SA Rugby

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

The Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold has selected a 27-member squad that departs, this Saturday, for the Australasian leg of Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.

Commenting on the squad selected and the tour, Gary Gold said: “I have gone for 15 forwards and 12 backs, my selection was based on who is fit and healthy, but the nice thing is that there are a lot of guys who can play in different positions.

“We are looking forward to this tour. Tours are funny things, I’ve seen teams in far worse positions than us fight to get back and we not giving up the fight. I believe in this group of guys and I am keen to work with them in adverse times – that’s when you see true warriors come out.

“That’s our challenge: we are down but we’re not out and now is the time to stand up and fight back. If we come back fighting in the last six games, we’ll salvage a lot of respect”, he added.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 11 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 24 April, 4 games on Saturday 25 April and 1 game on Sunday 26 April.

The Cell C Sharks have a BYE weekend.

There are 2 lip-licking South African derbies on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Toyota Cheetahs as well as between the DHL Stormers vs Vodacom Bulls, and no South African side is on tour at the moment.

There are no more unbeaten sides left in the tournament, since the Hurricanes lost against the Waratahs last weekend.

On Friday, the Chiefs host the Western Force in Hamilton at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 15:35 AWST, 07:35 GMT) before the Brumbies host the Highlanders in a slightly later match than usual due to the Anzac Day Centenary celebrations, in Canberra, at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Crusaders host the Blues in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 09:55 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT), the Emirates Lions host the Toyota Cheetahs in Johannesburg, before the DHL Stormers host the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT).

On Sunday morning at 08:05 SA Time (16:05 AEST, 18:05 NZ Time, 06:05 GMT) the Reds host the high-flying Hurricanes side in the last game of the Round.

The game between the Chiefs and Western Force should see the Chiefs aesily beating the Force whereas the game between the Brumbies and Highlanders a bit later on Friday is extremely difficult to call.

On Saturday one would suspect that the Crusaders will beat the Blues but the Crusaders seem to be on the downhill slope, whereas the Blues seem to be improving.

The Waratahs should take care of the Melbourne Rebels.

The Emirates Lions should have too much firepower and also too much depth for the struggling Cheetahs side but the duzy of the weekend between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls is another difficult one to predict for, however if this year’s prior form is anything to go by, the Stormers should have this one in the bag.

The Hurricanes should beat the struggling Reds in Brisbane on Sunday… and convincingly so, as the Reds have truly been diabollically bad in 2015!

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Vodacom CupAll eyes will be on Diamantveld High School in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon when the only 2 unbeaten teams left in the South Section of the Vodacom Cup clash in a replay of the 2012 final.

GWK Griquas, the defending champions, host DHL Western Province in a highly-anticipated clash at Diamantveld.

Both these sides are unbeaten after 4 matches and their performances have been very similar thus far, with a points’ difference of 69 for the visitors from Cape Town and 70 for the home team. DHL Western Province top the South Section log on 19 points though, with GWK Griquas 2nd on 18.

The high-flying SWD Eagles will be looking for their 1st away win of the season after already beating the Cell C Sharks XV and Toyota Free State XV in George, when they travel up the N2 to take on the EP Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, the Cell C Sharks XV, at home in Empangeni to the Boland Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon, will be looking to reverse a 3-match losing streak when they travel north up the coast.

In the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions will retake the lead at the top of the standings if they can beat the Leopards XV at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

Current log leaders, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, have a BYE and can slip back to 3rd position if the Steval Pumas record a convincing victory over the Hino Valke at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

This week, we’re looking at former SA Under 20 speedster Sergeal Petersen, who is now with the Toyota Free State XV, after making his mark for the EP Kings. We also look at Xerox Golden Lions loose forward Ruaan Lerm.

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Piet van Zyl

Piet van Zyl

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Springbok halfback Piet van Zyl will earn a 3rd start for the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday when the Pretoria franchise play the DHL Stormers in Cape Town in a crucial Vodacom Super Rugby clash.

Van Zyl, who started against the coastal side in the season’s opener in February, comes in for injured Rudy Paige, while coach Frans Ludeke added another Springbok, midfielder Jan Serfontein, to his starting team at DHL Newlands.

The incumbent Springbok centre is fit again after a hip flexor injury and will start in place of Burger Odendaal, who deputised for Serfontein the last 4 Rounds.

The rest of the match day squad is the same one which conquered the Cell C Sharks in Durban last weekend, bar Akona Ndungane, who will take up Van Zyl’s spot on the bench.

The centurion winger will make a 1st appearance in this year’s competition if called into action from the bench. He earned his last and 108th cap in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition in the final pool match of the 2014 competition against the same opponent and at the same venue.

Ludeke is well aware of the massive challenge that awaits his side against the Stormers, who are just 2 points behind the Vodacom Bulls on the Combined Log and South African Conference Points Log.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen returns to lead the DHL Stormers in Saturday’s tantalising derby clash against the Vodacom Bulls, at DHL Newlands, Cape Town.

Vermeulen missed the final 2 weeks of the Stormers’ Super Rugby tour as part of the SA franchises’ rest agreement with SA Rugby, but his return marks 1 of 4 changes to the starting line-up that defeated the Western Force in Perth last Saturday.

2 Of the 4 changes are injury enforced, with Johnny Kotze and Pat Howard replacing the injured wing duo of Kobus van Wyk (knee – 6 weeks) and Dillyn Leyds (shoulder – 1 week), respectively. Howard will make his Super Rugby debut, with Kotze set to win his 6th cap.

Nizaam Carr moves to the bench to make way for Vermeulen’s expected return to action, whilst the 4th and final change sees Nic Groom take over at scrumhalf from Louis Schreuder, who, like Carr, reverts to the bench.

Joining Carr and Schreuder amongst the replacements is prop Oli Kebble, with Alistair Vermaak and Sikhumbuzo Notshe out of the matchday 23 and back to doing duty for the Western Province Vodacom Cup team this weekend.

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Derick MinnieEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team for Saturday’s clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Ackermann has made just 3 changes to the starting side which beat the Cell C Sharks a fortnight ago.

In the forwards, Armand “Akker” van der Merwe will start at hooker while Ruan Dreyer has been drafted in at tighthead prop.

The backline sees just 1 change, with Courtnall Skosan starting at left wing, having recovered from injury.

On the bench, MB Lusaseni also moves into the match day 23, having recovered from his long-term injury. This is his 1st inclusion in the 2015 competition.

Unfortunately Derick Minnie drops out of the match day 23 as a result of an injury he sustained during Tuesday’s training session. Minnie has undergone surgery on his knee and will unfortunately be out of action for the remainder of the season.

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BlitzbokkeThe BlitzBokke have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming Glasgow leg of the HSBS Sevens World Series as they face their toughest challenge yet in pursuit of being crowned World Sevens Series champions.

Neil Powell’s men hold a slender 4 point lead over Fiji on the overall log standings ahead of the Glasgow showpiece and he knows that the focus needs to remain on the task at hand and not the permutations regarding the overall Series.

It will not be an easy task though as they will have to get through a tough pool that sees them being drawn alongside 3rd-placed New Zealand, Samoa and Kenya.

“It is definitely going to be a tough pool – and tournament – but if you want to be the best in the world, you need to beat everybody. The key to our success will be to remain focused on our processes and to make sure we do the right things on the field. If we can do that, the result will take care of itself.

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Kobus van Wyk

Kobus van Wyk

Hard-running Stormers wing Kobus van Wyk has been ruled out of action for 6 weeks, after picking up a patella injury against the Force last weekend.

Van Wyk limped off the field in the 29th minute of Saturday’s hard-fought clash in Perth and he will be unavailable until June.

Fellow wing Dillyn Leyds sat out training on Tuesday, but squad captain Duane Vermeulen – fresh off his 2-week rest period – rejoined squad training at the Stormers’ High Performance Centre in Bellville.

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Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has named his team to tackle the Lions in a Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Joe Pietersen has been moved from flyhalf to fullback, with Willie du Plessis given the No 10 jersey.

With both Willie le Roux and Coenie van Wyk out with ankle injuries, Drotske decided to move the versatile Pietersen to fullback.

The latest news is that Coenie Ooshuizen has also pulled out with a back injury and he has been replaced at tighthead prop by Maks van Dyk.

In other changes to the team that lost 18 / 17 at home to the Reds last weekend, Danie Minnie starts at loosehead prop, replacing BG Uys who is suffering from a back injury. Caylib Oosthuizen comes in on the bench as prop cover.

Tienie Burger replaces Heinrich Brüssow at flank after the latter broke his arm against the Reds. Carel Greeff will provide loose forward cover from the bench.

With Du Plessis promoted to the starting team, Clayton Blommetjies also comes in on the bench.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

The DHL Stormers are keeping their build-up to Saturday’s massive Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Vodacom Bulls under wraps, with no open training sessions or press conferences scheduled until the team announcement on Thursday, but there shouldn’t be any secret to what the biggest selection dilemma will be this week.

To put it simply, coach Allister Coetzee needs to find a way to fit 4 inform Springbok loose-forwards into a winning loose trio. Up until the match against the Western Force, not all the loose-forwards were firing, as Nizaam Carr wasn’t repeating the excellent form that earned him a national call-up last year.

However, against the Western Force the No 8 hit his straps and regained his old confidence, delivering a busy and energetic performance that should have taken him close to the man of the match award. The Stormers were unlucky not to score a try off one particularly impressive run from Carr.

The problem for Coetzee, if you could call it that, is that skipper Duane Vermeulen has now completed his rest period that started when he travelled home at the halfway point of the 4 match overseas tour, meaning that he effectively missed 3 games in all as he was also rested for the 1st. Vermeulen should return to the back of the scrum for the Newlands clash, which will mean that Carr will have to be accommodated elsewhere.

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Franco Smith

Franco Smith

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs have offered Shimlas coach Franco Smith the job as head coach of their Currie Cup side.

Ryno Opperman, chairperson of the Free State Cheetahs Company’s board, confirmed the news.

The 42-year-old Smith was earlier contracted as backline coach of the Free State Cheetahs’ Currie Cup team, but after leading Shimlas to their maiden Varsity Cup title, the Cheetahs want to promote him to head coach.

“A written offer is being drawn up for Franco to serve as Currie Cup head coach from the 2015 competition,” said Opperman.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

The Cheetahs have been dealt another blow with the news that Willie le Roux could face an extended period on the sidelines.

The Springbok fullback is suffering from an ankle injury, and it is reported that he could be out for up to 5 weeks.

Le Roux didn’t feature against the Reds last weekend as he was being rested, so it’s unclear when he suffered the injury.

His absence would be a major blow for the Bloemfontein outfit, which has already lost Heinrich Brüssow for the season to a broken arm.

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Kees Lensing

Kees Lensing

Former Vodacom Bulls prop and Namibian captain, Kees Lensing, has signed a 2 year contract to become a scrum coach to a leading Japanese club.

Lensing, who has been helping out at the Tuks Academy since retiring as a rugby player, will head abroad to become the scrum coach for Japanese club Canon Eagles in Tokyo.

Canon play in the Japanese top league and have enlisted Lensing as the 1st step to trying to win their league. The club is also likely to target a number of Springboks to join them after the Rugby World Cup.

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WhistleSANZAR has names the Match Officials for Round 11 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

The weekend sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday.

The Cell C Sharks have a BYE weekend.

On Friday referee Angus Gardner starts off the action at 09:35 SA Time in the game between the Chiefs and Western Force in Hamilton. Also on Friday, in a 15 minutes delayed start due to Anzac Centenary Commemorative celebrations, the Brumbies host the Highlanders in Canberra at 11:55 SA Time, where Matt O’Brian will be in charge of matters.

On Saturday the Crusaders host the Blues at 09:35 SA Time in Christchurch and Chris Pollock will have the whistle. Thereafter, also 15 minutes delayed due to Anzac Day celebrations it is the turn of Rohan Hoffmann in the game between the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels, at 11:55 SA Time, in Sydney.

Later in the day and in South Africa the Emirates Lions host the Toyota Cheetahs at 17:05 SA Time in Johannesburg, where Jaco van Heerden will preside. In a massive derby in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time, Jaco Peyper will be in charge in the game between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls.

On Sunday at 08:05 SA Time, Nick Briant takes charge of the final game of the Round, between the Reds and Hurricanes in Brisbane.

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SpringboksThe national selectors have confirmed the Junior Springbok match-23 to face a strong Varsity Cup Dream Team in Stellenbosch on Tuesday evening. The match will kick-off at 18:30 SA Time at the Danie Craven Stadium and will be televised live on SuperSport 1.

4 Players who represented the Junior Springboks at the 2014 Junior World Championship in New Zealand – Warrick Gelant (fullback), Dan du Preez (flank), Abongile Nonkontwana (lock) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) – will again line up for the Junior Boks.

The historic clash, which marks the 1st of its kind between the sides, is an important part of the Junior Springboks’ preparation for the newly named World Rugby Under 20 Championship which will be hosted in Italy in June.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Vodacom Bulls halfbacks Rudy Paige and Jacques-Louis Potgieter will not be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town due to injury.

Paige has a grade 1 medial ligament tear and will be out of action for at least 2 weeks, whilst Potgieter have a grade 1 hamstring tear and will be ready to return to action on 4 May, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

Burger Odendaal (hamstring), Bjorn Basson (knee), Flip van der Merwe (knee) and Arno van Wyk (bronchitis) sat out in training on Monday, with Odendaal only returning Thursday.

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Emirates LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union medical staff have released a medical report, ahead of the Emirates Lions’ match against the Toyota Cheetahs and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Vodacom Cup clash with the Leopards on Saturday.

Unfortunately Malcolm Marx (ankle), Steph de Wit (shoulder), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (ankle) and Martin Muller (calf) are all unavailable for selection this week but are still involved in intensive recovery programmes and are making progress.

On a positive note, Mark Richards (concussion), Courtnall Skosan (ankle), Sampie Mastriet (ankle) and Stokkies Hanekom (knee) have all been cleared and are available for selection for either the Emirates Lions or Xerox Golden Lions teams.

Kobus van Wyk

Kobus van Wyk

Right wing Kobus van Wyk is the only Stormers injury worry after Saturday’s Super Rugby win over the Force, having twisted his knee.

“Kobus went over his knee, it was an awkward sort of twist on his knee… but we will know more over the next 24 hours and will be able to say for sure when we get home,” said coach Allister Coetzee.

Accoridng to the Stormers’ website, the Stormers left Perth for South Africa on Sunday evening (local time). They arrived in Cape Town, via Johannesburg, on Monday morning (local time).

The players did not train on Monday, before starting preparations for next weekend’s home Bulls match (kick-off 19:10 SA Time) on Tuesday.

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DHL StormersBullsThe Bulls may hold a 2-point lead over the Stormers at the Top of the South African conference, but probably still need victory more than their hosts do in Saturday’s spicy Super Rugby derby at Newlands (19:10 SA Time).

Put it this way: if the Stormers repeat their 1st-round triumph at Loftus (29 / 17 then) they will become extremely firm favourites to win the conference.

As things stand, the Capetonians have 7 ordinary-season matches remaining, with 5 of them at home and only 2 away, whereas for the Bulls it is exactly the other way around – 2 at home and 5 away, including the formidable 4-game tour abroad.

So even if the Stormers lose to the old enemy on Saturday, they would still probably fancy their chances of leapfrogging the Loftus-based outfit at a later stage of the run-in.

Bear in mind that last season the Bulls failed to win a single fixture overseas, so they may require at least 2 this time if they are to thwart the Stormers’ own quest to end the local standings atop the pile.

At least 2 of the Australasian challenges facing the Bulls pretty soon will come from teams similarly pressing hard to make the playoff cut, in the form of the Chiefs and Brumbies (the other games will be against the Blues and Melbourne Rebels).

So it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the Stormers’ remaining schedule – their own overseas trip now completed with a tidy enough haul of 10 points from a possible 20 – is by some way the more favourable.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Coach Gary Gold, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, has said his suspended players owe the team a lot when they return from their respective bans on the Sharks’ overseas tour.

Captain Bismarck du Plessis has officially served out his 4-week ban as of 18 April. His final suspension weekend was against the Bulls last Saturday.

Du Plessis will be available for the 1st game against the Highlanders in a fortnight, after the Sharks BYE this week.

Centre Frans Steyn’s ban comes to an end on 3 May, which would mean that the Springbok would be unavailable for the 1st tour match.

Coach Gold, looking ahead to their tour after a loss to the Bulls on the weekend, was hopeful that the return of his 2 super stars would allow them a chance to right the wrongs they have caused the team.

“I certainly hope that it will be a shot at redemption for those guys coming back,” Gold said of both Du Plessis and Steyn.

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Vodacom CupThere were tries aplenty as the Vodacom Cup moved up a gear with the quarter-finals moving into sight for the 16 teams vying for the title.

In the South Section, the SWD Eagles probably delivered the biggest upset as they outplayed the Cell C Sharks XV in George on Friday evening, winning comfortably by 36 / 13 after a superb 2nd half performance where they scored 29 unanswered points.

GWK Griquas showed they will not let go of their title without a proper fight as they completely outclassed the Boland Cavaliers by 62 / 19 in Velddrif on Saturday afternoon, while the Toyota Free State XV beat the EP Kings by 50 / 45 in an extraordinary match in Bloemfontein where the scorers with still tied at 42 / 42 with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock.

DHL Western Province were predictably too strong for the Border Bulldogs as they cemented their position at the top of the South Section log with a 34 / 6 win on Saturday afternoon.

In the North Section, last weekend’s log leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, enjoyed a BYE and was overtaken at the top of the standings by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who beat the Down Touch Griffons by 40 / 21 in Pretoria on Friday afternoon.

The Steval Pumas’ 31 / 23 victory over the Leopards XV in Potchefstroom on Friday means the race to the top of the North Section log is now effectively between 3 teams.

The FNB Welwitschias recorded their 1st win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 24 / 17 in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

The Toyota Cheetahs suffered a massive blow when flank Heinrich Brüssow suffered an arm injury in their defeat to the Reds in Bloemfontein at the weekend.

The openside flank left the field in the 14th minute of the match at the Free State Stadium, and coach Naka Drotske has since confirmed that the Springbok has broken his arm.

More clarity about the severity of the injury will be known on Monday, but Brüssow will in all likelihood sit out the rest of the competition.

Fullback Coenie van Wyk also suffered an ankle injury and according to reports, is likely to be ruled out for about 6 weeks.

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WP Nel

WP Nel

At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.

He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.

“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.

In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.

“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 10 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There is only 1 game on Friday 17 April but we have 6 games on Saturday 18 April.

The Emirates Lions have a BYE weekend.

There is only 1 South African derby on the weekend, between the Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls, but the DHL Stormers play their last match on tour against the Western Force and the returning Toyota Cheetahs also takes on the battling Reds team in Bloemfontein.

Only 1 undefeated team still remains prior to the start of the weekend, the Hurricanes, and they are up against lasst year’s champions Waratahs side in Wellington.

On Friday, the lone game is the exciting derby between the Crusaders and Chiefs in Christchurch, at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Waratahs at 06:30 SA Time (16:30 NZ Time, 18:30 AEST, 04:30 GMT), whereafter the Highlanders host the Blues in Dunedin at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT). At 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT) the Brumbies play the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney.

Slightly later and a couple of hours in time zones to the West – in Perth at 13:45 SA Time (19:45 AWST, 21:45 AEST, 11:45 GMT), the Western Force host the DHL Stormers.

Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT), the Cell C Sharks host the Vodacom Bulls in Durban, before the last game of the Round where the Toyota Cheetahs host the Reds in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 03:10 AEST).

The game between the Crusaders and Chiefs should be a thriller on Friday, and calling a winner is difficult to do.

On Saturday one would suspect that the high-flying Hurricanes will beat last year’s struggling champions, the Waratahs in Wellington.

The Highlander sshould trounce the Blues and the Brumbies should easily dispatch the Melbourne Rebels.

In Perth the DHL Stormers will look for another win and to end their tour on the perfect note against the Western Force… and looking at recent results they should beat a struggling Force team.

The Cell C Sharks against the Vodacom Bulls is probably shaping up to be the game of the weekend and once again the question is asked who will be victorious… the sometimes unspectacular Bulls or the back-paddling “Gold-fish” (Cell C Sharks)… this one too tough to call.

In Bloemfontein all logic would suggest that the Toyota Cheetahs should beat the Rubble Reds.. and convincingly so, as the Reds have truly been diabollically bad in 2015!

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Varsity CupCoach Franco Smith has been forced to make changes to his Varsity Cup Dream Team which will tackle the Baby Boks in Stellenbosch next Tuesday evening.

UP-Tuks players Dan Kriel and Jaco Visagie are not available for selection and had to be replaced.

Kriel’s spot at inside centre has been taken by Johan Deysel who will now link up with his NWU-Pukke team-mate Rowayne Beukman in midfield.

Visagie was due to start as a replacement and experienced UFS-Shimlas hooker Elandre Hugget will now take his spot on the bench.

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Super RugbyThe 2015 season is shaping up as the most-closely contested South African Conference title race since the expansion of Vodacom Super Rugby in 2011.

The leadership of the SA Conference is up for grabs once more this weekend after 4 teams have already topped the local log so far this season, with anyone of the Vodacom Bulls, DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks that could be on top on Saturday night.

A mere 4 Log Points separate the Top 4 South African teams, with the Vodacom Bulls on 24 (after 8 matches), DHL Stormers on 22 (after 8 matches), Emirates Lions on 21 (after 9 matches) and Cell C Sharks on 20 (after 9 matches).

And even the 5th-placed Toyota Cheetahs are not out of the running as they trail the Cell C Sharks by only 7 points with a game in hand and a host of  local derbies to come.

Last year at a similar stage, the difference was a massive 21 points, but only the Cell C Sharks ended up making the playoffs.

In 2013, the difference between teams 1 and 4 in South Africa was 8 points at roughly the halfway stage of the competition, with the Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs eventually proceeding to the playoffs and the DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks just missing out in positions 7 and 8.

In 2012, a total of 12 points separated the teams from 1st to 4th at a similar stage and in the end the DHL Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks made the playoffs – South Africa’s most successful season yet in terms of representation in the Top 6.

Halfway through the season in the 1st year of Vodacom Super Rugby in 2011, the difference between the 1st and 4th South African teams was 20 points and in the end, only the DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks progressed to the knock-out stages.

The Emirates Lions have a BYE.

Note: Teams still got 4 Log Points for every BYE between 2011 and 2013, but for this comparison we subtracted those “free points”.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke reshuffled his pack of forwards and recalled Handré Pollard at flyhalf for his team to face the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Pollard, who replaces Jacques-LouisPotgieter in the only change to the backline that won against the Reds in their Vodacom Super Rugby clash last weekend, was rested last week as per SARU arrangement.

In the pack, Ludeke has Adriaan Strauss back after the hooker was also rested against the Reds, while he also picked a new loose trio, lock combination and front row to face the coastal side in the visitor’s 1st return match in the South African conference.

In the front row, Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe will start with Dean Greyling, with Callie Visagie and Trevor Nyakane moving to the bench. The lock combination of Flip van der Merwe and Grant Hattingh will pack down together for the 1st time this year, with Jacques du Plessis moving to the side of the scrum, where he will partner Deon Stegmann and Pierre Spies.

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Bongi Mbonambi

Bongi Mbonambi

Head coach Allister Coetzee has announced 4 personnel changes to the DHL Stormers starting 15 ahead of their final 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tour match on Saturday – against the Western Force in Perth (kick-off 13:45 SA Time).

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, lock Ruan Botha, flanker Siya Kolisi and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder will all start this week, with prop Ali Vermaak and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe the new faces on the bench.

Notshe joins the matchday 23 this week as a replacement for Kolisi, who will start at No 6 – with Schalk Burger moving across to No 7 – in the absence of Michael Rhodes, who flew home with a hamstring tear suffered against the Waratahs last weekend.

The only other injury-enforced change from the Waratahs game – won 32 / 18 by the DHL Stormers – is Botha in for Manuel Carizza in the No 5 jersey, with the latter still battling with a cut on the inside of his mouth.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks team named to play the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday shows nominal changes to the side that was picked last weekend, with 2 Springbok additions.

The only changes to the starting 15 are in a front row that this week features the Springbok prop duo of Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira, who return after an enforced rest last week as part of the agreement with the Springboks to provide regular breaks to the players.

Marco Wentzel retains the captaincy of a side that will look to build from the positives they took out of their clash with the Lions last weekend. The backline remains unchanged.

With the prospect of facing the Highlanders and Hurricanes in New Zealand and the Waratahs and Reds in Australia before returning to Durban for 2 final home games, Saturday’s derby against the Bulls comes at a vital time.

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Recent Comments

  • Nama 26 Apr 2015, 01:59 SAST - ...and just like that, Stormers are on top of the SA log...AGAIN. As predicted by the Nama at the start...
  • Nama 26 Apr 2015, 01:31 SAST - A couple of questions I need to ask. The best FH of the weekend? Jantjies Pollard Catrikilis The best outside...
  • Nama 26 Apr 2015, 01:06 SAST - @ BrumbiesBoy: You make no sense. Shouldn't you rather talk about the "quota" team that beat the Bulls? I guess...
  • Bullscot 25 Apr 2015, 22:47 SAST - 9 @ Puma: Hi Puma good to see you about here, sorry though to read of your knee hassles hope...
  • BrumbiesBoy 25 Apr 2015, 22:41 SAST - Soooo, no "official quota system" in place for SA's SR teams so tonigh's result serves the Bulls right for only...
  • Bullscot 25 Apr 2015, 22:39 SAST - 4 @ Pietman: Have never been there Pietman but with this game coming up had an online search of Galway...

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