this weekend if he gets game time. It will be his 90th in the colours of The Sharks, but he also played 10 matches at this level for the Vodacom Bulls way back in 2004.

The teams are:

Highlanders: TBC

The Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Lubabalo Mtembu, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel (captain), Franco van der Merwe, Pieter Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst. Replacements: Craig Burden, JC Janse van Rensburg, Anton Bresler, Jean Deysel, Tian Meyer, Piet Lindeque, Odwa Ndungane / Derick Minnie.

Highlanders v The Sharks
Date: Saturday, 4 May
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Southern Kings v Waratahs

The Southern Kings will complete their encounters against Australian opposition on Saturday when they host the Waratahs in Port Elizabeth.

The Vodacom Super Rugby newcomers have not yet lost to an Aussie team this season and will be looking to keep that record intact in what is the Waratahs’ first visit to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Furthermore, the Kings will be custodians of a South African win streak against the New South Welshmen. The Waratahs have lost their last eight matches on the trot in the Republic, dating back to 15 May 2009, when the beat the MTN Lions by 38-33 in Johannesburg.

Overall, the Waratahs have won only 14 of their 38 matches in South Africa, or 36.8%.

The Kings will also be looking to get back on the try-scoring sheet this weekend, after going try-less in their last two matches. They’ve scored at least two tries in each of their three matches against Aussie opposition this year.

Commenting on the try-scoring drought, Kings Director of Rugby, Alan Solomons, said: “These things happen. We have had opportunities which we have not converted into points. We believe we must take those opportunities. There has been a good focus this week and we are sure everyone is on the same page as far as that is concerned. I am sure that on Saturday things will be different.”

Kings flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis can pass 100 points in his debut Vodacom Super Rugby season on Saturday. He is currently on 88 points for 2013, which places him 10th overall on the list of top scorers for the season.

The teams are:

Southern Kings: George Whitehead, Sergeal Petersen, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss (captain), Siyanda Grey, Demetri Catrakillis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Rynier Bernardo, Steven Sykes, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Virgile Lacombe, Grant Kemp, David Bulbring, Luke Watson, Nicolas Vergallo, Waylon Murray, Siviwe Soyzwapi.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Cam Crawford, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Peter Betham, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (captain), Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Replacements (from): John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Will Skelton, Mitchell Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston.

Southern Kings v Waratahs
Date: Saturday 4 May
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls v Hurricanes

Since 2003, the Vodacom Bulls have lost only seven out of 29 home matches against team from New Zealand (there was also on draw), but on Saturday they face the Hurricanes, the Kiwi side with the best away winning record against the Pretorians of all teams from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The Hurricanes have beaten the Vodacom Bulls four times out of seven visits to South Africa for a winning percentage of 57.1% – higher than that of the Highlanders (50%), Crusaders (36.4%), Blues (28.6%) and Chiefs (25%).

And even though the Hurricanes have endured a bit of a roller coaster season this year, they are still very dangerous – from a South African point of view, only the Toyota Cheetahs, with 23 tries, have scored more tries than the Hurricanes’ 22.

“They are a very dangerous side when there is broken field and open play, so we need to make sure we dominate territory and possession and win the gain line battle,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.

“We are in control of our own destiny at this stage and that is exactly where we want to be. This means that we are doing some things right, but we all realise that we are also not accurate enough in other phases.”

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said defence will be key: “We leaked some unnecessary tries last weekend and we are not happy about that. The Hurricanes are known for their fantastic attack, so we need a very disciplined and determined approach on defence.”

Playing in his 116th match at this level, Morné Steyn will equal the record for most appearances for the Vodacom Bulls in Vodacom Super Rugby, which is shared by Victor Matfield and Danie Rossouw.

Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard will play in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match this weekend if he gets game time off the bench, while Bok lock Flip van der Merwe will play in his 50th match at this level for the Vodacom Bulls. He also played six matches for the Toyota Cheetahs.

The teams are:

Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouchè, Lionel Mapoe.

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tusi Pisi, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Brad Shields; Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush; Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks. Replacements: Reggie Goodes, Ben May, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Tim Bateman.

Vodacom Bulls v Hurricanes
Date: Saturday, 4 May
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Attie Buitendag (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 3 May:
11h40: Rebels v Chiefs (Melbourne)

Saturday, 4 May:
11h40: Force v Reds (Perth)

Sunday, 5 May:
07h05: Brumbies v Crusaders (Canberra)

Bye: Toyota Cheetahs

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