South Africa’s two unbeaten Vodacom Super Rugby sides, the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs, face tough home encounters this weekend.
From a local perspective, the fourth round of action kicks off in Albany though when the Emirates Lions take on the Blues at QBE Stadium – the first South African team to travel Down Under.
Later on Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs will be looking for their second ever win over the Vodacom Bulls when they host the Pretorians at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
The final match of the weekend is at DHL Newlands, where Cell C Sharks No 8 Ryan Kankowski will become the latest South African to reach 100 Vodacom Super Rugby caps, against the DHL Stormers.
“Kanki” made his debut for the Cell C Sharks in the first round in 2007, when they beat the Vodacom Bulls in Durban.
The 29-year-old flyer joins a long list of South African players and is the seventh loose forward to reach this milestone, following in the footsteps of AJ Venter, Jacques Botes, Pedrie Wannenburg, Pierre Spies, Keegan Daniel and most recently Duane Vermeulen to play 100 matches at this level.
The full list of South African Vodacom Super Rugby centurions (active players in bold):
141: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 133)
135: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 109)
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10), John Smit (Sharks)
123: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
122: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
118: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 57)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
115: Jacques Botes (Sharks), Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 105)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls), JP Pietersen (Sharks)
110: Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
109: Werner Kruger (Bulls)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 47), Akona Ndungane (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Bulls 11, Cheetahs 97)
106: Pierre Spies (Bulls)
105: Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
104: Andries Bekker (Stormers), Jano Vermaak (Cats 11, Lions 62, Bulls 31), Peter Grant (Stormers)
103: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Willem Alberts (Lions 37, Sharks 66)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
101: Duane Vermeulen (Cheetahs 20, Stormers 81)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls)
99: Ryan Kankowski (Sharks)
Blues v Emirates Lions
Date: Saturday 7 March
SA Time: 08h35
Venue: QBE Stadium, Albany
Referee: Matt O’Brien (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glen Newman (New Zealand)
- Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) and Corné Fourie (prop) will start this weekend after getting game time from the bench in round three for the Emirates Lions.
- Jacques van Rooyen comes in as prop replacement on the bench, with Schalk van der Merwe dropping out of the visitors’ 23-man squad altogether.
- Blues hooker Keven Mealamu is set to become Vodacom Super Rugby’s most-capped player of all time when he makes his 163rd appearance, overtaking Nathan Sharpe of Australia.
- In the past, the score in this fixture has always been very high – the average aggregate score is more than 57 points, with three of the last four clashes between the two yielding 70 points or more.
- Last year’s victory in Johannesburg was the Emirates Lions’ second ever over the Blues – they also beat the team from Auckland in 2006.
- Only once in eight matches has the Blues not scored four tries or more – that was in 2012 when they won 25-3.
Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann: “You have to assume that the Blues will lay the foundation for most of the possession and territory, so we’ll have to be on the lookout for opportunities to counter-attack.
“Obviously we’d like to keep employing our attacking game plan, but we also have to be realistic. Visiting teams seldom dominate the play in New Zealand. We expect a very attacking Blues team. But that could create opportunities for mistakes and if that happens, then we have to cash in.”
The teams are:
Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jimmy Cowan, Jerome Kaino (captain), Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Replacements: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta’avao, Hayden Triggs, Brendon O’Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Simon Hickey, Hamish Northcott.
Emirates Lions: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Sampie Mastriet, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Martin Muller, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Corné Fourie. Replacements:Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, Robert Kruger, Derick Minnie, Faf de Klerk, Jaco van der Walt, Howard Mnisi.
Blues v Emirates Lions (since 2006):
Played 8; Emirates Lions Won 2; Blues won 6
Points scored: 158
Points conceded: 323
Tries scored: 18
Tries conceded: 44
Average score: 20-40 to the Blues
Toyota Cheetahs v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 7 March
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
- Boom Prinsloo moves from the bench and will start at flank, with Jean Cook moving to No 8 for the Toyota Cheetahs with Willie Britz out injured.
- Steven Sykes, who has played 84 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the Cell C Sharks and Southern Kings between 2007 and 2013, can make his Toyota Cheetahs debut off the bench on Saturday.
- The Vodacom Bulls starting XV is unchanged from last weekend. The only change is on the bench, with Piet van Zyl coming in for Travis Ismaiel.
- The Toyota Cheetahs broke a nine year losing drought in the corresponding fixture last year when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 15-9.
- Last year’s encounter in Bloemfontein was the first try-less match ever between these two sides.
- The Vodacom Bulls’ average score of 33 points against the Toyota Cheetahs is the highest by any South African team against the side from Bloemfontein (Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers are on 24, Emirates Lions are on 23).
- The Vodacom Bulls have scored four or more tries on four out of their seven visits to Bloemfontein, while the Toyota Cheetahs have never recorded a try-scoring bonus-point at home against the team from Pretoria.
Naka Drotské, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs: “The Bulls have a quality side. They have a couple of Springboks in their team and they’ve been unlucky in one or two games at Loftus. We’ve always expected that they will bounce back and it will be tough.
“When you play against the Bulls you have to match their physicality if you want to beat them. It’s not going to be easy, but we have a lot of confidence coming off two wins and it is a South African derby so it will always be tough. The players are playing for places in the World Cup squad so we expect it to be a very tough game.”
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke: “We finally found the momentum we were looking for in the opening rounds of the competition against the Sharks and managed four tries. We will need the confidence and rhythm picked up on the weekend against the Cheetahs. They are one of the early front runners and will be full of self-belief.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies: “We did front up last weekend and for the first time this season, managed to finish when we created try-scoring opportunities. Training was much easier this week as the belief came back. We had a good week and are again looking for a good result. It will not be easy. They won in Bloem last year, something we need to change.”
The teams are:
Toyota Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Venter, Michael van der Spuy, Raymond Rhule, Joe Pietersen, Sarel Pretorius, Jean Cook, Oupa Mohoje, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner, Coenie Oosthuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Mienie. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, BG Uys, Maks van Dyk, Tienie Burger, Steven Sykes, Tian Meyer, Willie du Plessis, Johann Sadie.
Vodacom Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (captain), Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Jacques du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Marcel van der Merwe, Grant Hattingh, Hanro Liebenberg, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser.
Toyota Cheetahs v Vodacom Bulls (since 2006):
Played 13; Toyota Cheetahs won 1; Vodacom Bulls won 12
Toyota Cheetahs points scored: 280
Vodacom Bulls points scored: 433
Toyota Cheetahs tries scored: 30
Vodacom Bulls tries scored: 51
Average score: 22-33 to the Vodacom Bulls
DHL Stormers v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday 7 March
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
- The DHL Stormers backline and their replacements are unchanged, but there are a number of changes amongst the forwards.
- Siya Kolisi comes in for the injured Michael Rhodes at flank and Scarra Ntubeni takes over at hooker from Bongi Mbonambi.
- The home team will also play with a new lock pairing in Eben Etzebeth and Manuel Carizza, in for the injured Jurie van Vuuren and Ruan Botha. It will be Etzebeth’s first Vodacom Super Rugby match since the last round in 2013.
- Jean Kleyn is the lock replacement and will be joined on the bench by Schalk Burger, back from club duty in Japan, as well as Neil Rautenbach (hooker) and Alistair Vermaak (prop).
- Three Springboks, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn (both back from club duty in Japan) and Willem Alberts (back from injury), will start for the Cell C Sharks.
- The KwaZulu-Natalians will start with two new props in Matt Stevens and Thomas du Toit.
- André Esterhuizen, Renaldo Bothma and Dale Chadwick shift to the bench, while Heimar Williams is out of the match-23.
- Jean Deysel has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks with an ankle injury.
- Cell C Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie is the top points’ scorer thus far in 2015, with 58 points in three matches. He has been successful with 20 from his 24 kicks at goal.
- The Cell C Sharks have averaged more points scored (31) and conceded (30) per match than any other side this year.
- The DHL Stormers have lost two of their last three home matches against the Cell C Sharks – last year by 34-10 and the semi-final in 2012 by 26-19.
- Try-scoring bonus-points are few and far between when these sides clash in Cape Town – the DHL Stormers have done it three times in 11 matches, and the Cell C Sharks only once.
Allister Coetzee, DHL Stormers coach: “For us, it’s all about improving on last week’s performance against the Lions, as we were unhappy with a lot of things that came out of the match.
“We’re expecting a ferocious onslaught from a powerful and experienced Sharks team, who were unlucky to lose away last weekend. We’re certainly not reading anything into that defeat to the Bulls, in fact, we know that will only make the Sharks more dangerous.”
Gary Gold, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby: “We are in a fortunate position that we have experienced Springbok players that have either recovered from injury or have returned from Japan. We are excited to have them back and involved in our matchday squad. We also have commitments to SA Rugby to rest selected players.
“The Stormers are the in-form team in South Africa at present and we playing them in front of their passionate home crowd. We are under no illusions about how tough the challenge is going to be. This probably is going to be a tougher battle than last week. Our squad has had a good training week and are determined to get our campaign back on a winning track.”
The teams are:
DHL Stormers: Cheslin Kolbe, Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Dillyn Leyds, Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Manuel Carizza, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Neil Rautenbach, Alistair Vermaak, Frans Malherbe, Jean Kleyn, Schalk Burger, Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman, Huw Jones.
Cell C Sharks: SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Matt Stevens, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Marco Wentzel, Renaldo Bothma, Conrad Hoffmann, André Esterhuizen, Jack Wilson.
DHL Stormers v Cell C Sharks (since 1998):
Played 22; DHL Stormers won 11; Cell C Sharks won 11
DHL Stormers points scored: 452
Cell C Sharks points scored: 447
DHL Stormers tries scored: 45
Cell C Sharks tries scored: 42
Average score: 21-20 to the DHL Stormers
Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 6 March:
08h35: Chiefs v Highlanders – Hamilton
10h40: Brumbies v Force – Canberra
Saturday, 7 March:
10h40: Reds v Waratahs – Brisbane
Bye: Crusaders, Hurricanes, Rebels