SupeRugby Preview – All SA teams in action

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All five of South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby franchises will be in action on Saturday, with the North-South derby in Pretoria the cherry on top when the Vodacom Bulls and the DHL Stormers clash at Loftus Versfeld.

The local action starts on Saturday morning at 9h35 with the Lions’ second tour match in New Zealand, against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Looking back at history, the team based in Johannesburg have reason to be optimistic, but they will have to front up in the deep south of Kiwi-land.

In the second match on Saturday, former Brumbies coach Jake White returns to Canberra where his Cell C Sharks take on the team from the Australian Capital Territories. These two sides occupy the top two positions on the log and it promises to be a high-intensity humdinger.

In Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské will become only the second South African coach to reach 100 matches in charge at Vodacom Super Rugby level when his team takes on the Force.

The Vodacom Bulls’ Frans Ludeke is the most experienced South African Vodacom Super Rugby coach with 127 matches at the helm at this level (104 for the Bulls and 23 for the Cats), but current Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie tops the list with 131 matches as coach (66 at the Waratahs and 65 at the Reds).

The other coaches who have been in charge for more than 100 Vodacom Super Rugby matches are Robbie Deans (120 with the Crusaders), Ian Foster (106 with the Chiefs), John Mitchell (105 with the Chiefs, Force and Lions) and Colin Cooper (104 with the Hurricanes).

Highlanders v Lions

The Lions return to the venue of their only Vodacom Super Rugby victory in New Zealand since the split of the Cats franchise after the 2005 season.

Their victory on 28 May 2011 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, by 26-22 thanks to a 79th minute converted try by former captain Wikus van Heerden, is the Lions’ only win in New Zealand in 18 attempts since 2006.

Elton Jantjies, who kicked that last-minute conversion three years ago, is one of three Lions who will play in Dunedin this weekend. Current captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley and his loose forward partner Derick Minnie will start on Saturday, with Jantjies on the bench.

Three years ago, the Lions defended very well against the Highlanders, only conceding one try in the process. If they want to win on Saturday, they will have to repeat that feat, but it will be tough against a team who recently scored eight tries in their two tour matches in South Africa.

Whiteley, who is one of only eight players to make more than 100 tackles this season, will have to lead the Lions’ defensive charge this weekend. Of the eight with more than 100 tackles in 2014, the Lions captain has the best success rate, having missed only two of the 116 tackles he’s attempted (98%) thus far.

Victory in Dunedin though isn’t as difficult as it used to be. From 1996 to 2005, South African teams only won two and drew one of their 20 matches against the Highlanders in New Zealand.

But since then, the Highlanders have lost eight out of their 19 home matches against SA teams, with all five SA teams tasting success in the deep south of the South Island.

The teams are:

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Phil Burleigh, Jason Emery, Hayden Parker, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu (co-captain), Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Josh Bekhuis, Joe Wheeler, Ma’afu Fia, Ged Robinson, Chris King. Replacements: Liam Coltman, Matias Diaz, Kane Hames, Tom Franklin, TJ Ioane, Fumiaki Tanaka, Trent Renata, Gareth Evans.

Lions: Chrysander Botha, Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe, Stefan Watermeyer, Anthony Volmink, Marnitz Boshoff, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Martin Muller, MB Lusaseni, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Rudi Mathee, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, JW Jonker.

Highlanders v Lions
Date: Saturday, 10 May
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Brumbies v Cell C Sharks

The top two teams on the log clash in Canberra when the Brumbies host the Cell C Sharks at GIO Stadium on Saturday morning.

It’s probably the most challenging assignment of the KwaZulu-Natalians’ season yet as they take on the 2013 runners-up at the toughest venue in Australia.

Historically, the Brumbies have won 86% of their home matches against teams from South Africa, with the Cell C Sharks the last team from the Republic to win in the Australian capital. That was in 2013, while the Kings managed an upset-draw in Canberra last year.

The Reds and Waratahs are both on 76.2% home success against South African teams, followed by the Force (47.4%) and Rebels (25%).

Over all the years of Vodacom Super Rugby, the Brumbies have lost only five times at home to teams from South Africa – and the Cell C Sharks will take heart from the fact that they’ve done it twice.

For Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, Jake White, this week has been somewhat of a homecoming – he was in charge of the Brumbies in the last two seasons.

“This match is about first playing second on the log and it is obviously a massive game,” said White, who realises that it’s always difficult for visiting sides in Canberra.

“The nice thing is that a lot of our players were here two years ago when they came to Canberra, so they’ve experienced the feeling of winning there already. We’re looking forward to seeing whether or not we can replicate what happened two years ago.

“We just have to keep playing well and keep winning. We control our own destiny which is the great thing when you’re in a sporting arena. You never want to have to rely on other results to determine your fortunes. If we keep winning, we can control the way the tournament will end up.”

Former Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman has been named on the Brumbies’ bench.

The teams are:

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), Jarrad Butler, Fotu Auelua, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, Ruan Smith, Ruaudhri Murphy, Jordan Smiler, Tom McVerry, Conrad Hoffman, Andrew Smith, Pat McCabe.

Cell C Sharks: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, S’bura Sithole, Paul Jordaan, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel, Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Etienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Charl McLeod, Heimar Williams, SP Marais.

Brumbies v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday, 10 May
SA Time: 11h40
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)

Toyota Cheetahs v Force

The Toyota Cheetahs will be looking to build on their longest Vodacom Super Rugby winning streak, which stretches back to 2009, when they host the Force in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

The last time the Western Australians have beaten the Toyota Cheetahs, was on 20 February 2009. Since then, the team from Central South Africa have won three on the trot – two of them in Bloemfontein and once in Perth.

Their next best winning streak is against the Waratahs, whom they last lost to in 2010. But the Force team of 2014 is a different proposition as they are having one of their best-ever seasons.

The history between the Toyota Cheetahs and the Force is very even over the years. After winning the first four matches between these teams, the Force have lost the next three. And the points’ difference since 2006 is a mere nine points for an average score of 19-17 to the visitors from Perth.

The Force will also be looking for their first win on South African soil since March 2011, when they beat the Lions at Ellis Park.

“We will be looking to get that win, but we realise we have a lot to work and improve on,” said Toyota Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss this week.

“We need to see an improvement in our play this weekend. Our focus will be on our own game and hopefully the result will come because of that.

“But we know we have to play very well tactically against the Force. They have a good kicking game and we need to be right up there on defence and work very hard.”

Two former Toyota Cheetahs, flyhalf Sias Ebersohn and replacement lock Wilhelm Steenkamp, have been named in the Force’s match-23 for Saturday, where they will be joined by two other South Africans in Marcel Brache and Brynard Stander, while Dane Haylett-Petty was born in Durban.

Furthermore, the Force’s assistant coach David Wessels and their backline coach Kevin Foote are both South African.

The teams are:

Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Raymond Rhule / Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin, Willie le Roux, Johan Goosen, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo, Teboho Mohoje, Heinrich Brussow, Francois Uys, Andries Ferreira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Trevor Nyakane, Maks van Dyk, Carel Greeff, Waltie Vermeulen, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts, Cornal Hendricks / Howard Mnisi.

Force: Jayden Hayward, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marcel Brache, Kyle Godwin, Nick Cummins, Sias Ebersohn, Ian Prior, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson (captain), Angus Cottrell, Sam Wykes, Adam Coleman, Kieran Longbottom, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan. Replacements: Heath Tessmann, Tetera Faulkner, Ollie Hoskins, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Brynard Stander, Justin Turner, Zack Holmes, Chris Tuatara-Morrison.

Toyota Cheetahs v Force
Date: Saturday, 10 May
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls v DHL Stormers

It’s North v South at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening when the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers clash for the first time this season.

The team from the Cape hold the historical advantage over their counterparts from Pretoria, mainly thanks to a couple of very good seasons for the DHL Stormers lately. But they have not been at their best this year and the Vodacom Bulls will be looking to keep winning as they still have their eye on a place in the playoffs.

This is a replay of the 2010 final, which took place at Orlando Stadium in Soweto because of Football World Cup preparations at Loftus Versfeld.

The two captains on that day almost four years ago, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger, will run in front again on Saturday. Because of retirement, injury and illness, both these Springbok stalwarts missed most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but they have been very good lately.

Matfield said his team will have to remain composed and stick to their structures on Saturday evening.

“The Stormers have shown some decent form in the last couple of weeks and are playing without fear, which makes them dangerous opponents,” said Matfield.

“As is the norm with local derbies, it will be a physical affair and the challenge for us will be to remain calm and not get sucked into the match they want us to play.”

The DHL Stormers will rock up to Pretoria with a very young team after being decimated by injuries to numerous key players, including regular captain Jean de Villiers, which is why Burger has taken over the captaincy.

“Yes, this is a young team,” agreed DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, “but we have faith in the squad selected and every player has a chance to make an impact at one of the toughest venues in world rugby, Loftus Versfeld.

“We’ve been unlucky with injuries this week – you can’t prevent concussion or broken noses and the like, but, at the same time it’s an exciting moment for the likes of Jean Kleyn, Alistair Vermaak and Dylon Frylinck – all of whom will be on debut.”

The teams are:

Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handré Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Victor Matfield, Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellett, Werner Kruger, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Rudy Paige, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William Small-Smith.

DHL Stormers: Jaco Taute, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Peter Grant, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (captain), Nizaam Carr, Ruan Botha, Jean Kleyn, Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Alistair Vermaak, Martin Dreyer, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie, Dylon Frylinck, Michael van der Spuy, Devon Williams.

Vodacom Bulls v DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 10 May
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Other fixtures (South African kick-off times):

Friday, 9 May:
09h35: Chiefs v Blues – New Plymouth
11h40: Rebels v Hurricanes – Melbourne

Sunday, 11 May:
08h05: Reds v Crusaders – Brisbane

Bye: Waratahs

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