All eyes on Loftus Versfeld for first rematch of 2014 – Vodacom Super Rugby Round 6 Preview
March 20, 2014
The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks will face off for the second time this season in the only South African derby during round six of Vodacom Super Rugby.

These two sides met in the opening round, with the KwaZulu-Natalians crushing their opponents from up north by 31-16 in Durban. The Pretorians have since hit their straps and all indications are that Saturday evening’s clash at Loftus Versfeld will be huge.

The weekend kicks off on Friday morning, but the first South African team in action is the Toyota Cheetahs, who conclude their tough Australasian tour against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday morning.

Thereafter, the DHL Stormers face the Brumbies in Canberra and in the afternoon, the Lions host the Reds in Johannesburg.

Then all the attention will shift to Pretoria, where yet another Springbok stalwart will reach the century mark in Vodacom Super Rugby caps when the Cell C Sharks’ JP Pietersen takes to the field. It will make him the third South African player this season to reach this milestone, behind Akona Ndungane and Jean de Villiers, and 24th overall.

Pietersen, at 27 years and 253 days on Saturday, will become the youngest South African to reach this milestone, surpassing Morné Steyn (27 years and 312 days), Pierre Spies (27:344) and Meyer Bosman (27:351).

Interestingly enough, Pietersen made his debut at this level at fullback for the Cell C Sharks, against the Chiefs on 11 February 2006. He played two more matches at fullback that season and then moved to the bench for the remainder of the season, dotting down for his first Vodacom Super Rugby try in the final league game of that season.

His first game at wing was in the opening round of the 2007 season against the Vodacom Bulls in Durban, where he also scored his second Vodacom Super Rugby try. Pietersen started every match that season in the No 11 jersey for the Cell C Sharks and scored 12 tries, including one in the final, which they lost to the team from Pretoria at Growthpoint Kings Park.

In total, Pietersen has scored 33 tries in his 99 appearances to date for the Cell C Sharks.

The full list of South African Vodacom Super Rugby centurions:

128: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 120)
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10) and John Smit (Sharks)
123: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
118: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 57)
118: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 92)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
114: Jacques Botes (Sharks)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls)
110: Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 47), Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 98)
107: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
104: Andries Bekker (Stormers), Jano Vermaak (Cats 11, Lions 62, Bulls 31)
103: Pierre Spies (Bulls)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Akona Ndungane (Bulls), Jean de Villiers (Stormers)

Blues v Toyota Cheetahs

The Blues’ stinginess when it comes to possession of the ball could be a major problem for the Toyota Cheetahs when they conclude their Australasian tour at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday morning.

According to stats supplied by SANZAR, the Blues have conceded fewer turnovers per game (12.5) than any other side in Vodacom Super Rugby this far this season.

Coupled with the fact that the Toyota Cheetahs have spent less time in possession of the ball than any other side (13 minutes and 48 seconds), and it could be a tricky outing for the team from Bloemfontein.

Holding on to the ball has been an issue for the Toyota Cheetahs’ coaching side since the start of the competition. When they have the ball, they look dangerous, but they seem to cough it up far too easily.

The flipside of the coin is that the Toyota Cheetahs have spent a lot of time on defence, which is probably the reason five of their players occupy the top spots in terms of tackles made in the last number of weeks.

Philip van der Walt heads the list with 85 at an average of 17 per game, followed by Lappies Labuschagne in fourth spot (68 at 13.6), Boom Prinsloo (fifth, 62 at 12.4), Francois Venter (sixth, 61 at 12.2) and Lood de Jager (seventh, 53 at 10.6). Venter though is injured and Labuschagne will start on the bench this weekend.

The Toyota Cheetahs will be aiming for their third win over the Blues – their two wins came in the last three encounters between these sides, but the men from Bloemfontein have never won in Auckland.

The teams are:

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (captain), Steven Luatua, Tom Donnelly, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Tom McCartney, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Jerome Kaino, Hayden Triggs, Bryn Hall, Ma’a Nonu, Benji Marshall.

Toyota Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin, Hennie Daniller, Johan Goosen, Sarel Pretorius, Philip van der Walt, Jean Cook, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys, Lodewyk de Jager, Maks van Dyk, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Rossouw de Klerk, Andries Ferreira, Lappies Labuschagne, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts, Howard Mnisi.

Blues v Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 22 March
SA Time: 08h35
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Brumbies v DHL Stormers

No Australian Vodacom Super Rugby team have conceded fewer points against the DHL Stormers than their opponents this weekend, the Brumbies. These teams clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday morning.

Since 1998, when the DHL Stormers competed as a franchise for the first time, they’ve only managed to score 286 points against the Brumbies at an average of 19 per game.

The Capetonians have scored many more points against the two other of the oldest Aussie teams, the Reds and Waratahs – 388 against the side from Queensland for an average of 24 per match, and 340 against New South Wales at an average of 21.

The DHL Stormers’ overall average against all Aussie sides is 22, while they card an average of 23 against sides from New Zealand and South Africa.

Schalk Burger, vice-captain of the DHL Stormers, said it’s imperative that they cut down their error-rate in Canberra, where the Cape Town-based side won on their last visit in 2011.

“We know how hard it is to win in Canberra and we’re obviously feeling a bit of pressure after two losses (on tour) so far,” Burger said.

“But a lot of hard graft has been done in this build-up week, so we’re seeing this game as an opportunity to turn our season around.

“We came close against the Crusaders (in the first week of our tour). Against the Chiefs (last week) we hung in for long periods of time, got ourselves into a good position and then, unfortunately, we gave it away again with a silly mistake.

“We have to eradicate those mistakes from our game, as against the Chiefs we just made way too many of them. If we cut down our error-rate, we will have more continuity in our game,” added Burger, whose side will be facing four players who were born in South Africa on Saturday.

Lionel Cronjé needs no introduction – he is a former SA Under-20 star and played seven times for the DHL Stormers in 2010 and 2011.

Loosehead prop JP Smith will make his Brumbies starting debut and his twin brother Ruan, also a prop and former SA Schools representative, is on the bench. They were born in Vryburg but finished matric at Paarl Gymnasium.

Finally, replacement back Stephan van der Walt will debut at this level if he gets game time. He was born in Klerksdorp but moved to Australia with his family when he was eight and played most of his rugby in Queensland before moving to the Brumbies two seasons ago.

The teams are:

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Joe Tomane, Andrew Smith, Pat McCabe, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, JP Smith. Replacements: Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Ruaidhri Murphy, Jack Whetton, Lachlan McCaffrey, Michael Dowsett, Stephan van der Walt, Lionel Cronje.

DHL Stormers: Gio Aplon, Kobus van Wyk, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Peter Grant, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (vice-captain), Deon Fourie, Michael Rhodes, Ruan Botha, Frans Malherbe, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Oliver Kebble, Brok Harris, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Demitri Catrakilis, Juan de Jongh.

Brumbies v DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 22 March
SA Time: 10h40
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)

Lions v Reds

The last time the Lions won three consecutive home matches in Vodacom Super Rugby, their star-flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff was a member of the SA Schools squad.

That was back in 2007 and if Joburg’s Pride can beat the Reds at Ellis Park on Saturday, they would clinch their third straight home win this season.

Boshoff has been a central figure for the Lions this season. His goal-kicking has been spot on at 93% - the best in the competition – and he has already slotted six drop goals, which is the most thus far in 2014.

The Reds will be mindful of Boshoff’s exploits when they travel to Ellis Park on Saturday. If the Queenslanders continue the trend of conceding the most penalties and free kicks per match (an average of 14.5), the Lions flyhalf, who needs six points to be the first person to reach 100 season points, should have a number of shots at goal.

Two areas where the Lions will have to step up their game, is in terms of line breaks (2.4 per match) and beating defenders (10.2 per match), which are the lowest in 2014. Seeing that they are up against the team with the best tackling success rate in the competition (90%), it will be a tough ask for the home side.

The teams are:

Lions: Coenie van Wyk, JW Jonker, Deon van Rensburg, Stefan Watermeyer, Courtnall Skosan, Marnitz Boshoff, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Willie Britz, Jaco Kriel, Franco van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Willie Wepener, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Mark Pretorius, Corne Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, MB Lusaseni, Stephan de Wit, Ross Cronje, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck.

Reds: Aidan Toua, Rod Davies, Ben Tapuai, Mike Harris, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Faingaa, James Slipper. Replacements: James Hanson, Albert Anae, Jono Owen, Ed O’Donoghue, Beau Robinson, Nic Frisby, Anthony Fainga’a / Ben Lucas, Dom Shipperley.

Lions v Reds
Date: Saturday, 22 March
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks

The Vodacom Bulls might have scored four tries in their last match, almost a fortnight ago against the Blues, but this weekend it won’t be as easy when they host the table-topping Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

The men from Durban, one of only two unbeaten sides left this season, have conceded fewer breaks (3.3) and missed fewer tackles (12) per game than any other side in Vodacom Super Rugby.

Considering that the Vodacom Bulls average the fewest metres gained per game this season, at 302m per match, the home team’s attacking play will be under the spotlight this weekend. But they also restrict their opponents in terms of metres gained at only 303m.

Whichever way you choose to look at it, this promises to be a humdinger. Four of the last six encounters between the 2007 finalists have been settled by a margin of seven points or fewer, with each side picking up three wins apiece in those six games.

The Cell C Sharks’ big win in the opening round in Durban though will still be fresh in the memories of the Vodacom Bulls, whose captain Flip van der Merwe said the recent upsurge in form is something the team is keen to continue with.

“Our first two away outings were pretty disappointing and everyone stepped up after that,” said Van der Merwe.

“We are keen to continue with the positive way we performed against the Lions and Blues. The Sharks are not topping the log for nothing, but we have prepared well for this one. We will be ready.”

For Jake White’s Cell C Sharks, their first away fixture of 2014 is massive.

“This is a huge game, it’s at Loftus and the Bulls have an unbelievable record at that stadium,” said White.

“They’ve won the championship three times, so we’re under no false illusions that this isn’t going to be a tough away fixture for us. It’s a derby game as well and we know it’s going to be big.”

The teams are:

Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Sampie Mastriet, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellet, Marcel van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Jono Ross, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers.

Cell C Sharks: SP Marais, JP Pietersen, S’bura Sithole, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Ettienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Charl McLeod, Tim Swiel, Andre Esterhuizen.

Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday, 22 March
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)

Other fixtures (South African kick-off times):

Friday, 21 March:
08h35: Highlanders v Hurricanes – Dunedin
10h40: Waratahs v Rebels – Sydney

Saturday, 22 March:
13h00: Force v Chiefs – Perth

Bye: Crusaders

SA Schools 2015
Friday, August 07 2015
12:00 - South Africa U18 A vs Italy U18
City Park Stadium, Cape Town
14:00 - England U18 vs France U18
City Park Stadium, Cape Town
Absa Currie Cup Premier Division
15:30 - ORC Griquas vs DHL Western Province
Griqua Park, Kimberley
SA Schools 2015
16:00 - South Africa U18 vs Wales U18
City Park Stadium, Cape Town
Absa Currie Cup Premier Division
18:00 - Steval Pumas vs Cell C Sharks
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Absa Under 19 Competition
Saturday, August 08 2015
09:30 - Eastern Province U19 vs Golden Lions U19
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, PE
10:30 - Free State U19 vs Blue Bulls U19
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Absa Under 21 Competition
11:30 - EP Kings U21 vs Golden Lions U21
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, PE
The Castle Lager Rugby Championship
12:05 - Australia vs New Zealand
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Absa Under 21 Competition
12:05 - Free State U21 vs Blue Bulls U21
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

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