Vodacom Bulls, Cell C Sharks looking for tour redemption – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 14 Preview

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The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks will be going all-out to change their recent fortunes in Australasia in this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action.


Back home, the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs will be facing opposition from Down Under in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein respectively.


The Vodacom Bulls kick off their tour of Australia and New Zealand against the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning. The men from Pretoria have lost their last seven matches Down Under, their last victory incidentally coming against the three-time champions at Eden Park.


The Cell C Sharks will be looking to snap a five-match losing streak when they take on the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, a daunting prospect when one considers the Durbanites have not won in New South Wales in 15 years.


On Saturday afternoon, the Emirates Lions host the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The last two encounters between these sides – in 2011 and 2012 – were won by the visiting team.


The final match of the weekend is Saturday evening at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein between the Toyota Cheetahs and the dangerous Highlanders. The men from Central South Africa will be looking for their first home win ever over the Otago-based.


The DHL Stormers have a bye this weekend.


Blues v Vodacom Bulls

Date: Friday, May 15

SA Time: 09h35

Venue: Eden Park, Auckland

Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Aki Aso (Japan)

Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)


Team news: 


  • Regular Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies is back at No 8 and takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield. As a result, Arno Botha moves to flank and Jacques du Plessis to the bench.


  • The only change in the backline is at scrumhalf, where Rudy Paige replaces the injured Piet van Zyl.


  • There are four changes on the bench. Joining Du Plessis are Jacques-Louis Potgieter (for Tian Schoeman), Travis Ismaiel (for Jurgen Visser), Dean Greyling (for Morné Mellett) and Werner Kruger (for Andrew Beerwinkel), who has not played since the opening round due to injury.




  • The Vodacom Bulls have lost their last seven matches Down Under. Their last win in Australasia was in the opening match of their 2013 tour, against the Blues in Auckland.


  • This is the side from Pretoria’s worst losing run abroad since the start of the franchise-system in South Africa, when they lost their first 20 matches Down Under (1998-2002).


  • After that losing run in the early years, the Vodacom Bulls have gone on to win 15 and drawn one of their next 37 matches abroad (2003-2014).




Vodacom Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke: “At this stage of the competition you need to be playing your best rugby and have great momentum. We are pretty close to that and we cannot afford to slip up if we want to stay in the play-off race. That said, we are playing a very dangerous team so will have to execute very well.”


Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies: “The Blues have strike runners and counter-attacking players all over the team and we will have to make sure we control possession and territory if we want to start the tour on a winning note. We have won here before though, so everyone is keen to keep on the winning track.”


The teams are:


Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Ben Lam, Francis Saili, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jamison Gibson-Park, Steven Luatua (captain), Brendon O’Connor, Akira Ioane, Culum Retallick, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Sam Prattley, Will Lloyd, Blake Gibson, Jimmy Cowan/Jamie Booth, Simon Hickey, Matt Vaega.


Vodacom Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handre Pollard, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne, Victor Matfield, Flip van de Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann, Burger Odendaal, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Travis Ismaiel.


Blues v Vodacom Bulls (since 1998):

Played 16; Vodacom Bulls won 7; lost 9

Vodacom Bulls points scored: 436

Blues points scored: 535

Vodacom Bulls tries scored: 50

Blues tries scored: 61

Average score: 33-27 to the Blues


Waratahs v Cell C Sharks

Date: Saturday, May 16

SA Time: 11h40

Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)

Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)

Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)


Team news: 


  • The Cell C Sharks have named an unchanged match-23 for this weekend’s encounter – the first time they’ve managed to field the same team for back-to-back matches this season.


  • The last time the Cell C Sharks selected an unchanged match-23 for two consecutive matches was last year in rounds one and two, against the Vodacom Bulls and Hurricanes.


  • The Waratahs’ SA-born loose forward, Jacques Potgieter, who will join the Cell C Sharks next season, is injured and will miss this match against his future team-mates.




  • The Waratahs have a 75% win record at home against all visiting teams from South Africa (dating back to 1996).


  • Since 1998 the Cell C Sharks have won only one of their nine matches in Sydney – in 2000. They’ve since lost seven on the trot away to New South Wales, five of them by 15 points or more but the last two by only four points each.


  • The last time the Cell C Sharks lost their first three matches on tour was in 2013, but they finished on a high when they beat the Force in Perth in their final tour match that season.


  • This also happened in 2010, but then the men from Durban finished with wins over the Hurricanes and Highlanders in New Zealand (during a five-match tour).


  • The Cell C Sharks have only twice returned to Durban from an overseas tour where they’ve lost all of their matches – in 2002 and 2005.




Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold: “They’re a very physical team, probably the most physical Australian team. We saw what the Force did to them on the weekend by matching them from a physical point of view, so that’s the challenge for us.


“With the likes of Beale, Folau and Ashley-Cooper, they have some fantastic play-makers in their backline and a big strong pack. They move the ball well so we’re really going to have to get our defensive shape right.”


The teams are:


Waratahs: Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Stephen Hoiles, David Dennis (captain), Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Benn Robinson. Replacements (three to be omitted): Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Jed Holloway, Jack Dempsey, Tala Gray, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Matt Carraro, Peter Betham.


Cell C Sharks: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, S’bura Sithole, Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Renaldo Bothma, Etienne Oosthuizen, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel (captain), Stephan Lewies, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements:Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Mouritz Botha, Kyle Cooper, Conrad Hoffmann, Andre Esterhuizen, Waylon Murray.


Waratahs v Cell C Sharks (since 1998):

Played 17; Cell C Sharks won 5; lost 11; drawn 1

Cell C Sharks points scored: 352

Waratahs points scored: 474

Cell C Sharks tries scored: 33

Waratahs tries scored: 56

Average score: 28-21 to the Waratahs


Emirates Lions v Brumbies

Date: Saturday, May 16

SA Time: 17h05

Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Stephan Geldenhuys (South Africa)

Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)


Team news: 


  • The Emirates Lions have swapped their halfbacks around again, with Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies starting this weekend. Ross Cronje is on the bench.


  • Lionel Mapoe is back from injury and will start at right wing, resulting in Ruan Combrinck moving over to the left wing.


  • Upfront, Robert Kruger and Martin Muller will start at flank and lock respectively, with Warwick Tecklenburg moving to the bench.


  • Jaco van der Walt and MB Lusaseni are on the bench, while Marnitz Boshoff, Courtnall Skosan and Andries Ferreira have been left out of the match-23.




  • This will the first match between these two sides in more than three years. The Brumbies won the last encounter, on 27 April 2012 in Johannesburg, by 34-20.


  • The Brumbies scored six tries that day, the most they’ve ever scored against the Emirates Lions. In fact, it was the first and only time they’ve picked up a try-scoring bonus point against the team from Joburg.


  • In their seven matches to date, the Emirates Lions have also managed to get a try-scoring bonus point only once – when they beat the Brumbies by 29-20 in Canberra in 2011.


  • The last two meetings between these sides, which took place in 2011 and 2012, were won by the away side on the day.




Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann: “We have to be patient on defence and must be up for it defensively, as the Australian sides like to keep the ball through the phases. Both the Australian and New Zealand sides are physical, but where the teams from New Zealand like to spread it around, the Aussies tend to hold onto the ball a lot more. Our own ball retention is also going to be key and we have to eliminate soft moments, like we had in the first half against the Highlanders.”


The teams are:


Emirates Lions: Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Alwyn Hollenbach, Ruan Combrinck, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Robert Kruger, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, MB Lusaseni, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje, Jaco van der Walt, Howard Mnisi.


Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Christian Lealiifano, Nic White, Ita Vaea, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (captain), Allan Alaalatoa. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, Jarrad Butler, Michael Dowsett, James Dargaville, Robbie Coleman / Nigel Ah Wong.


Emirates Lions v Brumbies (since 2006):

Played 7; Emirates Lions won 2, lost 5

Emirates Lions points scored: 124

Brumbies points scored: 165

Emirates Lions tries scored: 14

Brumbies tries scored: 20

Average score: 25-18 to the Brumbies


Toyota Cheetahs v Highlanders

Date: Saturday, May 16

SA Time: 17h05

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lesego Legoete (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)


Team news: 


  • The Toyota Cheetahs’ starting XV shows three changes from their previous match – new halfbacks in Francois Brummer and Tian Meyer (replacing the injured Joe Pietersen and Sarel Pretorius).


  • Danie Mienie is back at loosehead prop for Caylib Oosthuizen.


  • The Toyota Cheetahs’ bench shows four changes – BG Uys, Shaun Venter, Coenie van Wyk and Raymond Rhule, back from injury, are the new faces there.




  • The Highlanders boast the best record in South Africa against the Toyota Cheetahs when compared to their Kiwi compatriots – they’ve won all four their matches in Bloemfontein.


  • The other four New Zealand sides’ winning records in Central South Africa are as follows: Chiefs (50% or two from four with two draws), Hurricanes (60% or three from five), Crusaders (50% or two from four) and Blues (40% or two from five).


  • The Highlanders have lost their last three encounters in South Africa, but all these defeats have been by margins less than seven.




Toyota Cheetahs head coach Naka Drotské: “The big challenge for us this week will be to play with the same intensity as two weeks ago (against the Stormers).


“We know that this match, like any encounter against physical New Zealand teams with their big backs, will be a big challenge for our backline. They have a couple of danger men at the back, and from turn-over possession they are probably the best in the competition.


“Bad kicks will be punished so we have really worked hard at our tactical kicking and our chase lines, so hopefully we will be ready for them on Saturday.”


Toyota Cheetahs captain Francois Uys: “We need to put pressure on their set piece, like the Lions did in the second half last weekend, and starve them of possession. Scrums has been a big focus for us and we’ve worked hard on it, so hopefully it will come off this weekend.”


The teams are:


Toyota Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Ryno Benjamin, Francois Venter, Michael van der Spuy, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Brummer, Tian Meyer, Willie Britz, Boom Prinsloo, Tienie Burger, Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner, Maks van Dyk, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Mienie. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, BG Uys, Ewald van der Westhuizen, Steven Sykes, Carel Greeff, Shaun Venter, Coenie van Wyk, Raymond Rhule.


Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Ryan Tongia, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu (co-captain), John Hardie, Gareth Evans, Mark Reddish, Alex Ainley, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ross Geldenhuys, Tom Franklin, Elliot Dixon, Dan Pryor, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks.


Toyota Cheetahs v Highlanders (since 2006):

Played 8; Toyota Cheetahs won 1; lost 7

Toyota Cheetahs points scored: 179

Highlanders points scored: 211

Toyota Cheetahs tries scored: 18

Highlanders tries scored: 24

Average score: 26-22 to the Highlanders


Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):


Friday, May 15: 

11h40: Reds v Rebels – Brisbane


Saturday, May 16:

09h35: Hurricanes v Chiefs – Wellington


Byes: DHL Stormers, Crusaders, Force

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