The feature match in South Africa on Saturday is the Vodacom Super Rugby derby in Durban between the Cell C Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls, and it is also the only local encounter on offer in this weekends’ seventh round action.
The DHL Stormers take on the Blues in Auckland earlier in the day in what will be their second match of their Australasian tour, with the Cape aiming for a morale-boosting win in New Zealand.
Siya Kolisi and his DHL Stormers team mates kick off their encounter at 08h35 while the big clash in Durban starts at 15h05, with both matches televised live on SuperSport1. The Emirates Lions have a break this weekend and the Jaguares, the other team in the South African Conference, host the Chiefs in a late-evening kick off in Buenos Aires (23h40 SA time).
Etzebeth boost for DHL Stormers’ Auckland test
There are three changes to the DHL Stormers backline and three more amongst the forwards for their clash with the Blues on Saturday morning in Auckland. Damian Willemse comes in at fullback and as a result Dillyn Leyds shifts to left wing, with Dan du Plessis restored in the outside centre position.
The two rotational switches up front sees Jaco Coetzee at No 8 and Wilco Louw back at tighthead prop while in a significant boost for the Cape side fit-again Eben Etzebeth slots into the second row to fill the vacancy left by the injured JD Schickerling, who returned back to SA.
The Capetonians have won six of their last seven meetings against the Auckland side, including the last three in a row. However, the Blues have won two consecutive games after a bumpy start to the season and have their tails up at the moment.
The DHL Stormers will be hoping for another huge defensive effort from the in-form Pieter-Steph du Toit, their Springbok flanker who made 30 tackles in Wellington last week. That tackle performance equaled the tackle count of any player in a single round in the last nine seasons and the towering No 7 has made a combined total of 83 tackles so far this year.
What they said:
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said his side must prepare for a different challenge against the South African visitors: “The DHL Stormers are going to bring a very different challenge than the Highlanders and we must be better if we are to get a positive result.”
DHL Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said his team is determined to be as clinical as possible in Auckland: “We have got great energy among the group and the players are all keen to get out there and show what we are capable of, so we are looking forward to it. It will be important for us to be composed and focused as we look to keep improving and building our game.”
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman. Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 SP Marais.
Head to head:
Blues won: 10
DHL Stormers: 10
Blues points: 533
DHL Stormers: 504
Average score: 27-25
Date: Saturday, 30 March
SA time: 08h35
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Federico Anselmi
Television Match Official: Ben Skeen
‘Beast’ to equal appearance record in Durban derby
Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has made just two changes to the starting line-up for this week’s home derby against the Vodacom Bulls. Luke Stringer replaces Phepsi Buthelezi at flank and Lwazi Mvovo rotates on the wing with Sbu Nkosi.
There is also a first call-up this campaign for experienced loose forward Philip van der Walt who returned from Japan with an injury but is now back to full fitness, joining Craig Burden (hooker) in making an impact off the bench.
Meanwhile, stalwart prop Beast Mtawarira stands on the cusp of making history as the popular front ranker is set to equal Adriaan Strauss’ record of 156 competition appearances.
Strauss played for the Toyota Cheetahs and the Vodacom Bulls, but Mtawarira has accomplished his feat with just one team, the Cell C Sharks, since making his debut in 2007.
Vodacom Bulls coach Pote Human has rotated his scrumhalves for the visit to Durban, which sees Embrose Papier starting and fit-again lock Eli Snyman also making his return to the run on side.
The Pretoria side are coming off the back of a very disappointing 56-20 home loss to the Chiefs and they will be determined to return to winning ways against their South African rivals. While both teams have won three and lost two so far, it was the Vodacom Bulls who clinched a comfortable 37-14 triumph when the two sides met at earlier this month in Pretoria.
But the coastal outfit is a hard nut to crack at home and boasts with seven wins from their last eight games on home turf, losing only to the DHL Stormers in that period. And to add spice to the derby, the Pretoria visitors have won their last three local derbies in a row.
What they said:
Cell C Sharks flanker Jacques Vermeulen admits the crunch derby is going to require great patience if they want to replicate last week’s success over the Rebels: “The Vodacom Bulls will come to Durban looking to resurrect their campaign after last week (defeat to the Chiefs), but we pride ourselves on our efforts to win every home game. This is a big game for us. Every team wants to make their home ground a fortress; it’s important for us to win this weekend.”
Vodacom Bulls coach Pote Human has challenged his side to show real hunger in Durban: “They know what we can bring and we know what to expect too. They have a number of Springboks in their pack and it’s going to be a battle. I’m really excited for this game and the players are all excited to go and show what they can do. We all know that we are better than what we produced last week.”
Cell C Sharks: 15. Aphelele Fassi, 14. Lwazi Mvovo, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Louis Schreuder (captain), 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jacques Vermeulen, 6. Luke Stringer, 5. Hyron Andrews, 4. Ruben van Heerden, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Khutha Mchunu, 19. Gideon Koegelenberg, 20. Philip van der Walt, 21. Grant Williams, 22. Kobus van Wyk, 23. Curwin Bosch.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Conrad van Vuuren, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze.
Head to head:
Cell C Sharks won: 9
Vodacom Bulls: 19
Cell C Sharks points: 646
Vodacom Bulls points: 683
Average score: 21-22
Date: Saturday, 30 March
SA time: 15h05
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Brendon Pickerill
Television Match Official: Christie du Preez
Other Round 7 fixtures this weekend:
Friday 29 March
08h35: Hurricanes vs Crusaders, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
10h45: Waratahs vs Sunwolves, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Saturday, 30 March
10h45: Reds vs Rebels, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
23h30: Jaguares vs Chiefs, Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Bye: Lions, Brumbies, Highlanders