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Vodacom Super Rugby preview – round 13

PUBLISHED: May 17, 2012



Springbok points’ machine Morné Steyn will this weekend join try-scoring ace Bryan Habana as the latest South Africans to reach 100th Vodacom Super Rugby appearances.

Steyn, playing in his 100th match for the Vodacom Bulls against the Highlanders in Dunedin, will reach this mark a week after Habana made it to a century of Vodacom Super Rugby caps in Cape Town last Saturday evening.

Before them, only 11 South Africans and 54 players in total have reached the magical mark of 100 Vodacom Super Rugby matches.

While Steyn has made all of his previous 99 appearances at this level for the team from Pretoria, his former teammate Habana has thus far notched up 61 matches for the Vodacom Bulls and 39 for the DHL Stormers, and will be playing in his 101st Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Waratahs.

Steyn holds the record for the most points by a South African in Vodacom Super Rugby with 1 134 points (including 161 scored in 2012). He is second on the list of all time points’ scorers behind Dan Carter (1 289).

Habana is the top try scorer from this country, with 52 five-pointers (including four this season). Of his total number of tries, the Springbok flyer scored 37 for the Vodacom Bulls (2005-2009) and 15 for the DHL Stormers (from 2010). He is sixth on the overall list.

John Smit (Sharks) and AJ Venter (Cats, Sharks and Stormers) are the most-capped South African Vodacom Super Rugby players, with 125 appearances each. Victor Matfield is second on the list, with 124 games at this level, played for the Cats and the Vodacom Bulls.

The other South Africans who have played more than 100 Vodacom Super Rugby matches, are Stefan Terblanche (122), Danie Rossouw (116), Adrian Jacobs (113), Pedrie Wannenburg (113), Fourie du Preez (112), Ollie le Roux (108), Albert van den Berg (102) and Bakkies Botha (100).

Note: For all the South African team announcements, fixtures, results, logs, live score updates, top points and try scorers as well as and match summaries, click here.

Highlanders v Vodacom Bulls

The Highlanders have never been a favourite opponent for the Vodacom Bulls as they are the New Zealand Vodacom Super Rugby team the men from Pretoria have won the fewest times against.

Since 1998, the Vodacom Bulls have only beaten the team from Otago four times in 14 matches. That is lower than their five wins over the Blues, also in 14 encounters, and the seven wins they’ve achieved over the Crusaders (from 19 matches), Chiefs (15 matches) and Hurricanes (14 matches).

What’s more, last year the Highlanders became the first team since April 2008 to beat the Vodacom Bulls at home (in matches played at Loftus Versfeld and the Orlando Stadium), ending a 20-match home winning streak. That would surely fire up the team from Dunedin this weekend after they have lost their last two Vodacom Super Rugby matches.

The Vodacom Bulls arrived in Dunedin at the top of the log and according to coach Frans Ludeke, they know what to expect on Saturday.

“We worked hard to be on top of the log, but the reality is that teams will be coming harder at us than before,” said Ludeke. “The Highlanders had two disappointing results in their last outings and will come out to knock us over, no doubt.

“We have picked up good momentum from our Australian leg of our tour and can welcome back three experienced campaigners, so if we focus on our own game and play to our strengths, we will be competitive.”

Morné Steyn, who will be playing in this 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match, said: “This will be a great day for me, but the result will always come first. I have a certain task to do in the team environment and we play together as a team, so it should not be about me.

“It is great to reach 100 games and I will be the first Bulls player to achieve this milestone playing in pink,” the Springbok flyhalf joked.

Head to head (since 1998)

Highlanders

Vodacom Bulls

9

Won

4

4

Lost

9

1

Drawn

1

444

Points for

444

336

Points against

336

54

Tries scored

54

38

Tries conceded

38

Highlanders v Vodacom Bulls

Date: 19 May

SA Time: 07:30

Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)

Television match official: Matthew Muir (New Zealand)

Reds v MTN Lions

Don’t be surprised if the injury-hit MTN Lions are written off far and wide before their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the revived Reds in Brisbane on Saturday morning.

While the team from Gauteng have lost their last nine games after a round one victory over the Toyota Cheetahs, the Reds have slowly been improving after a disastrous start to the season.

But the MTN Lions know what it takes to win at Suncorp Stadium, where South African sides have generally not been too lucky in the last few years. The Reds won four straight home games against opposition from the Republic in 2010 and 2011, but in 2009, when they also beat the Toyota Cheetahs and The Sharks at home, they came up short against the MTN Lions (31-20).

In 2007 the MTN Lions also beat the Reds in Brisbane, by 26-20, and looking at their six previous encounters, it’s very even, with an average score of 26-25 to the Queenslanders.

For the first time this season, MTN Lions coach John Mitchell has been able to select an unchanged side. They have been beset by injuries, which have cost the Gautengers valuable momentum at various stages of the season.

Head to head (since 2006)

Reds

MTN Lions

3

Won

2

2

Lost

3

1

Drawn

1

158

Points for

148

148

Points against

158

19

Tries scored

15

15

Tries conceded

19

Reds v MTN Lions

Date: 19 May

SA Time: 11:40

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

Television match official: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)

Toyota Cheetahs v The Sharks

The Toyota Cheetahs will try and emulate their performances from 2009 and 2010 when they host The Sharks at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

On those two occasions, as well as in 2006, they upset the more-fancied Sharks in this competition at a time when they were regarded as a bogey side for the KwaZulu-Natalians.

Last year things didn’t go their way, with The Sharks winning both encounters between these two sides, although they had to fight really hard to emerge victorious from their visit to Bloemfontein (23-18).

Adriaan Strauss, captain of the Toyota Cheetahs, doesn’t buy into this “bogey” theory: “We’re going into the match very positively and are looking forward to playing them in Bloem.

“We are not their bogey side as that would almost imply we only want to perform against them, which isn’t true. We aim to win every week and this is a very tough and important game at our home ground.

“The Sharks can be very dangerous from broken play and we need to ensure we keep the ball and play most of the rugby on Saturday.”

Naka Drotske, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, agrees with his captain and said he would like to see his team build on their second-half performance last weekend in Cape Town against the DHL Stormers, when they outscored the home team 14-0 after the break, but still went down 16-14.

“Our physicality was good against the Stormers,” said Drotske. “We stood our ground and played well – and we need a similar performance upfront this weekend. The Sharks’ pack is very good and they are especially physical at the breakdown. It won’t be easy.”

Sharks coach John Plumtree, who saw his team move into playoff contention last weekend thanks to a thrilling victory over the Force, realises the trip to Bloemfontein will be tricky.

“We’re in the top six, but there is still a lot of rugby to play and we just need to keep building,” said Plumtree. “We know there is a huge challenge ahead of us with the Cheetahs and then some big derby games at home.

“So we’ve got to keep asking the same questions of ourselves every week about performance and playing for each other and then see where we end up. Derby games in South Africa are huge and attract big crowds and the effort from both teams goes up a few levels.

“Our side looks fit, the guys coming back from injury are fit and that will help, especially when playing at altitude. But a big part of the challenge is also mental, we need to be in a good space mentally and physically and go up there believing in ourselves.”

Head to head (since 2006)

Toyota Cheetahs

The Sharks

3

Won

4

4

Lost

3

0

Drawn

0

138

Points for

162

162

Points against

138

15

Tries scored

16

16

Tries conceded

15

Toyota Cheetahs v The Sharks

Date: 19 May

SA Time: 17:05

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)

Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

DHL Stormers v Waratahs

If the DHL Stormers can replicate their performance from last year when their first visitors from Australia arrived in Cape Town, the Waratahs are in for a long night at DHL Newlands on Saturday.

Last year, the Force were the first Australian visitors to Newlands and they got hammered, by 51-16. The DHL Stormers have not hosted an Aussie side yet this year and they wouldn’t mind dishing out the same sort of punishment to the Waratahs.

But the teams from Perth and Sydney are vastly different, although both of them have failed to set rugby fields on fire this season. The Force got smashed in Durban last weekend and the Waratahs lost in Sydney to the Vodacom Bulls.

In fact, in 14 matches between teams from South Africa and Australia thus far this year, the Aussies have won only three – the Brumbies beat the MTN Lions and the Toyota Cheetahs and the Waratahs got the better of The Sharks.

And while they have been the most successful side this season, losing only once in their first 10 games, the DHL Stormers have struggled for consistency when scoring tries. They’ve notched up 17, with only the MTN Lions’ 15 tries less than that of the Capetonians.

This is what DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers had to say about the apparent try scoring drought in Cape Town: “We are conscious of the fact that winning is more important than the way that you play. A couple of years ago we would have given anything just to get a couple of wins on the trot, so I think that we are happy with where we are. We know that we are not the finished product yet.”

De Villiers also warned that the Waratahs could be a difficult opponent this weekend.

“They are not lying too good on the log so it is a bit of a must-win situation for them, but they are a quality side,” said De Villiers. “They do the basics really well, they have got a really good first-phase, a good defence and they can score tries as well.”

Head to head (since 1998)

DHL Stormers

Waratahs

8

Won

5

5

Lost

8

1

Drawn

1

306

Points for

283

283

Points against

306

31

Tries scored

29

29

Tries conceded

31

DHL Stormers v Waratahs

Date: 19 May

SA Time: 19:10

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, May 18

09:35: Hurricanes v Brumbies (Wellington)

Saturday, May 19

09:35: Crusaders v Blues (Christchurch)

Sunday, May 20

08:35: Force v Rebels (Perth)