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South African Super Rugby Franchises
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Cheetahs

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Lions

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Super Rugby

Gert SmalDHL StormersA visit to the HPC in Bellville on a cool and blustery April afternoon would have brought some much needed warmth to the hearts of DHL Stormers supporters on Monday.

If confirmation was needed that new Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal will add his coaching expertise to the Stormers management group it was provided as he helped out the forwards and added his considerable presence to the lineout drills.

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Johan AckermannLionsJohan Ackermann is looking for his team to eliminate the ‘soft moments’ from their game that have cost them two games in a row, as he prepares for the match against the Stormers.

In the Lions’ past two games, coach Ackermann has been quick to point out ‘soft moments’ and poor decision making as the major contributors to his team’s demise.

A turnover try from the Sharks’ Lwazi Mvovo last weekend, and mistakes at the back against the Crusaders cost the Lions critical points and potentially halted their chances of winning those matches.

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Francois SteynTim SwielCell C SharksSharks Director of Rugby Jake White is yet to decide whether Frans Steyn or Tim Swiel will start at flyhalf against the Cheetahs this weekend.

Fred Zeilinga injured his hamstring in the victory over the Lions at Ellis Park last Saturday and was replaced by Steyn who shifted from inside centre and performed well at pivot.

Zeilinga joins first-choice flyhalf Pat Lambie on the sidelines, with his injury expected to rule him out for a couple of weeks, which leaves White with an interesting decision.

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Piri WeepuBluesFormer All Black Piri Weepu could potentially make a miraculous return to playing Super Rugby this weekend when the Blues face the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Thirty-year-old halfback Weepu has made a full recovery from a minor stroke and heart surgery and has returned to training.

Weepu says that he went through an emotional time a couple of weeks ago when he revealed that he had had a stroke before his two Super Rugby matches in South Africa and also a hole in his heart.

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Andrew MehrtensAs Super Rugby nears its 20th year, I wonder if it’s time to shake things up and maybe take a step back from South Africa.

I got up in the early hours of the morning at the weekend and watched my old Crusaders team battle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein – but I’m sure I was in the minority.

I can’t help thinking we might have lost a little interest in playing South African teams, and that ultimately the future of this competition might be more localised round time zones.

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Super RugbyThe Cell C Sharks ground out their sixth win of the Vodacom Super Rugby season to stay at the top of the standings, but for the other three South African teams in action this weekend, the ninth round wasn’t a happy one.

The KwaZulu-Natalians beat a plucky Lions side by 25-12 in front of more than 30,000 people at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday evening. It was a battle of attrition and the visitors from Durban scored the only try of the match.

Earlier on Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs put up a brave fight, but for a second successive week they fell off the pace in the final 10 minutes as they lost by 52-31 to the Crusaders in Bloemfontein – the team from Canterbury’s first win in the Free State Stadium for seven years.

On Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls could not put an end to a seven-year drought in Dunedin as they paid the price for making way too many errors with ball in hand and on defence as they went down by 27-20 to the Highlanders.

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Jean de VilliersStormersSquad captain Jean de Villiers, prop Pat Cilliers and lock / flank Jurie van Vuuren are all back on deck this week, and available for selection against the Lions.

Hookers Scarra Ntubeni and Tiaan Liebenberg and wing Kobus van Wyk are not available for selection as yet, whilst flank Schalk Burger and winger Cheslin Kolbe will be given until later in the week to see if they are available.

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Bismarck du PlessisJannie du PlessisCell C SharksThey are strong, generally popular characters of the international rugby landscape and that is never a bad thing … but do brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis take interaction with referees a bit too far?

The voices of the two Sharks front-rankers have been among the most consistently audible to mass audiences this season as far as spirited dialogue with Super Rugby officials is concerned.

Shrinks (and may I cheekily add, at the risk of generalisation, wives and girlfriends?) will tell you that communication is healthy.

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WaratahsIsrael FolauThat’s the question not even the Waratahs have the answer to right now, as the Wallaby star waits to be medically cleared for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby game.

Folau was controversially pulled from the clash with the Western Force on Saturday after the Australian Rugby Union medical staff overruled the Waratahs’ decision to put him on the park after a throat Cartilage injury.

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Johan AckermannLionsThe Lions don’t learn from their mistakes they will be doomed to repeat them.

This was the harsh message from coach Johan Ackermann after his side held the Cell C Sharks for 65 minutes, before allowing them a turnover inside the Lions’ own half and watched as the game slipped away from them through an excellent Lwazi Mvovo try to lose 25-12 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday.

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Super RugbyEvery time the Cell C Sharks score a win there are mutters in the background that they still have to travel overseas, but the rate they are going they will leave for Australasia needing to do very little to confirm themselves as the winners of the South African conference in Vodacom Super Rugby.

It has been written that the Sharks, in beating the Lions at Ellis Park this past weekend, showed that they are not as commanding away from home as they are at Growthpoint Kings Park. But that should surely be a given in a season where until the past two weeks home ground advantage was so important, and these days a win over the Lions in Johannesburg is not something you just accept as an expected event. You have to work for it.

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