Vodacom Super Rugby Preview – Round 14

PUBLISHED: May 24, 2012

Durban will be at the centre of South African Vodacom Super Rugby attention when The Sharks host the DHL Stormers in a crunch clash on Saturday evening.

A lot is at stake for both these teams with the June break fast approaching and both still in the race to the playoffs. The DHL Stormers can solidify their position at the top of the log, while The Sharks will aim to keep their hopes alive after getting back on the winning track recently.

If he gets game time from the bench, Sharks flanker Jacques Botes will join Club 100 this weekend. He is set to become the 14th South African to reach this wonderful milestone in Vodacom Super Rugby. He made his Sharks debut at this level in 2005 against the Stormers.

In Hamilton on Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls face the top New Zealand side this year, the Chiefs, in a vital clash as they aim to stay in touch with the front-runners on the log.

The Toyota Cheetahs will aim to inflict more pain on the Waratahs when they play each other in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon and earlier on Saturday, the MTN Lions will conclude their Australasian tour in Perth against John Mitchell’s former team, the Force.

Chiefs v Vodacom Bulls

Although Hamilton is not the easiest place to play, the Vodacom Bulls still enjoy squaring up against the Chiefs, as they are the New Zealand team the franchise from Pretoria have scored the most tries and points against in Vodacom Super Rugby.

In their 15 matches to date, the Vodacom Bulls have notched up 457 points and 53 tries against the Chiefs. That includes the 61-17 massacre in the final in 2009, when the Pretorians scored a record eigth tries against the team from Waikato.

The Vodacom Bulls have scored only 32 tries and 347 points in 14 matches against the Hurricanes, 370 points and 43 tries against the Blues (also in 14). They have 39 tries and 346 points in 15 encounters against the Highlanders and have scored 43 tries and 455 points in 19 matches against the Crusaders.

Even though they have found the Chiefs’ try-line with relative ease in the past, it won’t be easy on Friday. The men from Waikato top the New Zealand Conference and are second on the Combined Log. They have the second best defence this season and have leaked only 17 tries (the DHL Stormers lead this “race” with 12).

Frans Ludeke, whose Vodacom Bulls team have won their last four clashes with the Chiefs, knows it will be tough in Hamilton: “They are a very difficult side to play against, especially now that their set piece has improved. This helps them to play an all-round game and we will have to be on the money with our execution if we want to achieve a result. They are not pace setters for nothing”, Ludeke said.

Chiefs v Vodacom Bulls
Date: 25 May
SA Time: 09:35
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Nick Briant (New Zealand)

Force v MTN Lions

It will be a homecoming of sorts for MTN Lions coach John Mitchell as they take on the Force in Perth on Saturday.

Mitchell, born in New Zealand, coached the Force in their first five years of existence before he came to Johannesburg. During that time, the Western Australians won 24 out of 65 matches.

Since he’s come to South Africa, Mitchell has taken the MTN Lions to four victories. This season has been especially tough, with injuries causing Mitchell some major headaches. However, they will be trying to end their Australasian tour on a high.

Two of the four Vodacom Super Rugby victories under Mitchell came on tour, when they beat the Brumbies and Highlanders last year. The MTN Lions have been adventurous on tour and even though the results have not gone their way, they have looked dangerous when throwing the ball around.

They will back themselves against a Force team that have leaked 36 tries thus far in 2012, the same as the MTN Lions.

Force v MTN Lions
Date: 26 May
SA Time: 13:40
Venue: NIB Stadium, Perth
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Matt O’Brien (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)

Toyota Cheetahs v Waratahs

It’s been more than three years since the Waratahs last won a Vodacom Super Rugby match in South Africa and the Toyota Cheetahs would like to prolong the pain when they host the team from New South Wales at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

In 2009, the Waratahs snuck through against the MTN Lions in Joburg (38-33), but they’ve lost their next six matches in the Republic. In 2010, they went down to the Vodacom Bulls and twice against the DHL Stormers, including the semi-final.

Last year, The Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls were too strong for them and last weekend, the DHL Stormers beat the Waratahs in Cape Town.

If the Toyota Cheetahs are going to punish the Waratahs on Saturday, they will have to improve from their effort against The Sharks last weekend. Thus far this season the team from Central South Africa have lost two of their three home matches against overseas opposition.

The Toyota Cheetahs have beaten the Waratahs twice before – last year by 23-3 in Sydney and in 2007 in Kimberley (30-26). The New South Welshmen won during their last visit to Bloemfontein though, by 18-10 in 2009.

“We need to focus for 80 minutes – that will be the biggest challenge,” said Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské.

“Against the Sharks we also made mistakes on defence, where we gifted them a number of tries. This week we want to defend well and attack as much as possible for the entire game.”

Toyota Cheetahs v Waratahs
Date: 26 May
SA Time: 17:05
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

The Sharks v DHL Stormers

Durban and Cape Town will come to a standstill on Saturday evening when The Sharks try to reverse a three-match Vodacom Super Rugby losing streak at home at Mr Price Kings Park against the DHL Stormers.

The Capetonians are setting the pace in Vodacom Super Rugby and with the June break approaching and a second difficult away match looming next weekend, against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, they would like to cement their spot at the top of the log.

However, The Sharks have won their last three matches after a rather slow start to the season and are looking dangerous. They have scored 12 tries in these victories and conceded only three.

“At the end of the day, each challenge is different and we have to make sure we remain focused on each week,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

“The Stormers are top of the log, an outstanding side and very clinical in what they do. They have enjoyed a lot of continuity in selection and they’re a very efficient outfit, so we know that we’re going to have to play very well to beat them on the weekend.”

Allister Coetzee, coach of the DHL Stormers, admitted his side were perhaps a bit fortuitous when they beat The Sharks earlier in the season in Cape Town, by 15-12.

“We were a bit lucky to beat the Sharks in the second round at Newlands,” said Coetzee. “No tries were scored and we won by a late penalty from Peter Grant. They have great ball carriers and they will be looking to use them this time around. They had opportunities to win here, but it shows how difficult it is to win away from home.

“They have a quality pack with an entire Bok front row and lots of Boks in their back row as well, so we’re under no illusions about how difficult it will be. But we have prepared well and we are looking forward to the match.”

The Sharks v DHL Stormers
Date: 26 May
SA Time: 19:10
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Saturday, May 26
07:30: Hurricanes v Rebels (Wellington)
09:35: Blues v Highlanders (Auckland)
11:40: Brumbies v Reds (Canberra)