A straight shoot-out for the title of South African Conference winners, is how Saturday evening’s much-anticipated Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the Toyota Cheetahs and the Vodacom Bulls has been described.
The Toyota Cheetahs always back themselves at home in the Free State Stadium, but looking back at the history between these two sides, it would seem the Vodacom Bulls actually enjoy playing in Bloemfontein.
The overall average score between these two teams is 37-22 in favour of the team from Pretoria, but in games played in Bloemfontein, it changes to 43-23. The overall average score for the Toyota Cheetahs, against all opponents, in Bloemfontein, is 26-26.
It’s unlikely that the team from Bloemfontein will overtake their Pretoria counterparts on the log after this game – for that to happen, they have to win and score at least four tries, and keep the Vodacom Bulls from getting a bonus point.
But the Toyota Cheetahs won’t necessarily be chasing that. Their aim will be firmly on that elusive first-ever win over the Vodacom Bulls in the 11th match between these two sides. And Naka Drotské, coach of the Central South African franchise, says he knows how the three-time champions can be beaten.
“The Bulls’ kicking tactics work very well for them – if you kick out, it’s their line-out and they can maul, but if you don’t kick out, they return the kick and contest in the air,” said Drotské.
“So we will have to face one or the other on Saturday, but we have some plans in place for their kicking game. The bottom line though is that we will have to stay disciplined and patient.
“In our recent match against them at Loftus, we conceded two tries from soft moments. I thought we played tactically very well in Pretoria and managed to stop their drives, but those two tries cost us.
“We will always back ourselves in Bloemfontein and have beaten many top teams here. To beat the Bulls, for the first time ever in Vodacom Super Rugby, will be special.”
Frans Ludeke, coach of the Vodacom Bulls, who currently occupy second position on the log behind the Chiefs, said: “We can do ourselves a lot of favours by beating the Cheetahs this weekend, especially ahead of the three weeks break.
“We will have a number of players involved in the Test series and you never know in what shape they will come back. We need to put ourselves in the best possible position before the break and a win in Bloemfontein will do that.”
Vodacom Bulls captain, Pierre Spies, said previous performances against the Toyota Cheetahs mean nothing.
“The fact that we have beaten them earlier in the season counts for nothing,” said Spies.
“They play on their home turf and although we have done well there in the past, that is not worth any points on the scoreboard. We need to go out there, impose ourselves and play the right type of rugby we know we are capable of. It is a massive challenge, but this team thrive on those.”
The teams are:
Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Raymond Rhule, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Willie le Roux, Elgar Watts, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Riaan Smit, Rayno Benjamin.
Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Dewald Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, Zane Kirchner.
Toyota Cheetahs v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 1 June
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)