The Durbanites will try to improve their winning record in New Zealand when they take to the field in Dunedin on Friday morning – against their second favourite Kiwi opponent away from home.
It’s only against the Blues, where they’ve won six out of eight in New Zealand, that the Cell C Sharks boast a better away winning record than against the team from Otago (four from eight).
The Cell C Sharks have won three from eight against the Hurricanes away, three from nine against the Chiefs and one from 12 against the Crusaders.
Highlanders v Cell C Sharks
Date: Friday, May 1
SA Time: 09h35
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
Television match official: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
The Cell C Sharks welcome back three Springboks to their starting line-up – JP Pietersen (outside centre), Stephan Lewies (lock) and Bismarck du Plessis (hooker). They replace Waylon Murray, Mouritz Botha and Franco Marais respectively, all of whom move to the bench where they are joined by Matt Stevens. The final change to the team is at tighthead prop, where Jannie du Plessis gets a break and is replaced by Lourens Adriaanse, who is promoted from the bench.
• The Cell C Sharks have not won in Dunedin for five years, but they have beaten the Highlanders four times in New Zealand.
• That gives the Cell C Sharks the best winning record of any South African team in the deep south of New Zealand – the DHL Stormers have won there twice and have drawn once, while the Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs have beaten the Highlanders just once each in New Zealand.
• The Highlanders have won their last four home encounters against South African teams.
• Since the expansion of Vodacom Super Rugby in 2006, the Cell C Sharks have won their opening tour match three times, lost five and one ended in a draw.
Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold said, “The Highlanders have real game-breakers and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us on Friday. I don’t think it gets much tougher than what we have coming on Friday. But we played some good rugby against the Bulls and the Lions and we want to carry that momentum into this game.”
Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu (co-captain), Dan Pryor, Gareth Evans, Mark Reddish, Tom Franklin, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Kane Hames. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Brendon Edmonds, Pingi Tala’apitaga, Joe Latta, Elliot Dixon, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks, Jason Emery.
Cell C Sharks: Odwa Ndungane, S’bura Sithole, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Fred Zeilinga, Cobus Reinach, Willem Alberts, Renaldo Bothma, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel (captain), Stephan Lewies, Lourens Adriaanse, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick, Matt Stevens, Mouritz Botha, Etienne Oosthuizen, Conrad Hoffmann, Lionel Cronje, Waylon Murray.
Highlanders v Cell C Sharks since 1998:
Played 17; Cell C Sharks won 10; lost 7
Cell C Sharks points scored: 404
Highlanders points scored: 428
Cell C Sharks tries scored: 43
Highlanders tries scored: 46
Average score: 25-24 to the Highlanders
Two exciting local derbies on the cards for Saturday afternoon
First up is the Battle of Bloem between the Toyota Cheetahs and the DHL Stormers, where the Capetonians will be looking to improve their lead at the top of the SA Conference without tripping up at what has become quite a tricky venue for most sides.
Then it’s the second Jukskei Derby of 2015, this time in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls’ aim will be to stay as close to the top six on the overall log while at the same time not lose their first-ever home game against their neighbours from the south, the Emirates Lions.
Toyota Cheetahs v DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, May 2
SA Time: 17h05
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
The Toyota Cheetahs have made six changes to their backline, three of which are positional with Sarel Pretorius the only back retaining his place from last weekend. Clayton Blommetjies replaces Joe Pietersen at fullback, the latter moving to flyhalf in the place of the injured Willie du Plessis. Francois Venter is now outside centre next to Michael van der Spuy, with Johann Sadie out injured. Sergeal Petersen will make his debut for the Toyota Cheetahs at left wing, with Rayno Benjamin moving to right wing for Cornal Hendricks, who is getting a break. Upfront, Caylib Oosthuizen replaces Danie Mienie (concussion) at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen has been bracketed with Maks van Dyk at tighthead. Dolph Botha, Francois Brummer and Danie Dames are the new faces on the bench. Dillyn Leyds is back at wing in the only change to the DHL Stormers’ backline for this encounter. Upfront, Jean Kleyn replaces Eben Etzebeth at lock and Oli Kebble comes in for Steven Kitshoff at loosehead prop for the visitors. On the DHL Stormers’ bench, Ali Vermaak and Manuel Carizza are the new faces.
• The last four encounters between these two sides have been won by home team, but overall the DHL Stormers have dominated this derby in the earlier years, winning seven out of their first nine clashes.
• The last time these sides met, in May last year, the DHL Stormers won by 33-0 in Cape Town. It was the only time that the Toyota Cheetahs failed to score a solitary point in a match.
• The DHL Stormers are on a four-match winning streak against South African teams this season. Their overall winning percentage in local derbies is 63.4% – it’s better than the Vodacom Bulls (60.7%), Cell C Sharks (54.7%), Toyota Cheetahs (32.1%) or Emirates Lions (24.5%) in local derbies.
DHL Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee said, “We will have the same mind-set for this weekend as we do for all South African derbies. We understand how tough these games are and we know we need to pitch up. The Cheetahs pushed the in-form Lions in Johannesburg last week, they’re a good side – especially in Bloemfontein – and we know this will be a tough match.”
Toyota Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Rayno Benjamin, Francois Venter, Michael van der Spuy, Sergeal Petersen, Joe Pietersen, Sarel Pretorius, Willie Britz, Boom Prinsloo, Tienie Burger, Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner, Coenie Oosthuizen / Maks van Dyk, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Dolph Botha, Maks van Dyk / Ewald van der Westhuizen, Steven Sykes, Carel Greeff, Tian Meyer, Francois Brummer, Danie Dames.
DHL Stormers: Cheslin Kolbe, Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Dillyn Leyds, Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Siya Kolisi, Schalk Burger, Ruan Botha, Jean Kleyn, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Oli Kebble. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak, Vincent Koch, Manuel Carizza, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman, Huw Jones.
Toyota Cheetahs v DHL Stormers since 2006:
Played 13; DHL Stormers won 9; Toyota Cheetahs won 4
Toyota Cheetahs points scored: 243
DHL Stormers points scored: 318
Toyota Cheetahs tries scored: 24
DHL Stormers tries scored: 31 Average score: 24-19 to the DHL Stormers
Vodacom Bulls v Emirates Lions
Date: Saturday, May 2
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Stephan Geldenhuys (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
Jan Serfontein is back at inside centre for the Vodacom Bulls, with Burger Odendaal moving to the bench in the place of Akona Ndungane. Arno Botha and Lappies Labuschagne take over from Pierre Spies and Deon Stegmann in the loose trio. Victor Matfield is back at lock for Grant Hattingh and will take over the captaincy while Trevor Nyakane will start at loosehead prop in the place of Dean Greyling. Greyling and Hencus van Dyk, who were initially included on the bench alongside Spies and Hattingh, were later withdrawn after suffering minor injuries in a car accident and replaced amongst the reserves by Morné Mellett and Andrew Beerwinkel. The Emirates Lions backline shows a number of changes from last weekend, necessitated by an injury to Lionel Mapoe. Marnitz Boshoff starts at fullback and Howard Mnisi at inside centre, with Harold Vorster moving to outside centre and Andries Coetzee to left wing. In the only changes upfront, Robbie Coetzee and Julian Redelinghuys will return to the front row for this encounter with Armand van der Merwe and Ruan Dreyer moving to the bench. Alwyn Hollenbach will also start on the bench next to last weekend’s starting left wing, Courtnall Skosan.
• After the Vodacom Bulls won the first 10 derbies between these two neighbouring teams from Gauteng, the Emirates Lions were victorious in the last two.
• The last eight encounters between these sides have seen at least 40 points scored per game, while the average is 50.
• The Emirates Lions’ five-game winning streak is their best-ever and they are aiming for their seventh win of the season, which will equal their best in one campaign.
• The Vodacom Bulls have never lost both their derbies in one season against their neighbours to the south.
Vodacom Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke said, “We are getting into the rhythm to play the type of match we want to play. Our defence structure is good and we are very competitive in every match we play.
“We need to tweak some aspects of our game though, but I am confident that we are creating a style of play that will make us contenders in the play-off stages of the competition. All said, we need to show up against the Emirates Lions, who has shown their endurance and determination week after week.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Victor Matfield said, “We are facing a team who expresses their personality on the field, but we are also a squad that are proud of being the most successful local franchise ever. You are only as good as your last match though and we came up short then. We need a solid performance before we go on tour, so a win is pretty much non-negotiable.”
Vodacom Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha, Jacques du Plessis, Lappies Labuschagne, Victor Matfield (captain), Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Morné Mellett, Andrew Beerwinkel, Grant Hattingh, Pierre Spies, Burger Odendaal, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser.
Emirates Lions: Marnitz Boshoff, Ruan Combrinck, Harold Vorster, Howard Mnisi, Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, MB Lusaseni, Robert Kruger, Ross Cronje, Alwyn Hollenbach, Courtnall Skosan.
Vodacom Bulls v Emirates Lions since 2006:
Played 12; Emirates Lions Won 2, Vodacom Bulls won 10
Emirates Lions points scored: 213
Vodacom Bulls points scored: 362
Emirates Lions tries scored: 21
Vodacom Bulls tries scored: 37
Average score: 30-18 to the Vodacom Bulls
Other fixtures – SA kick-off times
Friday, May 1:
11h40: Brumbies v Waratahs – Canberra
Saturday, May 2:
07h30: Blues v Force – Auckland
09h35: Hurricanes v Crusaders – Wellington
11h40: Rebels v Chiefs – Melbourne