DHL Stormers, Sharks start their overseas tours – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 11 Preview
April 25, 2013
The DHL Stormers and The Sharks – the only two South African Vodacom Super Rugby teams that have not played abroad in 2013 – will get their Australasian adventures underway in New Zealand this weekend.

These two sides, the top two from South Africa last year, are playing a mere 400km from each other on New Zealand’s North Island when they take on the Hurricanes and the Chiefs this weekend.

The DHL Stormers will play the ‘Canes in the relatively unknown venue of Palmerston North, in only the seventh Vodacom Super Rugby match involving a team from South Africa.

The Sharks return to Waikato Stadium in Hamilton for a replay of the 2012 final, where they were beaten by the Chiefs after three very tough weeks on the road (or rather, in the air).

In the first match on local soil, the Waratahs will be aiming for only the second Australian win in South Africa this weekend (our teams lead the Aussies by 5-1 locally in 2013). They take on the Vodacom Bulls – a team they have not beaten since 2005 – at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

And in the final encounter for the weekend (from a South African point of view), two teams captained by two cousins face off at the Free State Stadium on Saturday evening. The cousins are Toyota Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss and Southern Kings skipper Andries Strauss.

Hurricanes v DHL Stormers

Palmerston North is the DHL Stormers’ destination on Friday when they start their Vodacom Super Rugby tour with a tough match against the Hurricanes at the FMG Stadium.

It’s not the best-known venue in New Zealand, but the DHL Stormers have actually played there twice before and head into this weekend’s encounter having beaten the Hurricanes in their last encounter in Palmerston North.

That was in 2007, when the DHL Stormers won convincingly by 30-17. Of the current crop of players, only Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Andries Bekker and Brok Harris were in action on that day. In 2005 though, the ‘Canes were too good for the Capetonians at the same venue (12-9). The team from New Zealand’s capital has played in Palmerston North nine times before – they’ve won five and lost four.

It’s not the happiest hunting ground for South African teams though, with only two wins from six matches there. This includes the Vodacom Bulls going down to the Highlanders in 2009.

The DHL Stormers are on a two-match winning streak against the Hurricanes and lead their overall head-to-head statistics by 8-6, but the Capetonians are very mindful of the threat posed by the team that scored the most tries in Vodacom Super Rugby in 2012’s league phase.

“The Hurricanes have a quality set of backs, with a few very good steppers and a settled centre combination of Conrad Smith and Tim Bateman,” said DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. “Our defence will be tested – this is a good Hurricanes side.

“They feed off turnover possession – just look at some of the tries they’ve scored. We simply can’t afford to make silly mistakes and have to be composed with ball in hand. As soon as you turn over possession, they will punish you.

“This is a massively important game for us – it’s our first on tour and we want to start on positive and winning note, but it will not easy.”

The teams are:

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tim Bateman, Matt Proctor, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Karl Low, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Motu Matu’u, Ben Franks. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Ben May, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi.

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

Hurricanes v DHL Stormers

Date: Friday, 26 April
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: FMG Stadium, Palmerston North
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Chiefs v The Sharks

The Sharks are back in Waikato, the scene of last season’s Vodacom Super Rugby final which they remarkably qualified for despite having to fly to Brisbane and Cape Town for tough playoff matches.

The final against the Chiefs turned out to be one match too many after a rigorous travel schedule during which The Sharks clocked up close to 35,000 kilometres from Durban to Brisbane to Cape Town to Hamilton.

The defeat in the 2012 final was The Sharks’ fourth successive defeat against the Chiefs, something they will want to put right this weekend. But it won’t be easy – the last time the “Mooloo Men” got beaten at home by teams from South Africa, was three years ago when they lost on back-to-back weekends against the Vodacom Bulls (19-33) and the DHL Stormers (15-49).

A week after these two defeats, the Chiefs drew with the Toyota Cheetahs, 25-25, in Hamilton.

The Chiefs will also be smarting after losing their last two Vodacom Super Rugby encounters, at home against the Reds and then in Sydney against the Waratahs.

The Sharks, heavily hit by injuries, have named a severely changed team this weekend, with coach John Plumtree saying his side will have to forget what has happened in the last couple of weeks and just do their best.

“We just have to dig in and do our best,” said Plumtree this week from Sydney, where The Sharks based themselves.

“We’ve worked really hard on our game, trying to improve our game, trying to improve our attack, but it is really difficult with all these (injury) setbacks.”

The teams are:

Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Richard Kahui, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu, Nick Croswell, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (captain), Michael Kainga, Mahroni Schwalger, Toby Smith. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Ben Tameifuna, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Bundee Aki, Charlie Ngatai.

The Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Frans Steyn, Meyer Bosman, Piet Lindeque, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Lubabalo Mtembu, Jean Deysel (captain), Derick Minnie, Pieter Steph du Toit, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Danie Mienie, Franco van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, Sbura Sithole.

Chiefs v The Sharks
Date: Saturday, 27 April
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Vodacom Bulls v Waratahs

On Saturday, it will be 2,899 days since the Waratahs’ last Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Vodacom Bulls – or rather seven years, 11 months and seven days.

Yes, the Vodacom Bulls have not lost to the Sydneysiders since going down in their 2005 semi-final. For seven straight matches, including three in Australia, the team from Pretoria have been on the the winning side.

The Waratahs’ last win at Loftus Versfeld – where they face the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday afternoon – was more than a decade ago, on 9 March 2002, when they smashed the team from Pretoria by 51-19.

But both teams are on an upward curve – the Vodacom Bulls have won both their matches since returning to South Africa following their tough tour Down Under, while the Waratahs have put a slot start to the competition behind them by winning three of their last four encounters.

Victories over the Toyota Cheetahs in Pretoria and the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth have catapulted the Vodacom Bulls to the top spot on the South African Conference log – a position they would not like to lose this weekend.

“We finally played the rugby we wanted last weekend and the challenge will be to back it up against the Waratahs,” Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said.

“They are dangerous opponents and at this level the margins are very small, so we cannot afford to play at any level other than our best.”

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies added: “The Waratahs are capable of beating anyone, as they showed against the Chiefs last week.

“We will need to use the momentum we have created last week on attack, but from a defensive perspective, they will ask a lot of new questions. We will have to answer all of them if we want to keep on winning.”

The teams are:

Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Dewald Potgieter, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Hencus van Wyk, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Jacques Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouchè, Lionel Mapoe.

Waratahs: TBC

Date: Saturday, 27 April
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

Toyota Cheetahs v Southern Kings

The two youngest South African Vodacom Super Rugby franchises will fight it out in Bloemfontein on Saturday when the Southern Kings will get their first taste of an away-derby against the Toyota Cheetahs in the Free State Stadium.

The Toyota Cheetahs are experiencing their best season since their “birth year” in 2006 and have already won six of their first nine matches, including an unprecedented five-match winning streak and three wins in Australasia.

In each of 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2006, their debut season, the team from Central South Africa won five matches.

This will be the Southern Kings’ third South African derby – despite losing, they kept The Sharks tryless in March but were kept scoreless by the Vodacom Bulls last weekend. Both these matches were in Port Elizabeth.

Having beaten the DHL Stormers and The Sharks earlier in this month, Naka Drotské’s side will be approaching Saturday’s encounter with a lot of confidence, especially since the Toyota Cheetahs have set their sights on a place in the top six.

“This is a very important match if we want to make the playoffs,” said Drotské.

“The Kings have been the biggest surprise in the competition this year. They showed what they can do when they drew with the Brumbies, who top the overall log, in Canberra.

“We obviously have a lot of confidence, but it can also turn out to be a negative, especially when you are playing against a team that is lower down on the log. It's important that our players don't approach this as an easy game. The teams that have beaten the Kings, all had to work very hard and showed respect to the Kings.”

Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen will play in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match for the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday.

The teams are:

Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Burton Francis, 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, Frans Viljoen, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Ryno Benjamin.

Southern Kings: George Whitehead, Siyanda Grey, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss (captain), Michael Killian, 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.

Date: Saturday, 27 April
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 26 April:
11h40: Reds v Blues (Brisbane)

Saturday, 27 April:
11h40: Brumbies v Force (Canberra)

Sunday, 28 April:
06h05: Crusaders v Rebels (Christchurch)

Bye: Highlanders