Toyota Cheetahs sailing into unchartered waters – Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifier Preview
The Toyota Cheetahs will become the fifth South African franchise to experience the knock-out stages of Vodacom Super Rugby when they face two-time champions, the Brumbies, in Canberra on Sunday morning.
The Sharks (then still Natal) and the Vodacom Bulls (as Northern Transvaal) became the first two South African teams to progress to the play-offs when they reached the semi-finals in 1996. The Durbanites went one better and reached the final that year.
In 1997 and 1998 The Sharks reached the semi-finals again, while the DHL Stormers flew the SA flag in 1999 when they became the first team from the Republic to host a play-off match.
The Cats made the semi-finals in 2000 and 2001, which was also the year the Sharks reached their second final.
In 2002 and 2003 the knock-outs were contested without a South African presence, but in 2004 the DHL Stormers made their second semi-final appearance.
The competition changed again in 2006 when one team was disbanded and three teams were added to the competition as 12 became 14 – the Force from Western Australia, as well as the former Cats partners, the Toyota Cheetahs and the MTN Lions.
The Vodacom Bulls were semi-finalists in 2005, 2006 and 2007, when they famously became the first South African team to win Super Rugby by beating The Sharks in an epic final in Durban.
The Sharks progressed to their fifth semi-final in 2008, but the Vodacom Bulls were back at the top in 2009 when they won their second title as the only SA side in the play-offs, along with three from New Zealand.
The team from Pretoria bagged their third title in 2010 when they beat the DHL Stormers in the second all-South African final in Soweto.
Expansion came again in 2011 when the Rebels were added to the competition, with the DHL Stormers and The Sharks progressing to the Finals Series – the team from Durban lost their Qualifier to the Crusaders, who went on to beat the Capetonians in their semi-final at DHL Newlands.
Last year was a big year for South Africa as three teams made it to the playoffs – The Sharks went all the way to the final by winning their Qualifier in Brisbane and their semi-final against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town before losing the Final in Hamilton against the Chiefs. The Vodacom Bulls were beaten in the Qualifying round.
And now it’s the turn of the Toyota Cheetahs to add their name to the list of teams who have contested knock-out matches after their best-ever season in Vodacom Super Rugby.
South African teams in Vodacom Super Rugby knock-out phases:
The Sharks (incl Natal) - 2011, 2012 (Qualifier); 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2012 (Semi-final); 2001, 2007, 2012 (Final).
Vodacom Bulls (incl N-Tvl) - 2012 (Qualifier); 1996, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013 (Semi-final); 2007, 2009, 2010 (Final).
DHL Stormers - 1999, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012 (Semi-final); 2010 (Final)
Cats - 2000, 2001 (Final)
Toyota Cheetahs 2013 (Qualifier)
Brumbies v Toyota Cheetahs
The odds may be heavily stacked against them, but the Toyota Cheetahs will approach their first-ever Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifier positively as they really don’t have anything to lose.
At the start of the season, they weren’t mentioned when the competition favourites were discussed. Actually, in February they were regarded as rank outsiders to finish in the top six, especially after they lost their first two matches of the season.
But when the team from Central South Africa started picking up steam in round four, against the Highlanders in Invercargill during their second Australasian tour match, it was clear the Toyota Cheetahs vintage of 2013 had other plans.
They ended up winning an unprecedented three tour matches – the Toyota Cheetahs also beat the Waratahs in Sydney and the Force in Perth to record the best away record Down Under of any of the South African franchises this year – and when they beat The Sharks in Durban, the Kings in PE as well as the Rebels, DHL Stormers, Kings, Reds and Blues in Bloemfontein, their spot in the top six was cemented.
With a daunting visit to the Canberra Stadium their next stop, the Toyota Cheetahs will remember how they almost caused an upset against the Brumbies in the Australian capital last year, when Jake White’s team needed a last-minute penalty to win 24-23.
Only 10 survivors from that match in 2012 returned to Canberra with Toyota Cheetahs this week.
They are Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Robert Ebersohn, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Heinrich Brüssow, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Trevor Nyakane and Ryno Benjamin.
The Toyota Cheetahs now also know what is needed to win on tour – since the expansion to Vodacom Super Rugby, they’ve won four of their six matches in Australia.
And this year, they’ve not lost to any of the Aussie sides, with the Brumbies the only team they have not yet played.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to get into the playoffs to keep our dream of playing in a final alive,” said Strauss, the Toyota Cheetahs’ captain.
“This season, we worked especially hard on defence and I also believe that this is the best conditioned Cheetahs team that I have ever been involved with.
“Everyone is willing to go the extra mile for the guy next to him and the team’s interest always comes first. I am very proud of especially the youngsters that really made a huge step-up this year.
“But we still have a long way to go and Sunday’s match against the Brumbies will be the toughest of the season. However, we are excited and looking forward to the challenge.
“In knock-out rugby, it’s imperative to make the right decisions at the right times, as every single moment of the game is vital. We need to be mentally present and focussed for the full 80 minutes.”
Naka Drotské, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, said: “In play-off games things like discipline, defence and using opportunities are really important. In our last game, against the Blues, we did not finish a few opportunities in the first half and it’s something we’ve been looking at.
“At this moment, we’re not looking further ahead than the Brumbies and that is where our focus lies. I am positive that we do have the players to go all the way, though.”
Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Ligtoring Landman, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Waltie Vermeulen, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Ryno Benjamin.
Head to head (since 2006)
Brumbies won 5, Toyota Cheetahs 2
Brumbies 263 points for, Cheetahs 193
Brumbies Tries scored 34, Cheetahs 20
Average score Brumbies 38-28
Previous results (home team mentioned first):
10 March 2012: Brumbies 24 Toyota Cheetahs 23
29 April 2011: Toyota Cheetahs 47 Brumbies 36
10 April 2010: Brumbies 61 Toyota Cheetahs 15
4 April 2009: Toyota Cheetahs 27 Brumbies 40
21 March 2008: Brumbies 29 Toyota Cheetahs 23
17 March 2007: Toyota Cheetahs 38 Brumbies 20
8 April 2006: Brumbies 53 Toyota Cheetahs 20
Brumbies in play-off matches:
22 May 2004: Beat Crusaders 47-38 (Final – Canberra)
15 May 2004: Beat Chiefs 32-17 (SF - Canberra)
17 May 2003: Lost to Blues 21-42 (SF – Auckland)
25 May 2002: Lost to Crusaders 13-31 (Final – Christchurch)
18 May 2002: Beat Waratahs 51-10 (SF – Sydney)
26 May 2001: Beat The Sharks 36-6 (Final – Canberra)
19 May 2001: Beat Reds 30-6 (SF – Canberra)
27 May 2000: Lost to Crusaders 19-20 (Final – Canberra)
20 May 2000: Beat Cats 28-5 (SF – Canberra)
31 May 1997: Lost to Blues 7-23 (Final – Auckland)
24 May 1997: Beat Hurricanes 33-20 (SF – Canberra)
Kick-off: SA Time: 08h10
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Aus) and James Leckie (Aus)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Aus)
Qualifier A – Crusaders v Reds
Date: Saturday, 20 July, 2013
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand
SA kick-off time: 09h35
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)
Assistant Referees: Garratt Williamson (NZ) and Mike Fraser (NZ)
TMO: Vinny Munro (NZ)
Note: If the scores are tied at fulltime in any match during the Finals Series, the following will apply until a winner is found:
a. Extra Time – after a five minute rest period, extra time is played in two 10 minute periods with a two minute halftime.
b. Sudden Death – if the match is still tied at the end of extra time, an up to 10 minute sudden death period is played after another five minute rest period and the first team to score (by a penalty goal, drop-goal or try) will be the winner.
c. Kicking Competition – if the match is still tied at the end of sudden death,the Referee will conduct a place kicking competition to determine the winner of the match.
The dates and kick-off times for the Vodacom Super Rugby Play-off matches between the Southern Kings and the MTN Lions are:
Date: Friday, 26 July
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Date: Saturday, 3 August
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 14h00 (if the Final does not take place in South Africa) / 17h00
The team who will play in Vodacom Super Rugby 2014 will be determined as follows:
• The log point format used in these matches, as stipulated in paragraph 8 of Section 2 of “Log Points Format” of the SARU Rules of the Competition, will apply. After completion of the play-off matches, the team with the most log points accumulated during these two matches will participate in Vodacom Super Rugby 2014.
• In the event of an equal number of log points accumulated in the two matches, the winner will be determined as follows:
o the best nett points difference i.e. points for minus points against in the two (2) matches, and if equal;
o the team who scored the most tries in the two (2) matches, and if equal;
o the status quo will remain.