DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers will reach a very special Vodacom Super Rugby milestone on Friday, whilst the Cell C Sharks will be looking to make their home ground advantage count when they aim for their fourth consecutive win of the season (this weekend).
The Reds, champions in 2011, visit Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday in the final match of the weekend where the Cell C Sharks will be aiming to keep their winning streak on track.
The Lions host their first opponents from aboard this year when they take on the Blues at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in the earlier match on Saturday.
It will be a happy return to Wellington for the Toyota Cheetahs when they face the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium early on Saturday morning and the DHL Stormers will be looking to make it a happy 100th for their captain, Jean de Villiers, against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday morning.
Inspirational Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will become only the second DHL Stormers player to reach this mark, following in the footsteps of Andries Bekker, while Bryan Habana played 57 of his 118 matches for the Capetonians.
The 33-year-old De Villiers made his DHL Stormers debut in 2005 and is one of a small group of players who has played Test rugby before featuring at Vodacom Super Rugby level. He made his Test debut in France in 2002, but injuries meant he had to wait almost two years before playing in his second Test.
By the time De Villiers put on the DHL Stormers jersey for the very first time, against the Cell C Sharks in Cape Town on 25 February 2005, he had already played eight Tests for the Springboks.
De Villiers is currently on 96 Test and 99 Vodacom Super Rugby caps – 24 as Springbok captain and 58 as DHL Stormers skipper. He has scored 25 tries for South Africa and 27 for the DHL Newlands-based side.
In South Africa, only Victor Matfield (75 games as captain) and John Smit (67) have more captaincy experience at this level than De Villiers, who is behind only Smit (83), Gary Teichmann (36) and Francois Pienaar (29) in terms of Springbok captaincy.
“To be honest, I haven’t really been thinking about it (100 games) a lot and I will be approaching this weekend’s match as I do all my games for the DHL Stormers,” said De Villiers this week.
“The highs definitely outweigh the lows, but I suppose the thing that keeps you going is that we’re still hunting the trophy and trying to win this competition, which is not easy. You always have to aim high and we’re still doing that.”
Only five South African players currently active in Vodacom Super Rugby have reached 100 caps at this level, out of a total of 23. They are Matfield and two sets of brothers, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, as well as Odwa and Akona Ndungane.
The Vodacom Bulls have a bye this week.
The full list of South African Vodacom Super Rugby centurions (active players in bold):
128: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 119)
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10) and John Smit (Sharks)
123: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
118: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 57)
117: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 91)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
114: Jacques Botes (Sharks)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls)
110: Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 47), Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 98)
106: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
104: Andries Bekker (Stormers), Jano Vermaak (Cats 11, Lions 62, Bulls 31)
103: Pierre Spies (Bulls)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Akona Ndungane (Bulls)
* Of all the destinations in the Land of the Long White Cloud, the DHL Stormers have had a better than average run when facing the Chiefs in their own backyard.
Over the years, the DHL Stormers have played the Chiefs in Hamilton, Rotorua, Mount Maunganui and Pukukohe. Of these eight matches, they’ve won four, which is better than their average winning percentage of 35% in New Zealand.
In fact, only their 57.1% winning ratio against the Hurricanes away is better than when the DHL Stormers play the Chiefs in New Zealand. They struggle more against the Blues (44.4% wins), Highlanders (28.6%) and Crusaders (0%) in that part of the world.
But on Friday, the double defending champions are awaiting the DHL Stormers at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium. The Chiefs have been impressive this season and already started off with good wins in their two opening fixtures.
The DHL Stormers have one win from three matches, but they came very close to causing a massive upset against the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend. That performance, said coach Allister Coetzee, coach of the Cape Town-based side, gave his charges a lot of confidence as they travelled north for this weekend’s fixture.
“There’s a couple of sore bodies in the team, but the belief is there and the excitement is there,” said Coetzee this week.
“We’re under no illusions that it will be tough against the Chiefs in Hamilton, but if you want to play at the highest level this is what you have to face.
“We know we have to pitch up, physically in order to come out on top, but even more so for Jean as we would love to make it special for him in this great occasion. Jean is a true warrior and a real WP Rugby man and we’re hoping to make this 100th game special for him, which he deserves.”