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Vodacom Super Rugby Preview – Round 17

PUBLISHED: July 5, 2012



The race for places in the Finals Series is still wide open as the penultimate round of Vodacom Super Rugby action for 2012 kicks off on Friday morning.

In New Zealand, the Chiefs will top their Conference – that is a fact. In Australia, the defending champion Reds can still catch the Brumbies, coached by former Springbok mentor Jake White, but they will need a few results to go their way.

And here in South Africa the DHL Stormers lead the Vodacom Bulls by four log points as the Capetonians look set to claim the Conference for the second time running.

The Sharks can still make the Top Six but they will have to beat the Vodacom Bulls in Durban on Friday evening, otherwise they will certainly miss out.

The team from Pretoria will need the win to keep the pressure on the DHL Stormers, but can also ensure home ground advantage in the Qualifiers by finishing fourth on the Combined log.

For the DHL Stormers, victory in Bloemfontein over the Toyota Cheetahs should seal the South African Conference, while first place on the log is also still a possibility, but then the Chiefs would have to slip up somewhere.

The Toyota Cheetahs are still chasing their sixth win of the season, which will make 2012 the best in their history, while history will be made in Johannesburg when the MTN Lions and the Rebels clash for the very first time.

The Sharks v Vodacom Bulls

It’s do or die for The Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park on Friday evening when they host the Vodacom Bulls in what promises to be an enthralling Vodacom Super Rugby encounter.

Lose and The Sharks will not make the playoffs. It’s as simple as that really.

The permutations are a little bit better for the Vodacom Bulls, who can still top the South African Conference if they win in Durban, but would need the DHL Stormers to slip up somewhere in their final two matches.

John Plumtree, coach of The Sharks, knows the pressure is on his team to deliver the goods on Friday, even though they will be without injured Springboks Willem Alberts and Pat Lambie, while two other stalwarts of the pack, Steven Sykes and Jacques Botes, are also out with injuries.

“Clearly, when the gun is pointed straight between our eyes, we react better, which is a bit unfortunate,” said Plumtree.

“But this is a home game for us and we’re looking forward to a big crowd to help us out. We have a few worries, but there is plenty of character in this group and we have to dig deep on the weekend and get on top of this Bulls team that is riding pretty high at the moment.

“When we played them early in season, we didn’t look after all of their threats; we didn’t get on top of them and hence they got the win. They put us under pressure and our discipline wasn’t good enough and we weren’t good enough on the day; we need to turn that around.”

Frans Ludeke, whose Vodacom Bulls team come off a comprehensive 40-24 victory over the Toyota Cheetahs, relishes the challenge of travelling to the Shark Tank for such a big game.

“I would like to believe that our team thrive on challenges and the bigger they are, the better we respond,” said Ludeke.

“This is why the guys put in the hours and hours of hard work after all. They want to be out there when the challenge is at its biggest and toughest. We prepared well and everyone is very keen to do well. We still have our destiny in our own hands and want to keep it like that.”

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies knows it will be very tough in Durban against a Sharks side that has a lot riding on the result of this match.

“There are numerous game breakers in their side and they do play in front of passionate supporters,” said Spies.

“We have been able to achieve important results there in the past though and the feeling in the camp is that we can do it again. We cannot repeat what happened in the last 20 minutes against the Cheetahs. To beat the Sharks in Durban you not only need 80 minutes of effort, but a special 80 minutes to that.”

Head to head (since 1998)

The Sharks   Vodacom Bulls
7 Won 9
9 Lost 7
1 Drawn 1
359 Points for 317
317 Points against 359
38 Tries scored 26
26 Tries conceded 38

The Sharks v Vodacom Bulls

Date: 6 July

SA Time: 19:10

Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Toyota Cheetahs v DHL Stormers

By the time the DHL Stormers take to the field against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, they will know exactly where they stand in terms of the South African Conference.

The Toyota Cheetahs won’t need any outside motivation for this encounter at the Free State Stadium though – they can make 2012 their best season yet against a team they seem to enjoy playing against.

In fact, the Toyota Cheetahs hold the distinction of being the only team in the last three seasons of Vodacom Super Rugby to have scored four tries in one match against the DHL Stormers. That happened last year in Bloem and even though the home team still lost, it’s no mean feat against the best defensive side in the competition.

Naka Drotske, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, made a few changes to his side, mostly because he wanted to give some players opportunities while others have not played too well against the Vodacom Bulls last weekend.

Drotske said they know the DHL Stormers will travel to Bloem with the top spot on the South African Conference in mind, but they would also like to finish their season off on a high note in their final home game of 2012.

“Playing in Bloemfontein is always a bit easier for us,” said Drotske.

“We will always have respect for their defence, but last year we were the only team in the competition to get four tries against them, so we will again try and penetrate their line and score some tries.

“They are a very good side, but we can beat any team in Bloemfontein if we play well. We disappointed ourselves against the Bulls and would like to compensate for that defeat.”

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is weary of the Toyota Cheetahs’ ability to disturb his team’s structure.

“They are a very good side and the opposition must be accurate otherwise they’ll disturb your cohesion. We have to make sure that we give them nothing, and if we can do that, they won’t be in the game,” Coetzee said.

 

Head to head (since 2006)

Toyota Cheetahs   DHL Stormers
2 Won 6
6 Lost 2
0 Drawn 0
173 Points for 198
198 Points against 173
17 Tries scored 18
18 Tries conceded 17

Toyota Cheetahs v DHL Stormers

Date: 7 July

SA Time: 15:00

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa),

Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

MTN Lions v Rebels

History will be made in more ways than one when the MTN Lions host the Rebels at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

It will be the very first time ever these two sides face off in Vodacom Super Rugby after the Rebels, from Melbourne, joined the competition last year.

Because of the way the season is structured, the 15 teams in Vodacom Super Rugby only plays 13 league fixtures, missing out on one team (never from their own Conference though). Last year the MTN Lions and the Rebels “missed” each other and now they will finally complete the circle whereby each and every team in the competition has played each other at least once.

Nothing more than pride will be at stake at Coca-Cola Park. The MTN Lions have had an unhappy season on numerous fronts and would like nothing more than to add another victory to their W column on the log.

The Rebels have not fared much better, but a win in Joburg could ensure they don’t finish bottom of the Australian Conference.

History will also be made with the whistle on Saturday as Francisco Pastrana of Argentina will become the first “foreign referee” to referee a match in Vodacom Super Rugby, according to www.sareferees.co.za. Thus far, all other referee appointments have been made from officials from the three Sanzar countries.

MTN Lions v Rebels

Date: 7 July

SA Time: 17:05

Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)

Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, July 6

09:35: Chiefs v Crusaders (Hamilton)

11:40: Reds v Highlanders (Brisbane)

Saturday, July 7

09:35: Blues v Force (Auckland)

11:40: Waratahs v Brumbies (Sydney)

Bye: Hurricanes