While the Cell C Sharks will be playing for second spot on the Vodacom Super Rugby log, the four other South African teams will end of their 2014 campaigns with nothing more than bragging rights and pride at stake.
The KwaZulu-Natalians, already confirmed as the SA Conference winners this year, face a tough task against the high-flying DHL Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
By the time they take to the field, Jake White’s team will know exactly what is expected of them if they are going to clinch second spot on the log behind the Waratahs and qualify for a home semi-final.
Although they both have 46 log points after 10 wins each, the Crusaders – who host the Highlanders in the final round – lead the Cell C Sharks on the standings thanks to a better points’ difference (+97 for the Cantabrians and +89 for the Durbanites).
The DHL Stormers’ last defeat was two months ago when they came up short against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and they would like to finish on a high.
For the Vodacom Bulls, second position in the South African Conference is a given if they can beat the Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening. It will also mean that they’ve gone through 2014 unbeaten in Pretoria, but sadly they’ve not won any of their away matches this season.
The other match is the “Cats-derby” between the Lions and the Toyota Cheetahs at Ellis Park. While the team from Johannesburg had a good season compared to previous years, 2014 was disappointing for the Bloem-based franchise and both sides will be looking to finish with a win.
Vodacom Bulls v Rebels
The Vodacom Bulls’ season will come to an end with their final pool game for only the third time in a decade of Vodacom Super Rugby when they host the Rebels in Pretoria on Friday evening.
The three-time champions have made the knock-out phase of the competition every year since 2005, except for 2008, 2011 and this year.
Although they won’t be contesting the playoffs this year, the Vodacom Bulls will still be aiming to finish their season unbeaten at Loftus Versfeld – thus far they’ve won six and drew one from seven in Pretoria.
If they manage to beat the Rebels this weekend, it will be the fourth time the Pretorians have been unbeaten at home since the franchise system came into being in South Africa in 1998 – they also did it in 2005, 2009 and 2010. The only other South African team who could manage an unbeaten run at home in one season during this time, are the Cats (2000) and the Cell C Sharks (2001 and 2008).
The Vodacom Bulls did win everything at home last year, but they stumbled over the last hurdle when the Brumbies beat them at Loftus Versfeld in their semi-final. “We want to end the season well and although our final log position will not be where we wanted, there is no reason why we cannot close out our campaign with a fine performance,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
This encounter will also see Victor Matfield and Frans Ludeke, who both hail from Polokwane in Limpopo province, set new Vodacom Super Rugby records. Matfield, the Vodacom Bulls’ captain, will lead his side for the 82nd time, which breaks the previous record of 81 matches as captain in this competition by former Reds and Force skipper Nathan Sharpe.
Ludeke will oversee his 132nd Vodacom Super Rugby match as coach, improving on Ewen McKenzie’s record. He coached the Cats/Lions 23 times and the Bulls 108 times.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jono Ross, Roelof Smit, Victor Matfield (captain), Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Morne Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Jansse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Jesse Kriel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William Small-Smith.
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Telusa Veainu, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Jack Debreczeni, Luke Burgess, Colby Fainga’a, Scott Fuglistaller (captain), Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Shota Horie, Toby Smith. Replacements: Pat Leafa, Cruze Ah-Nau, Paul Alo-Emile, Lopeti Timani, Jordy Reid, Nic Stirzaker, Lalakai Foketi, Alex Rokobaro.
Lions v Toyota Cheetahs
The Toyota Cheetahs will travel to Ellis Park in Johannesburg with a “full house” of derby victories in mind when they take on the Lions in their final Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season on Saturday afternoon.
The men from Central South Africa need the Lions’ scalp to complete this clean sweep after already beating the Vodacom Bulls, DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks in 2014, although they have also lost to every other local team thus far this season. It won’t be a walk in the park though, as the Lions are also looking to improve on a couple of “best ofs” on Saturday.
They have already improved on their previous best season when they won their sixth match of 2014 against the Rebels last year, while the Lions have also won three derbies this year, which is also their best ever.
This includes first-ever wins over the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers, while they were too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs in the opening round in February.
Adriaan Strauss, the Toyota Cheetahs’ captain, knows his team will face a tough opponent on Saturday at Ellis Park, where they have a 50% win record.
“We had the opportunity to beat all the other South African teams once except for the Lions,” said Strauss. “Hopefully we can end off on a high, but it won’t be easy, especially if you look at their last performance. They play with a lot of passion and pride and it will be tough going up there to win, but we will be up for the game and we still have a lot to play for.”
Lions replacement flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff needs 11 points to surpass 200 competition points in his debut Vodacom Super Rugby season. He is the only South African player who can reach this mark this year.
The teams are:
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe, Stokkies Hanekom, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volmink, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corné Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Faf de Klerk, Marnitz Boshoff, Courtnall Skosan.
Toyota Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin, Raymond Rhule, Johan Goosen, Sarel Pretorius, Philip van der Walt, Teboho Mohoje, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Caylib Oosthuizen, Luan de Bruin, Carl Wegner, Jean Cook, Henco Venter, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts, Hennie Daniller.
DHL Stormers v Cell C Sharks
The Cell C Sharks face an uphill task when they take on the DHL Stormers at DHL Newlands on Saturday – the Capetonians have made winning derbies at home a habit in the last number of seasons.
The DHL Stormers’ last home defeat against a South African team was in the semi-final of the 2012 season, when the Cell C Sharks travelled back from their qualifying win in Brisbane to upset the log-leaders in Cape Town.That was one of only three home defeats in South African derbies for the DHL Stormers going back 20 matches to the start of the 2009 season – they lost the opener that season to the Durbanites and were also beaten at DHL Newlands by the Vodacom Bulls in 2011.
With wins in their last four matches, the DHL Stormers are going into this match with momentum, while the Cell C Sharks have lost their last two encounters.DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has warned against any form of complacency on Saturday as the Cell C Sharks will have a lot to play for.
“We need to focus on ourselves, and not (on) the Sharks,” said Coetzee. “The important thing for us is to pitch up like we have the past few weeks – like we did against the Bulls (last week) – and to show that same kind of intensity.
“Like I said at the start of last week, these last two games are very important for us – but this last one is probably the most important one because that is where you leave your last impressions. “We definitely would like to end the 2014 season on a high. If we don’t get the result it will be a bit of a setback (for us).”
Jake White, the Cell C Sharks’ Director of Rugby, admitted that Saturday’s match will be a good test for his team before the playoffs.
“At the beginning of the year, people said the Stormers and the Cell C Sharks had amongst the two strongest squads in the competition, and that hasn’t changed,” White said. “It doesn’t matter what they say about the injuries, they still have a great squad. We always knew at the back end of the competition they were going to be a threat and that’s exactly what’s happened.
“In a lot of ways, with nothing to gain, that gives them a lot of freedom because it doesn’t feel like they have a noose around their neck.”
The teams are:
DHL Stormers: Jaco Taute, Gio Aplon, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Juan de Jongh, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (captain), Nizaam Carr, Ruan Botha, Michael Rhodes, Pat Cilliers, Tiaan Liebenberg, Alistair Vermaak. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Sti Sithole, Martin Dreyer, Manuel Carizza, Siya Kolisi, Louis Schreuder, Peter Grant, Seabelo Senatla.
Cell C Sharks: SP Marais, S’bura Sithole, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo, Frans Steyn, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst, Lourens Adriaanse, Ettienne Oosthuizen, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Fred Zeilinga, Tonderai Chavhanga.
Other fixtures (South African kick-off times):
Friday, 11 July:
09h35: Blues v Chiefs – Auckland
11h40: Brumbies v Force – Canberra
Saturday, 12 July:
09h35: Crusaders v Highlanders – Christchurch
11h40: Reds v Waratahs – Brisbane