Vodacom Super Rugby Preview – Round 2

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Photo by Anton Geyser /Rugby15

Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn is on the brink of something big when the second round of Vodacom Super Rugby for 2012 takes place this weekend.

 The Toyota Cheetahs (at home to the Vodacom Bulls) and The Sharks (away to the DHL Stormers) will be looking for their first wins of the season on Saturday, and on Friday night the MTN Lions host the Hurricanes.

MTN Lions vs Hurricanes

The MTN Lions, since the splitting from Cheetahs after the 2005-season, have never managed to win back-to-back opening games of the season. John Mitchell’s team will be aiming to set this record straight when they play the Hurricanes at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday evening.

While the Cats – made up of the Lions and the Cheetahs from 1998 to 2005 – managed this feat in 2000 (they beat the Bulls and Stormers in the opening rounds) and 2001 (against the Stormers and Highlanders), the MTN Lions have twice started the seasons with victories only to lose in round two.

That happened in 2008 (23-22 teen Cheetahs) and 2009 (34-28 vs Cheetahs), but gone on to lose their next match (10-55 to Blues in 2008 and 10-25 to Sharks in 2009).

Many would think that the Hurricanes provide a good opportunity for the MTN Lions to get two in a row, but Josh Strauss, who captains the team from Johannesburg this year, realises it will not be an easy game. They’ve not beaten the Wellingtonians since 2007.

“They started off slow (against the DHL Stormers), but once they got going, they showed they are a very dangerous side. I think a lot of teams struggled in the first week but like any team, they learn from their mistakes and we expect them to come hard at us this weekend. They ended well, so we have a tough game on our hands,” said Strauss.

MTN Lions coach John Mitchell said: “The Hurricanes will have huge desire though and it is important that we outwill that desire. They weren’t far away in that contest against the Stormers and they will take a lot of heart out that performance. It will be a good contest because both teams will be extremely hungry.”

Head to head (since 2006)

MTN Lions

 

Hurricanes

1

Won

5

5

Lost

1

0

Drawn

0

135

Points for

346

183

Points against

183

14

Tries scored

23

23

Tries conceded

14

 

MTN Lions vs Hurricanes

Date: Friday, 2 March 2012

SA time: 19:10

Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Vodacom Bulls

Vodacom Bulls and Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn can become the first South African – and only the third overall – to reach 1,000 Vodacom Super Rugby points when his side takes on the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend.

Steyn, who also tops the lists for most dropped goals (22) in Vodacom Super Rugby, surpassed former Crusaders flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens (990 points in 87 games) on the list of all time points’ scorers when he moved into third position from 973 to 991 points.

Still ahead of Steyn are Dan Carter (1,272 points in 95 games) and Stirling Mortlock (1,031 from 138). Comparing averages, Steyn is currently sixth with 11 points per game, behind Carter (13.4), Adrian Cashmore (13.1), Peter Hewat (13), Matt Burke (12.1) and Mehrtens (11.4).

And the South Africans behind Steyn are Peter Grant of the Stormers (675 from 72 games), André Pretorius (Cats and Lions, 661 from 72) and Louis Koen (Stormers, Bulls and Cats, 555 from 51).

 While Steyn has been piling up the points, the Toyota Cheetahs are still looking for their first-ever victory at this level over the Vodacom Bulls. The two teams have met seven times since 2006, all won by the team from Pretoria. The closest the Free Staters got was last year in Bloem, when the team in blue scraped home by 25-23.

Naka Drotské, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, said his side is ready for the expected kicking onslaught from the Vodacom Bulls: “We have got a very good player under the high ball in Hennie Daniller. He is one of the best in the competition. We also picked Willie le Roux, a fullback, on the wing. That is about what we can do to counter their kicking. But, for some reason we believe the Bulls will not necessarily kick as much as against the Sharks.”

Vodacom Bulls captain, Pierre Spies, said of Saturday’s Bloem derby: “There is always a lot to play for in the local derbies and the Cheetahs will no doubt be one of our toughest opponents of the tournament. They have some exciting players, will have massive support for their first home fixture of the season and will be under pressure to get that first win out of the way. We will have to be at our very best to beat them.”

Head to head (since 2006)

Toyota Cheetahs

 

Vodacom Bulls

0

Won

7

7

Lost

0

0

Drawn

0

156

Points for

251

251

Points against

156

19

Tries scored

32

32

Tries conceded

19

 

Toyota Cheetahs vs Vodacom Bulls

Date: Saturday, 3 March 2012

SA time: 17:05

Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

DHL Stormers vs The Sharks

The Sharks’ last visit to Cape Town, 10 months ago, is one they probably would like to forget after the DHL Stormers crushed the three-time Vodacom Super Rugby finalists by 32-12, scoring four tries to nil in the process.

Even worse for the KwaZulu-Natalians is that they didn’t cross the DHL Stormers’ tryline once last year (they lost the Durban fixture by 6-16).

The victory at DHL Newlands was the Capetonians’ second biggest victory ever over The Sharks at this level (the biggest was by 40-18 in 2003). After starting the season with a defeat last week in Pretoria, improvement will be a very important factor for John Plumtree and his side on Saturday.

 “We have to make sure we are accurate at set piece and then we can build some pressure. Defences are pretty much all the same, some are a little bit better than others, but at the end of the day, if we get quick ball from rucks, with the backs that we’ve got, we know we can do some damage,” said Plumtree.

Plumtree said the Sharks’ lineout was problematic against the Vodacom Bulls last weekend (they managed to win only 55% on their own throw). This week they are up against probably the tallest lock-pairing in Vodacom Super Rugby – Andries Bekker at 2.08m and Eben Etzebeth at 2.03m.

The Sharks’ locks are Steven Sykes (1.98m) and the former Stormer Ross Skeate (2.01m).

Bekker is the tallest player in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, while only two Aussies and a Kiwi – Greg Peterson (Waratahs), Phoenix Battye (Force) and Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), all at 2.04m – are taller than Etzebeth. The Waratahs’ Sitaleki Timani and Dan Vickerman, as well as Van Humphries of the Reds, are as tall as the young Stormers lock.

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee realises their first South African derby of 2012 will be a big one, but they go into the game with a fair bit of confidence, even though they’ve lost their captain, Springbok hard man Schalk Burger, to injury.

“The players understand where we are and what we still need to do. As a group we are tight and that is important. The Sharks game is a massive derby, they always bring everything they got and we looking forward to a physical challenge,” said Coetzee.

Head to head (since 1998)

DHL Stormers

 

The Sharks

8

Won

7

7

Lost

8

0

Drawn

0

339

Points for

304

304

Points against

339

40

Tries scored

33

33

Tries conceded

40

 

DHL Stormers vs The Sharks

Date: Saturday, 3 March 2012

SA time: 19:10

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)

Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

Other fixtures this weekend (SA times):

Friday, 2 March

08:35: Chiefs vs Blues (Hamilton)

10:40: Rebels vs Waratahs (Melbourne)

Saturday, 3 March

08:35: Highlanders vs Crusaders (Dunedin)

10:40: Reds vs Force (Brisbane)

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