The match of the week in Round 13 of the 2008 Vodacom Super 14 is undoubtedly the clash between the Vodacom Stormers and the Waratahs at Newlands in Cape Town at 19h10 on Saturday.
Both teams are well placed to secure semi-final places, the hosts currently lying fourth in the standings and the visitors in second place just two points ahead with two rounds of matches to play. The winners of Saturday’s clash could well go on to secure home advantage in the playoffs.
Both teams have been in great form over the past month, the Stormers stretching their winning run to five with a 20-10 triumph over the Brumbies last week and the Waratahs winning five-in-a-row before last week’s narrow loss to the Bulls in Pretoria. With so much at stake in one of the closest finishes ever, this clash could turn into a classic.
The Stormers hold the upper-hand in terms of the history of meetings between them in Super Rugby history. They have won six of the previous ten, which includes three wins out of five at Newlands, the last being a 27-23 victory in 2004.
The Waratahs won 32-26 on their last visit to Cape Town in 2006 and they also won 26-25 at the famous stadium in 2002. Last season’s clash between them in Sydney was won 16-10 by the Stormers.
This week the Stormers coach is looking for an 80-minute effort from his team, which has developed a tendency to let the game get away from them in the second half. Coach Rassie Erasmus has played down the importance of bonus points and is instead stressing that winning is the first priority.
The Waratahs, who appear to get stronger as the game goes on and have put in some strong second-half performances in recent weeks, will arrive in the Mother City in a confident mood despite last week’s defeat and the home side will have to work hard for every point.
Previous Super Rugby meetings: Vodacom Stormers vs Waratahs
Stormers have won: 6, Waratahs have won: 4
2007 Stormers 16 Waratahs 10 in Sydney
2006 Stormers 26 Waratahs 32 in Cape Town
2005 Stormers 10 Waratahs 25 in Sydney
2004 Stormers 27 Waratahs 23 in Cape Town
2003 Stormers 39 Waratahs 29 in Sydney
2002 Stormers 25 Waratahs 26 in Cape Town
2001 Stormers 7 Waratahs 35 in Sydney
2000 Stormers 22 Waratahs 15 in Cape Town
1999 Stormers 28 Waratahs 18 in Sydney
1998 Stormers 35 Waratahs 33 in Cape Town
Another crucial encounter at the weekend is the clash between the Hurricanes and the Western Force in Wellington on Friday (09h35).
The Hurricanes are third on the log a point ahead of the Stormers and the Force are ninth and seemingly out of contention. The Hurricanes will be wary to take note of the Force’s results against New Zealand opposition during 2008. They have won three out of four – including away wins over the Blues and Highlanders – with the only loss coming against the Crusaders in Perth.
With Matt Giteau returning last week, the Force claimed the scalp of the Chiefs. The Hurricanes, despite a loss against the Stormers three weeks back, have earned bonus points in three of their last four matches and will test the Force defence as they again go in search of five points on Friday.