Vodacom Super Rugby resumes with local derbies – Round 18 Preview
June 27, 2013
Vodacom Super Rugby resumes this weekend in South Africa and New Zealand with four tough derbies and one cross-section clash in Durban, where The Sharks will be looking for their ninth consecutive win over the Blues.

It has been almost a month since the last round of action involving teams from South Africa and New Zealand – Round 17 consisted of only two Aussie derbies – and with the Finals Series a little over three weeks away, a number of teams will be looking to step things up as they fight for places in the top six.

The Sharks get proceedings under way in the Republic this weekend against the Blues at Growthpoint Kings Park. The match kicks off at 14h50 and nothing less than a solid victory will be enough for the KwaZulu-Natalians as they aim to keep alive their very slim hopes of still reaching the playoffs.

The Vodacom Bulls, SA Conference leaders, host the Southern Kings at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at 17h05 on Saturday. The home team have been hard hit by injuries, which will test their depth, and the visitors themselves are under pressure because of the non-availability of a number of injured players.

The final match on local soil this weekend is at DHL Newlands in Cape Town, where the DHL Stormers will be up against the Toyota Cheetahs at 19h15.

The team from Central South Africa are well-placed to reach the playoffs for the first time ever, but the Capetonians can also still sneak in, although that would require them getting the maximum log points from their remaining matches, as well as a number of results going their way.

The Sharks v Blues

Times have been tough in Durban recently, but on Saturday, when they host the Blues in Durban, The Sharks will not only be playing to keep their very slim Vodacom Super Rugby playoff hopes alive or for pride, but also to keep a very proud record intact against the Aucklanders.

It has been eight years since the KwaZulu-Natalians last lost to the Blues (in 2005 in Auckland) – and nine since the team from Auckland last won in Durban (37-26 in 2004).

The Blues left empty-handed from their previous five visits to Growthpoint Kings Park – which makes them the New Zealand side The Sharks prefer to play.

With a 75% win record over the Blues, it’s clear why. This compares very well with The Sharks’ win record against the Highlanders (60%), Hurricanes (46.7%), Chiefs (41.2%) and Crusaders (17.6%).

But this kind of statistic will count for nothing on Saturday, something Sharks captain Keegan Daniel fully understands.

“The Blues have quite a bit of x-factor in their team and we know they are dangerous from anywhere on the field,” said Daniel about the Blues, who are two positions higher on the log than the 10th-placed home team.

“We need to focus on ourselves – we want to go out there and express ourselves. The calibre of players we have returning from Springbok duty is a massive boost for us.

“We also had guys playing (in a recent friendly match) against the Lions who put their hands up and players returning from injury. We just want to play some great rugby.”

The teams are:

The Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Louis Ludik, Butch James, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (captain), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Edwin Hewitt, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Danie Mienie / Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Jaco van Tonder.

Blues: TBC

The Sharks v Blues
Date: Saturday, 29 June
SA Time: 14h50
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Roos (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls v Southern Kings

On Saturday it will be almost three months since the Vodacom Bulls last lost in Vodacom Super Rugby. They are on a seven-match winning streak and will be looking to make it eight when they host the Southern Kings in Pretoria this weekend.

The Vodacom Bulls’ last defeat was on tour against the Brumbies on 30 March. It was the last encounter of a three-match losing streak Down Under and now, with the playoffs in sight, they are leading the South African Conference.

Looking at the Vodacom Bulls’ home record in recent seasons, it’s clear the Kings have a massive task ahead. Since winning their third Vodacom Super Rugby title in 2010, the team from Pretoria have lost only five out of 22 matches at Loftus Versfeld.

Going back to the start of 2007, it changes to nine home defeats in 53 matches – not too shabby.

Both teams have lost their captains this week, and in both instances the injury news was not good – the Vodacom Bulls’ Pierre Spies and the Kings’ Luke Watson will not play again in 2013. Dewald Potgieter (Bulls) and Andries Strauss (Kings) will lead their teams out on Saturday.

“It’s good to have a few of our front-line players back as we head into the business end of the competition, especially since we’ve lost a few players to injury,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.

“This is a massive game for us – each game in Super Rugby is – but we’ve set our goals for the season and now is the time to make sure we achieve them. The Kings will not be an easy opponent, as there is no such thing in this competition.

“We simply need to ensure we stick to what has been working for us thus far this year and the guys who are getting opportunities need to put their hands up on Saturday.”

The teams are:

Vodacom Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Jan Serfontein, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter (captain), Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Juandré Kruger, Jono Ross, Rudy Paige, Morné Steyn, JJ Engelbrecht.

Southern Kings: SP Marais, Michael Killian, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss (captain), Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell, David Bulbring, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Grant Kemp, Hannes Franklin, Rynier Bernardo, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead, Shane Gates.

Vodacom Bulls v Southern Kings
Date: Saturday, 29 June
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

DHL Stormers v Toyota Cheetahs

With two league fixtures and one bye to go, the Toyota Cheetahs will have their eyes firmly fixed on a first-ever appearance in the knock-out stages of Vodacom Super Rugby when they travel to Cape Town to face the DHL Stormers on Saturday evening.

To keep in touch with the front runners though, the team from Central South Africa will have to win for only the second time ever in Cape Town and repeat their victory of way back in 2006, when they beat the DHL Stormers by 31-25.

Since then, the Capetonians have won four straight at home against the Toyota Cheetahs. In this time, the closest the visitors came to winning at DHL Newlands, was last year when they lost 16-14, despite outscoring the DHL Stormers by two tries to one.

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee knows his side is in for a big one on Saturday.

“The Cheetahs have everything to play for,” said Coetzee.

“They’re a good team, they’ve done well in the tournament and they have play-off possibilities. They’ve also developed a few Springboks in their squad, so they're a quality side. We know we’re in for a tough game.”

Speaking about the DHL Stormers’ last three league matches, in what has been a tough season thus far, Coetzee added: “It’s not a case of the competition being over for us. We’re a proud DHL Stormers team and, who knows, with some showers of blessings something might happen?

“We’re definitely not happy with our (11th-place) position on the log, therefore the next three games are really important to make sure we improve that.

“We have a proud record at home and we want to keep that intact. The players are looking forward to the next three derbies and they’re keen to play.”

The teams are:

DHL Stormers: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Damian De Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Deon Fourie (captain), Siya Kolisi, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Ross Geldenhuys, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Dewaldt Duvenage, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

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, Howard Mnisi.

DHL Stormers v Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 29 June
SA Time: 19h15
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 28 June:
09h35: Chiefs v Hurricanes (Hamilton)

Saturday, 29 June:
09h35: Highlanders v Crusaders (Dunedin)