Vodacom Super Rugby Preview – Round 6
The big north/south Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town has made a lot of headlines this week and it’s probably the biggest match of the weekend.
The big north/south Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town has made a lot of headlines this week and it’s probably the biggest match of the weekend.

These two sides have an interesting history. In their more traditional guise of Western Province and the Blue Bulls, they are the most successful of all South Africa’s provincial unions, but this weekend they face off as the two sides with the most Vodacom Super Rugby log points this year.

In other local action, the MTN Lions host the seven time champions, the Crusaders, in Johannesburg, also on Saturday afternoon.

Earlier on Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs will be aiming for their best ever return on an Australasian tour when they take on the Hurricanes in Wellington, after which The Sharks take on the resurgent Brumbies in Canberra.

Hurricanes v Toyota Cheetahs

The Toyota Cheetahs need one log point to make their current Australasian tour the most successful in their history, but instead they will be aiming for their first ever Vodacom Super Rugby victory in New Zealand.

Last year, the Toyota Cheetahs accumulated six log points from their four matches Down Under, by beating the Waratahs, and getting losing bonus points against the Blues and Waratahs.

Thus far this year, they men from Bloemfontein have beaten the Rebels and lost by seven points or less against the Brumbies and Crusaders.

Even though their record of won two and lost four against the Hurricanes is not perfect, the Toyota Cheetahs will always have fond memories of playing against the team from the Kiwi capital – in 2006, when they beat the ‘Canes by 27-25 in Bloem, it became their first-ever victory over overseas opposition.

But the Toyota Cheetahs have never won in New Zealand (in 2010 they drew 25-25 with the Chiefs in Hamilton), and that is one piece of history they would like to change on Saturday morning in the Westpac Stadium.

They realise it won’t be easy, as they are facing a side that has won three of their five matches this season (all of them away from home). It’s only the second home game of 2012 for the Hurricanes and they would like to compensate for their narrow loss there against the Highlanders a few weeks ago.

Head to head (since 2006)

Hurricanes   Toyota Cheetahs
4 Won 2
2 Lost 4
0 Drawn 0
191 Points for 139
139 Points against 191
Tries scored
14 Tries conceded 25

Hurricanes v Toyota Cheetahs

Date: 31 March

SA Time: 06:30

Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)

Television match official: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

Brumbies v The Sharks

Thirteen years and 13 days ago, The Sharks became the first South African Vodacom Super Rugby side to beat the Brumbies in Canberra. Since then, it’s only happened three more times. Can the team from Durban do it again?

Out of all the Australian sides, the Brumbies have the best home record against South African opposition. Since 1996, they’ve won 34 of the 38 matches played in Canberra against teams from the Republic, for a winning percentage of 89.5%.

The Waratahs (30 from 38 for 78.9%) and Reds (27 from 35 for 77.1%) have also been good at home, but the Force (7 from 15 for 50%) and Rebels (0 from 3) are less successful.

In fact, of all the teams from Australia and New Zealand, only the Crusaders, with 90% (won 36 from 40, lost 2 and drew 2), have a better home record against South African sides.

These stats sum up the massive task facing John Plumtree and The Sharks this weekend. As Plum explained after their narrow defeat to the Waratahs last weekend, they are there to play rugby.

“Our mindset is to really attack and the Australian media is going nuts over how great the game was to watch compared to what they’ve seen in Sydney in the past few weeks,” said Plumtree.

“So while winning was nice from a Waratahs’ perspective and it was a good game of rugby for the crowd, we still want to win.

“We put a big emphasis on winning this match, we did all the right things during the week, but ultimate it wasn’t good enough, we conceded two or three soft tries and that was really disappointing. Against the Brumbies you don’t want to be doing that.”

Head to head (since 1998)

Brumbies   The Sharks
8 Won 7
7 Lost 8
0 Drawn 0

Points for 336
336 Points against
41 Tries scored 33
33 Tries conceded 41

Brumbies v The Sharks

Date: 31 March

SA Time: 10:40

Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra

Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)

Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)

MTN Lions v Crusaders

As if the current spate of injuries in Johannesburg isn’t enough, the MTN Lions have to face the most successful side in Vodacom Super Rugby history at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

Injury problems have forced MTN Lions coach John Mitchell to delay the naming of his team until Friday. He said earlier that the current injury crisis is the worst he’s experienced as a professional rugby coach.

Meanwhile the Crusaders, seven time champions and last year’s runners up despite not having a proper home base, have selected All Black ace Dan Carter at flyhalf for this match.

These two sides did not play each other last year and the Crusaders are back in Johannesburg for the first time since 2009, when they 32-20 in a game that yielded seven tries, four of them to the visitors.

The Crusaders will be looking to push their winning record in South Africa into positive territory. They have won 19 out of their 38 games over here, or a nice round 50%. That is also the best winning percentage of all overseas teams in the Republic.

The MTN Lions’ only victory over the Crusaders came in 2007, when the Cantabrians went down by 9-3, the fifth lowest aggregate score ever in Vodacom Super Rugby. The only matches where fewer points were scored, were in Dunedin in 2009 when the Highlanders beat the Crusaders 6-0, in Brisbane in 2007 (Brumbies 6 Reds 3), Durban in 2004 (Reds 6 Sharks 5) and Brisbane in 1999 (Reds 11 Hurricanes 0).

Head to head (since 2006)

MTN Lions
1 Won 4
4 Lost 1
0 Drawn 0
69 Points for 155
155 Points against 69
6 Tries scored 19
19 Tries conceded 6

MTN Lions v Crusaders

Date: 31 March

SA Time: 17:05

Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

DHL Stormers v Vodacom Bulls

When the Vodacom Super Rugby log is stripped of its conference element, the two top sides in the competition face each other at DHL Newlands on Saturday evening. It’s the traditional South African north-south derby when the DHL Stormers host the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town.

The unbeaten DHL Stormers deservedly top the log on 20 log points, with the Vodacom Bulls second in the South African Conference on 19, which is more than the two other conference leaders, the Chiefs (NZ, 18) and Brumbies (Aus, 17) have.

The DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls (along with the Chiefs) also boast the best defensive record in the competition thus far, with only five tries scored against them. But it’s in the column for tries scored that the men from Pretoria are supreme – they’ve scored 17, the most thus far in 2012 and 10 more than their Capetonian opponents on Saturday.

The reason for this is the Vodacom Bulls’ big victories over the Toyota Cheetahs and last weekend against the Reds, something the DHL Stormers have taken notice of.

“The Bulls’ performance against the Reds was great. They did the job with ease, which underlined their winning culture. They understand how to push the pedal in when needed,” said DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.

“We are very excited to play against a top quality side. Yes, it will be a big challenge, but we have worked hard and are looking forward to the match.

“I think it’s important that we play as a unit. I’m not worried about the opposition knowing our approach, as we know what to expect from them – I can’t see the Bulls changing their kicking game, for us it’s about how best to deal with it.

“We know there will be a lot of pressure – there always is when you play the Bulls at Newlands, but it’s something we embrace. We don’t feel guilty that we are unbeaten, because we’ve put in a lot of hard work. This weekend we’ll be aiming to keep our momentum up before going on tour.

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said his side is well prepared for this big match, which they won last year despite going down to the DHL Stormers in Pretoria earlier in 2011.

“We have done well last weekend against the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions, but now the only undefeated team in the competition waits. The Stormers are an established outfit with a lot of experience and it will take a massive effort from us to beat them at home,” said Ludeke.

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said a north/south derby always demand a special effort from players: “There is a lot of emotion involved. It is important for us to control those emotions, play in a clinical way and not allow it to impact on your options. We still have a long way to go in the competition, but this will be one of our greatest challenges.”

Head to head (since 1998)

Vodacom Bulls
DHL Stormers
8 Won 7
7 Lost 8
1 Drawn 1
362 Points for 405
405 Points against 362
34 Tries scored 41
41 Tries conceded 34

DHL Stormers v Vodacom Bulls

Date: 31 March

SA Time: 19:10

Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 30 March:

08:35: Highlanders v Rebels (Invercargill)

Saturday, 31 March:

08:35: Chiefs v Waratahs (Hamilton)

12:40: Force v Reds (Perth)

Bye: Blues

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