Vodacom Super Rugby Preview – Round 9
The DHL Stormers face the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions this weekend, while The Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls also have tough home encounters against two of the pace-setters in the competition.
The DHL Stormers face the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions this weekend, while The Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls also have tough home encounters against two of the pace-setters in the competition.

The Reds, champions in 2011, have generally been quite successful against South African visitors to Brisbane, but the DHL Stormers know what it takes to win there as they’ve done it four years ago. These two teams, Australian and South African Conference winners last year, face each other on Friday morning.

In Durban, the Chiefs will be defending their place at the top of the Combined Log when they take on The Sharks on Saturday afternoon.

Also on Saturday, the Vodacom Bulls will be looking to extend an impressive winning streak at home against team from Australia when they take on the Brumbies, now coached by former Springbok mentor Jake White.

The MTN Lions and the Toyota Cheetahs have byes this weekend.

Note: For all the South African team announcements, fixtures, results, logs, live score updates, top points and try scorers as well as and match summaries, click here.

Reds v DHL Stormers

The defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions await the DHL Stormers in Brisbane on Friday morning at a venue most South Africans are not very fond of.

And while the Reds’ home ground of Suncorp Stadium can’t really be described as a South African graveyard, teams from the Republic have struggled there in the last few years.

The Queenslanders have lost only eight from 35 home games against South African sides and only two in their last 10 matches at Suncorp. Those defeats came against the MTN Lions in 2009 (31-20) and the DHL Stormers in 2008 (34-16).

Head to head (since 1998)

Reds   DHL Stormers
6 Won
8 Lost 6
0 Drawn 0
Points for

Points against
37 Tries scored 37
39 Tries conceded 39

Reds v DHL Stormers

Date: 20 April

SA Time: 11:40

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)

Television match official: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)

The Sharks v Chiefs

The table-topping Chiefs are enjoying their best-ever start in any Vodacom Super Rugby season, having lost just one of their first seven matches thus far. They will prove a tough opponent to The Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon.

And while the Chiefs are flying high in 2012 and The Sharks are up and down, the history between these two sides show they are dead even at seven wins apiece from their 14 encounters.

On average, they’ve scored three tries each in previous matches, while the average score in these games is 26-25 to The Sharks.

Returning from tour, The Sharks have been more successful in their first game back in Durban. Since 1998, they have won nine of these and lost four (in 1999 their Vodacom Super Rugby season finished with a game against the Reds in Brisbane).

For John Plumtree, coach of the KwaZulu-Natalians, this game is about following their great victory over the Blues in Auckland last weekend with another solid performance.

“We’ve only strung together two good performances in a row once, so clearly we haven’t established any type of consistency in terms of results and that’s reflecting in our onfield play in terms of our defence and attack,” Plumtree said.

“Winning is a habit and once the ball is rolling, so the victories become ‘easier’ (or teams know how to find ways to win close games). For The Sharks, three of their four losses have been by a heart-breaking seven points or less, suggesting that the bounce of a ball, a missed tackle or an incorrect decision may well have been the difference between one log point and four.

“We haven’t been happy with all areas of our game consistently after each performance. Either our set piece has let us down when we defended well or our attack was good but not our defence. We’re still looking for that complete performance where can go away and say we had a good day out.”

Head to head (since 1998)

The Sharks   Chiefs
7 Won 7
7 Lost 7
0 Drawn 0
363 Points for 363
349 Points against 449
44 Tries scored 40
Tries conceded

The Sharks v Chiefs

Date: 21 April

SA Time: 17:05

Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban

Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)

Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls v Brumbies

The Vodacom Bulls will be looking to build on a 10-match home winning streak against Australian teams when they take on the Brumbies in a Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday evening.

Since their shock-defeat to the Force in 2007 at Loftus (30-27), the Vodacom Bulls have won 10 straight matches against the Aussies. In this time they’ve scored 52 tries and only conceded 19 against the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies, Force and Rebels.

The next best in South Africa is The Sharks’ five-match winning streak at home against the Aussies since their 2009 defeat against the Waratahs.

In New Zealand, the Blues won 11 home games on the trot against the Aussies between 2002 and 2007, while the Crusaders have not lost in 16 encounters with teams from the other side of the Tasman sea since 2004, but that includes one draw (against the Force in 2009).

During their last visit to Pretoria, the Brumbies got tripped up by a brilliant Morné Steyn, who scored 35 points (two tries, five conversions and five penalty goals) in the Vodacom Bulls’ 50-32 win. The team from the Australian Capital Territories have not won at Loftus Versfeld since 2006.

Still, they currently lead the Australian Conference and are playing great rugby under new coach Jake White, who guided the Springboks to the Rugby World Cup title in 2007.

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies have the utmost respect for the Brumbies: “I have played in teams that Jake White prepared and they will be up for it. The Brumbies are well organised and will probe till they find a weakness. We will have to start well and keep it up if we want to close out this part of our campaign with a win.”

Head to head (since 1998)

Vodacom Bulls   Brumbies
5 Won 8
8 Lost 5
0 Drawn 0
343 Points for 413
413 Points against
39 Tries scored 54
54 Tries conceded 39

Vodacom Bulls v Brumbies

Date: 21 April

SA Time: 19:10

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Other fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 20 April:

09:35: Highlanders v Blues (Dunedin)

Saturday, 21 April:

09:35: Hurricanes v Crusaders (Wellington)

11:40: Waratahs v Rebels (Sydney)

Byes: MTN Lions, Toyota Cheetahs, Force

Both sides have been hit hard by injuries, with DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee picking his third captain for 2012 in Duane Vermeulen as Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers got struck down by injuries.

Last year, all teams used two or fewer captains during the season, bar the MTN Lions (Franco van der Merwe, Doppies La Grange and Josh Strauss) and Crusaders (Kieran Read, Richie McCaw and Andy Ellis), who had three each, while the Toyota Cheetahs topped the list with four captains (Adriaan Strauss, Juan Smith, Andries Strauss and Wilhelm Steenkamp).

“Injuries are part of Vodacom Super Rugby and it’s the teams that are best able to cope with them, that will do well in this competition,” said Coetzee.

“We have to be able to adapt and accept that injuries are part of the game. Fortunately the team has experienced this in the past. We have absolute confidence in the squad. Duane is a guy who leads by example. He understands the game and has years of Super Rugby experience.”

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