The DHL Stormers will host only their third Vodacom Super Rugby playoff match in the history of the competition when they face the Crusaders at 17:05 in the second semi-final at DHL Newlands on Saturday.
South African conference winners, the DHL Stormers, had a bye during last week’s qualifiers after they finished second on the combined log.
The Crusaders, conference winners in New Zealand and third on the combined log, advanced to the semi-finals after beating The Sharks in a finals series qualifier in Nelson, 36-8.
It will be the Crusaders’ fourth semi-final in South Africa in the last five seasons after they lost to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria in 2007 and 2009, and in Soweto last year. These three defeats make up more than half the playoff matches the Cantabrians have lost since the inception of Vodacom Super Rugby in 1996.
Their record of 17 victories from 22 knock-out matches is very impressive, but the fact that the Crusaders have lost all three semi-finals on South African soil, indicates the massive influence travelling across the Indian Ocean has in these fixtures.
Only four teams have managed to win a Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final or final after having to cross either the Indian Ocean or the Tasman Sea.
The Sharks beat the Reds in Brisbane in 1996, the Crusaders beat the Reds in 1999, a day before the Highlanders beat the DHL Stormers in Cape Town. The Crusaders’ final victory in 2000 over the Brumbies in Canberra is the only time a team managed to lift the trophy in a foreign country.
Saturday’s game will be the second time the DHL Stormers and the Crusaders face each other in a semi-final. The first time was way back in 2004, when the Capetonians had to travel to Christchurch, where they lost by 27-16.
Only one member from that DHL Stormers team is still playing for the franchise – Springbok flank and current captain Schalk Burger.
Four members of the Crusaders side from 2004 are back in Cape Town this week for Saturday’s match. They are flyhalf Dan Carter, who played inside centre and contributed 17 points with the boot that day, hooker Corey Flynn, lock Brad Thorn and flank Richie McCaw.
Looking at these names, it’s clear the Crusaders have heaps of playoff experience. However, the DHL Stormers are not novices when it comes to knock-out rugby, with the bulk of their squad involved in the Vodacom Super 14 semi-final and final last year.
Fourteen members of the DHL Stormers’ match 22 from 2010’s final have featured regularly for the team this season and are available for selection for Saturday’s semi-final. Most of these players were also part of the DHL Western Province side that lost in last year’s Absa Currie Cup final.
They are Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Francois Louw, Burger, Andries Bekker, Anton van Zyl, Brock Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Deon Fourie and Wicus Blaauw.
Most of these players, however, were part of the DHL Stormers team that scored a superb 42-14 victory over the Crusaders last year. In total, the visitors from New Zealand have won four and lost four of their eight matches at DHL Newlands.
In the first semi-final, the Reds, Australian conference winners and first placed team on the combined log, host the Blues from New Zealand in Brisbane at 11:40 (SA time) on Saturday. The team from Auckland progressed to the semi-final after beating the Waratahs at Eden Park in the first qualifier last week (26-13).
Match officials in Cape Town
Referee: Craig Joubert
AR 1: Marius Jonker
AR 2: Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Head to head