DHL Stormers still in hunt for top two spot – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 18 Preview

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After being crowned South African Conference winners last weekend, the DHL Stormers can still qualify in the top two for the Vodacom Super Rugby Finals Series, but they will need a couple of results to go their way.


The Capetonians will finish the regular season with a highly-anticipated derby against the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday evening, by which time they will know if they still have a chance to make it to second position.


The other match featuring South African teams in Round 18 is earlier on Saturday afternoon, when the Vodacom Bulls host the Toyota Cheetahs in Pretoria. The Emirates Lions have a bye this weekend.


After Saturday, four of the South African teams will have concluded their participation in Vodacom Super Rugby for the season, while the DHL Stormers will be getting ready to fly the Republic’s flag in the Finals Series in the coming weeks.


The South African Conference winners are currently third on the overall standings on 45 points, two adrift of the Waratahs and the Brumbies, one of which can still end up in second spot.


For the DHL Stormers to take that coveted spot on the log, behind the Hurricanes, the two Aussie teams have to lose their matches earlier on Saturday, and Allister Coetzee’s team will have to beat the Cell C Sharks.


If either the Waratahs or Brumbies beat the Reds or Crusaders respectively, the match in Durban effectively becomes a dead rubber in terms of final log standings.


Vodacom Bulls v Toyota Cheetahs

Date: Saturday, June 13

SA Time: 17h05

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)

Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)


Team news: 


  • The Vodacom Bulls have made three changes to their starting line-up, all of them in the pack as the backline remains unchanged for this match.


  • Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Adriaan Strauss and Morné Mellett take over at flank (from Lappies Labuschange), lock (from Victor Matfield), hooker (from Callie Visagie) and loosehead prop (from Dean Greyling) respectively.


  • There are three more changes on the bench, where Callie Visagie (hooker), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (lock) and Roelof Smit (flank) have been included.


  • The Toyota Cheetahs will travel to Pretoria with a new-look back trio, with Willie le Roux (fullback) and Clayton Blommetjies (wing) taking over from Coenie van Wyk and Cornal Hendricks respectively. Sergeal Petersen moves from right to left wing.


  • In the pack, Henco Venter (flank) moves up from the bench, replacing Tienie Burger, while Oupa Mohoje (loose forward) is back from injury and will start on the bench.


  • Van Wyk and Mohoje will be joined on the bench by scrumhalf Renier Botha, who replaces Shaun Venter and will make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut if he gets a run.




  • The Toyota Cheetahs will be looking for their first-ever Vodacom Super Rugby victory in Pretoria, and only their second-ever over the Vodacom Bulls.


  • The last two times the Vodacom Bulls hosted the Toyota Cheetahs, they won by six and five points respectively.


  • In fact, the men from Pretoria have beaten the visitors from Central South Africa by more than seven points only three times, the biggest being in 2012, when they won 40-24.


  • After losing their first two home matches of the season, the Vodacom Bulls have won their last five at Loftus Versfeld, while the Toyota Cheetahs have lost five of their last six on the road.




Vodacom Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke: “We would like to finish the tournament with a strong performance. We did not reach all the targets we have set for ourselves as a team, but I am proud of the way we have played at times during the season. Unfortunately our away-form again cost us.”


Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies: “The Cheetahs team will have nothing to lose and will certainly attack from all angles, but we are also very keen to end our season on a high. We are back at Loftus Versfeld for a last time this season and would like to give the supporters something to cheer about. That said, there is no time for emotional goodbyes, as we will have to play for 80 minutes to make sure we get the right result.”


The teams are:


Vodacom Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Travis Ismaiel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (captain), Jacques du Plessis, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Roelof Smit, Tian Schoeman, Bjorn Basson, Jurgen Visser.


Toyota Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Clayton Blommetjies, Francois Venter, Rayno Benjamin, Sergeal Petersen, Niel Marais, Sarel Pretorius, Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner, Maks van Dyk, Torsten van Jaarsveld, BG Uys. Replacements: Elandré Huggett, Danie Mienie, Ewald van der Westhuizen, Steven Sykes, Gerhard Olivier, Oupa Mohoje, Renier Botha, Coenie van Wyk.


Vodacom Bulls v Toyota Cheetahs (since 2006):

Played 14; Vodacom Bulls won 13; Toyota Cheetahs won 1

Vodacom Bulls points scored: 472

Toyota Cheetahs points scored: 300

Vodacom Bulls tries scored: 54

Toyota Cheetahs tries scored: 32

Average score: 34-21 to the Vodacom Bulls


Cell C Sharks v DHL Stormers

Date: Saturday, June 13

SA Time: 19h10

Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)

Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Archie Sehlako

Television match official: Marius Jonker


Team news: 


  • The Cell C Sharks’ backline is unchanged, but there are three changes to the pack and two on the bench.


  • Etienne Oosthuizen moves from flank to lock for this match, taking over from Mouritz Botha, while Springbok flanks Marcell Coetzee and Willem Alberts are back on the sides of the scrum.


  • Khaya Majola (flank), who made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut two weekends ago against the Rebels, moves to the bench for Jean Deysel, where he is joined by Dale Chadwick (prop), who takes over from Matt Stevens.


  • The DHL Stormers have made wholesale changes to their team for this clash in Durban – a total of 14 in the starting team, where the only player from last week to retain his place is No 8 Nizaam Carr, who also takes over the captaincy.


  • There are two starters from last weekend on the bench on Saturday – Siya Kolisi (flank) and Seabelo Senatla (wing), while the entire bench from their draw against the Emirates Lions will start this weekend.


  • Robert du Preez (fullback), Jan de Klerk (lock) and Godlen Masimla (scrumhalf) have never played at Vodacom Super Rugby level before, while Michael Willemse (hooker) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe (flank) will be making their run-on debuts for the DHL Stormers.




  • Since Vodacom Super Rugby expanded in 2011, the DHL Stormers have won two of their four matches in Durban – but in this time the Cell C Sharks have outscored the Capetonians by four tries to three.


  • The Cell C Sharks hold a slight advantage over their Western Cape counterparts at Growthpoint Kings Park, having won six of their 11 clashes there and edging the DHL Stormers 20-19 when looking at the average score.


  • After the first four encounters between the Cell C Sharks and the DHL Stormers in Durban (between 1998 and 2004) delivered four try-scoring bonus points (two each), there has not been one occasion where either team has scored four tries or more in their last seven clashes in KwaZulu-Natal.




Cell C Sharks assistant coach Sean Everitt: “Before we played the Rebels, we had spoken about finishing on a good note and that remains our aim. It doesn’t matter where we are on the log, we want to play with pride because there is a lot of pride in the team and we want to finish on a high for the guys who might be playing last game in Sharks colours.


“We will prepare as normal, whether they bring their full metal jacket or not. Ultimately, we want to play our game and the focus for us is one making sure we do.


“We feel we have improved with each game since our tour opened on a bad note against the Highlanders; there has been regular improvement. We finished our overseas tour by beating the Reds and then we defeated the Rebels who are not an easy outfit. They have beaten big teams, including the Bulls at the weekend.”


DHL Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee: “We have a great opportunity here to give game time to some fringe players and to continue to increase the capacity within our squad. The Sharks are also saying goodbye to three big players, loyal servants, so we’re expecting a brutal clash and (we) know we need to be up for this match – physically and mentally.”


The teams are:


Cell C Sharks: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole, Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Renaldo Bothma, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel (captain), Etienne Oosthuizen, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.Replacements: Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Khaya Majola, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga, Heimar Williams.


DHL Stormers: Robert du Preez, Johnny Kotze, Huw Jones, Jaco Taute, Pat Howard, Kurt Coleman, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr (captain), Michael Rhodes, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ruan Botha, Jean Kleyn, Vincent Koch, Michael Willemse, Oli Kebble. Replacements: Neil Rautenbach, Ali Vermaak, Wilco Louw, Jan de Klerk, Siya Kolisi, Godlen Masimla, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Wyk.


Cell C Sharks v DHL Stormers (since 1998):

Played 23; Cell C Sharks won 11; DHL Stormers won 12

Cell C Sharks points scored: 460

DHL Stormers points scored: 481

Cell C Sharks tries scored: 43

DHL Stormers tries scored: 47

Average score: 21-20 to the DHL Stormers


Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):


Friday, June 12

09h35: Blues v Highlanders – Auckland

11h40: Rebels v Force – Melbourne


Saturday, June 13:

07h30: Brumbies v Crusaders – Canberra

09h35: Chiefs v Hurricanes – New Plymouth

11h40: Waratahs v Reds – Sydney


Bye: Emirates Lions


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