Super Rugby Unlocked, Round Five - Teams and predictions
NO ROOM TO HIDE: The Cheetahs return from an unplanned two-week hiatus and enter a critical fortnight in their drive for glory.
In the wake of the decision to declare their cancelled match against the Lions a draw, the Cheetahs must beat the Sharks and Stormers on the road to keep alive their dream of winning a ‘Super Rugby’ title.
While winning the Currie Cup – Part Two of the domestic series – remains the Cheetahs’ main priority, winning Part One, SR Unlocked, will be a perfect way to make a statement to SA Rugby after being kicked out of the Pro14.
Having already beaten the Bulls, the only team to do so, adding the scalps of the Sharks and Stormers to their ‘draw’ with the Lions will be the strongest possible message they can send to HQ.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt admitted they are expecting a backlash from the Cheetahs, following their cancelled match against Lions and the bye – gifting them the two-week break.
“I think it will motivate them,” Everitt said.
“They would not have been happy with [just] getting two points against the Lions. I think they would have expected to beat the Lions after their performance [a win] against the Bulls.”
Everitt also felt the two-week lay-off would not have hampered them.
“They didn’t play for a long time before the start of the competition and they put the Pumas away in 40 minutes.
“They didn’t show any signs of rustiness [back in Round One] and we don’t expect them to be off their game, we expect them to be at their best.”
The Cheetahs coach, Hawies Fourie, saw the two-week break in a very different light and said it would be “quite difficult” to overcome, as a bye can always hurt you.
“We had a very poor [training] session on Monday and had to rectify that on Tuesday,” Fourie said, adding that they will have lost some momentum.
“However, we still have our destiny in our own hands,” he said, adding: “We are four points behind the Bulls with a game in hand and three rounds to go.”
(Continue below … )
* The other big match this weekend is at Ellis Park, where the Lions host the Bulls in a Trans-Jukskei derby.
With just two matches remaining and the Cheetahs breathing down their proverbial necks, the Bulls are well aware that they can’t afford to slip at this stage of the season.
“The players have done well in correcting the ship after a slow start against the Griquas and Cheetahs which is testament to their desire to go the whole nine yards and secure silverware,” Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said of their opening fortnight – which saw them edge Griquas 30-23 at Loftus Versfeld and then lost 17-19 to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
That was followed by bonus-point demolitions of the Sharks (41-14 in Pretoria) and Stormers (39-6, in a weather-shortened encounter at Loftus).
Combined with the Cheetahs’ cancelled match, the Bulls moved to the top of the standings.
“However, our job is not yet done and we will have to have our wits about us when we face the Lions who will be confident after a strong performance last weekend,” White said.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted they will face a massive challenge against the impressive Bulls pack, especially in the scrums.
However, he felt they have made enough progress since their poor set-piece form in the pre-season SuperFan putting.
“Our scrum is getting better every week,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “It is going to be a great battle on Saturday.
“Both teams use the scrum as a weapon to get penalties and attack from.”
* In the other match this weekend, the struggling Stormers are travelling to Kimberley to face an unpredictable Griquas in a game that will see World Cup-winning Springbok Steven Kitshoff earn his 100th Stormers cap in Kimberley.
The powerful loosehead prop, who made his debut as a 19-year-old against the Chiefs in Hamilton in 2011, will lead the Stormers out in the absence of injured Springbok skipper Siyamthanda Kolisi.
Stormers coach John Dobson paid tribute to Kitshoff, who has been a stalwart for the Stormers over the years.
“Steven is the ultimate professional and it is wonderful that he joins his old friends Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe as Stormers centurions,” Dobson said.
Teams and predictions for Round Five below video …
Friday, November 6:
Sharks v Cheetahs
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Sharks have won their last three Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Cheetahs, including a come-from-behind win when they met last in Round Five, 2017.
The Cheetahs have won both of their two games in Super Rugby Unlocked, conceding just three first-half points in each of those fixtures.
The Sharks have scored four tries within the opening 20 minutes of games during Super Rugby Unlocked, more than any other team in the competition.
The Cheetahs have conceded fewer metres (197), clean breaks (three) and offloads (five) per game than any other team in Super Rugby Unlocked.
Rosko Specman (Cheetahs) has gained 111 metres per game in Super Rugby Unlocked; he is the only player to have played multiple games and maintained an average of 100 metres or more per game.
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by five points
Head to head
Sharks: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phendulani Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter (captain), 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 John Hubert-Meyer, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Werner Kok.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela (captain), 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Teboho Mohoje, 20 Jeandré Rudolph, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Paul Mente
TMO: Marius Jonker
Saturday, November 7
Griquas v Stormers
(Griquas Park, Kimberley – Kick-off: 16.30; 14.30 GMT)
The Griquas and Stormers are set to face each other for the first time in Super Rugby Unlocked, with both teams coming into this game on the back of a defeat.
Despite having trailed at half-time in all three of their games in Super Rugby Unlocked, the Stormers have picked up two wins from their three games in the competition thus far.
The Stormers have conceded just 18 penalties in their three games so far in Super Rugby Unlocked, 10 fewer than any other team in the competition.
James Verity-Amm (Griquas) has gained 9.5 metres per carry in Super Rugby Unlocked, the most of any player to have made at least 20 carries throughout the competition.
The Stormers’ Salmaan Moerat (31) has made the joint-most tackles of any player in the 2020 Super Rugby Unlocked campaign, while his teammate Frans Malherbe (29) has made the second most.
@rugby365com: Stormers by 12 points
Head to head
Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Eduan Keyter, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 André Smith, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Hendrik Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Replacements – from: Monde Hadebe, Andrew Beerwinkel, Madot Mabokela, Johan Momsen, Ewan Coetzee, Theo Maree, George Whitehead, Harlon Klaasen, Bandisa Ndlovu, Cameron Lindsay, Dan Kasende.
Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 John Schickerling, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements (from): 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Sazi Sandi, 20 Salmaan Moerat, 21 Chris van Zyl, 22 Ben-Jason Dixon, 23 Godlen Masimla, 24 Tim Swiel, 25 Michal Hazner, 26 Ruhan Nel.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Griffin Colby
TMO: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Lions v Bulls
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)
The Bulls have won their last two Super Rugby games against the Lions, after having won only one of their last seven games against them.
The last time they won more in succession against the Lions was a nine-game streak from 2007 to 2014.
The Lions ran out to a 61-31 win over the Griquas in their last Super Rugby Unlocked game and will now hunt for back-to-back wins across all Super Rugby competitions for the first time since May 2019.
The Lions have made more clean breaks (13) and more offloads (10) per game than any other team in Super Rugby Unlocked.
The Bulls boast a line-out success rate of 95 percent in Super Rugby Unlocked, the highest of any team; indeed, they have lost fewer than one line-out on their own throw per game this season.
Wandisile Simelane (Lions) made four try assists in Round Four of Super Rugby Unlocked, more than any other player has made throughout the entire campaign; indeed, no player has made more try assists in a Super Rugby game in the last decade.
@rugby365com: Bulls by seven points
Head to head
Lions: 15 Gianni Lombard; 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referee: Cwengile Jadezweni, Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
* Statistics provided by Opta Sport