Big encounters loom in Pretoria and Bloem – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 14 Preview
The two local franchises in action on Saturday – the Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs – may be facing teams from opposite ends of the Vodacom Super Rugby log, but they will both have their work cut out for them.
On Friday, the DHL Stormers and The Sharks will want to finish their disappointing Australasian tours on a high.
The Capetonians are in Melbourne, where they play the Rebels on Friday morning – a team that have never tasted success against any South African side.
On Friday afternoon, The Sharks will be looking to extend their six-match winning streak over the Force when they meet in Perth.
The Vodacom Bulls have the ominous task of hosting their least-favourite New Zealand team, the Highlanders, at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon, when Pierre Spies will become the 21st member of the South African Club 100 when he runs out for this 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match.
And capping off the weekend will be the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloem against the Reds – the last Australian team to win in the Free State capital, and that was more than three years ago.
The Southern Kings have a bye this weekend.
The full list of South African Vodacom Super Rugby centurions:
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10) and John Smit (Sharks)
124: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 116)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Morné Steyn (Bulls)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 51)
111: Jacques Botes (Sharks)
109: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 83)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
105: Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 44)
104: Andries Bekker (Stormers)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 90)
Melbourne Rebels v DHL Stormers
The DHL Stormers will be working hard on cutting down their error rate when they finish their Australasian tour for 2013 in Melbourne’s AAMI Park against the Rebels on Friday morning (SA time).
The Rebels are still aiming for that elusive first win over a South African team in Vodacom Super Rugby – they’ve now lost 11 straight against teams from the Republic since joining the competition in 2011.
Out of those 11, they lost twice against the DHL Stormers. Overall, South African teams boast a comfortable 39-21 average score over the Rebels, but back in Melbourne, this score changes to 36-25.
The DHL Stormers, on the back of two narrow defeats, will be looking at getting back to winning ways in Melbourne this weekend.
Said DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers: “We've lost two games we could’ve won, but didn’t. More than anything we need to win this game on Friday.
“The individual errors we’ve been making are not acceptable at this level. The coaches have done more than enough to put structures in place and give us an effective game plan, but we, as players, need to go and execute it and hold onto the ball.
“I think our defence was solid (against the Waratahs), even though we did concede two tries, and we created chances for ourselves, which, of course, we did not take.”
Allister Coetzee, coach of the DHL Stormers, said they need to put the defeats behind them and get a tick in the win column on the log for a change.
“Winning a conference or talking about play-off chances is looking too far ahead,” said Coetzee. “It’s all about this weekend – getting the points and getting back to winning ways again.”
The teams are:
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Tom English, Mitch Inman, Rory Sidey, Lachlan Mitchell, Bryce Hegarty, Nic Stirzaker, Scott Higginbotham (captain), Scott Fuglistaller, Jarrod Saffy, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson. Replacements: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Luke Jones, Gareth Delve, Jordy Reid, Nick Phipps, Kimami Sitauti.
DHL Stormers: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Frans Malherbe, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.
Rebels v DHL Stormers
Date: Friday, 17 May
SA Time: 11h40
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Force v The Sharks
The number six will be of significance when the Western Force host The Sharks in their final Vodacom Super Rugby tour match of 2013 at the NIB Stadium in Perth on Friday afternoon (SA time).
The Sharks will be aiming for their sixth consecutive victory over the Western Australians, while at the same time trying to avoid a sixth successive defeat this season.
It’s also six years ago that the Force won their first – and to date only – match against The Sharks. In 2007, the team from Perth not only beat the KwaZulu-Natalians at home, but also upset the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, making them the only team to beat both finalists from that season during the league phase of the competition.
Only three Sharks players who will feature on Friday were part of their team that lost in Perth in 2007 – JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane both started on the wing that day, while Keegan Daniel was on the bench.
Forward four years, to 2011, the last time The Sharks played in Perth. They bossed the Force around on that day and won easily, by 39-12. This time around, though, it won’t be as easy for John Plumtree and his team.
The Sharks are with their backs to the wall, which makes them a dangerous opponent, as they will be hell bent on getting out of their current rut.
Plumtree realises it will be a tough ask against a Force team that has only been given one proper beating thus far this season, when they lost 41-7 to the Brumbies in Round 11. Last week the Western Australians lost by one point against the defending champion Chiefs in New Zealand (21-22), a week before that they drew 11-11 with the 2011 champions, the Reds, in Perth, where they beat the seven-time champion Crusaders by 16-14 a month ago.
“They beat the Crusaders and lost by only one point to the Chiefs, the defending champions,” said Plumtree of the Force.
“With those results, they will have some belief going into this game. It’s going to be a tough game – they are a side that’s clearly working very hard for each other and we know it is going to be a really tough task from our side.”
The teams are:
The Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (captain), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Derick Minnie / Lubabalo Mtembu, Jean Deysel, Tian Meyer, Piet Lindeque.
Force v The Sharks
Date: Friday, 17 May
SA Time: 13h45
Venue: NIB Stadium, Perth
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)
Vodacom Bulls v Highlanders
The Vodacom Bulls host their New Zealand bogey team, the Highlanders, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Out of all the Kiwi teams in Vodacom Super Rugby, the Pretorians’ worst winning record is against the men from Otago. Over the years, they’ve played each other 15 times and the Vodacom Bulls have only won four of those – or 26.7%.
Their best winning percentage against New Zealand opposition is against the Hurricanes (53.3%), followed by the Chiefs (43.8%), Blues (40%) and Crusaders (33.3%).
And with four wins and one draw from their eight previous visits to Loftus Versfeld – including a 35-28 win in 2011, the last time they came to Pretoria – the Highlanders also boast the best record of any New Zealand team in South Africa against the Vodacom Bulls (50%).
The Hurricanes are also on 50%, but they’ve won four and lost four. The Crusaders (36.4%), Blues (28.6%) and Chiefs (25%) all lose more than they win at Loftus.
Which is probably why Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies doesn’t want to focus on special milestones, like his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match.
“These milestones are special, but there is a place for that,” said Spies.
“My focus and that of the team is fully set on the Highlanders and what we need to do to beat them. We did very well against the Hurricanes two weeks ago, had a week’s break and now need to find that rhythm and momentum again.”
Apart from Spies’ milestone, Morné Steyn will become the most capped Vodacom Bulls player in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby when he plays in his 117th match for the franchise. He will move past Victor Matfield (whose total of 124 matches includes eight for the Cats) and Danie Rossouw’s 116 match mark.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, Bjorn Basson.
Vodacom Bulls v Waratahs
Date: Saturday 18 May
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Attie Buitendag (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Toyota Cheetahs v Reds
It’s been more than three years since the Toyota Cheetahs last lost at home against an Australian Vodacom Super Rugby team, but their visitors this weekend, the Reds, were ironically the last side from Oz to win at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
That happened on 26 March 2010, when the Queenslanders beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 31-10.
Since that day, the team from Central South Africa have beaten the Rebels twice (2011 and 2013), Force twice (2012 and 2010), the Waratahs (2012) and the Brumbies (2011) in Bloemfontein.
In fact, apart from their win in 2010, the Reds have lost on both their other visits to the Free State Stadium – 10-6 in 2006 and 29-14 in 2008. Since then, the Reds have improved considerable and have gone on the win Vodacom Super Rugby in 2011.
They are currently second in the Australian Conference, one point behind the Brumbies, and have arrived in Bloemfontein confident after a solid win over The Sharks in Brisbane last weekend.
“The Reds are a quality team,” said Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské.
“They are one of the front runners in the competition and probably one of the favourites to win the title. In players like Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane they have a bunch of very exciting backs who are difficult to play against.
“It’s happened in the past that when a team has such a great backline, their pack isn’t as good, but that is not true for the Reds – they have a very good scrum and line-out and strong ball carriers upfront.
“Although they struggled against the Force recently, it will be tough to beat them and our defence will have to be up for it. But we always give ourselves a chance in Bloem.”
The teams are:
Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Elgar Watts, Piet van Zyl, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Riaan Smit, Ryno Benjamin.
Reds: Jono Lance, Rod Davies, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Anthony Faingaa, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia (captain), Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, Ed O’Donoghue, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Replacements: James Hanson, Albert Anae, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Jarrad Butler, Beau Robinson, Ben Lucas, Ben Tapuai.
Toyota Cheetahs v Reds
Date: Saturday, 18 May
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Other fixtures (SA times):
Friday, 17 May:
09h35: Hurricanes v Chiefs (Wellington)
Saturday, 11 May:
09h35: Crusaders v Blues (Christchurch)
11h40: Waratahs v Brumbies (Sydney)
Bye: Southern Kings