Vodacom Super Rugby will step up a gear this weekend when the DHL Stormers and nine teams from Australia and New Zealand join in the fun in the second round.
A team that is looking for their first-ever derby win over a fellow South African side, is the Toyota Cheetahs. They host the Vodacom Bulls at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Friday evening and will be looking to turn around an 11 game Vodacom Super Rugby losing streak against the Pretorians.
No other team in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby have managed to make life as tough for the Toyota Cheetahs as the Vodacom Bulls.
In their previous 11 encounters, the closest the team from Bloemfontein came to upstaging the Vodacom Bulls was on 25 February 2011, when the visitors snuck through with two points (25-23) in the Free State capital.
Adriaan Strauss and his team will be looking to overturn this horror run of results against the Vodacom Bulls, but probably also won’t mind putting last weekend’s upset defeat at the hands of the Lions firmly behind them.
Looking at their results against other teams, only one side has managed to keep the Toyota Cheetahs winless – the current defending champions, the Chiefs. But at least the Central South Africans have managed two draws against the side from Waikato in their seven previous clashes.
“The loss against the Lions last weekend was a good wake-up call for the season and I prefer that it happened this early in the season,” said Strauss.
“But we’ve put that behind us and learned a lot of lessons. On Friday, the Bulls will present going to be a total different challenge for us and we will have to be up for that.
“Against the Lions we created a lot of scoring opportunities which we didn’t finish – it is something we will need to capitalise on this weekend.”
As if their big defeat last weekend in Durban wasn’t bad enough, the Vodacom Bulls will have to travel to Bloemfontein with a brand-new captain after their regular skipper since 2012, Pierre Spies, was ruled out with an elbow injury.
As a result, Jacques Engelbrecht will start at No 8, former SA Under-20 captain Wiaan Liebenberg will be on the bench and Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe will run in front against the team he made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut for way back in 2007.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made it very clear that the performance against the Cell C Sharks was not acceptable and that they need to rectify that with a convincing performance in Bloemfontein.
“It was clear during our review that we totally underperformed and all accepted the fact that this was not even close to the standards we have set ourselves,” said Ludeke.
“We have put that behind us now, as we look towards the Cheetahs match with a positive and determined frame of mind. They also had a disappointing result and would like to bounce back.
“We know it will work, but then you have to apply it properly and execute your plays. This is something we will work on this week.”
The teams are:
Toyota Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Johan Goosen, Shaun Venter, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Rynard Landman, Jean Cook, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Hennie Daniller, Maks van Dyk.
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Frik Kirsten, Marcel van der Merwe, Victor Matfield, Wiaan Liebenberg*, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers.
Head to head (since 2006)
Toyota Cheetahs 0 Won 11 Vodacom Bulls
Toyota Cheetahs 244 Points 398 Vodacom Bulls
Toyota Cheetahs 28 Tries 49 Vodacom Bulls
Toyota Cheetahs 22 Average score 36 Vodacom Bulls
Date: Friday, 21 February
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa