Two stadiums, 900km apart, will be the focus this week when two South African Vodacom Super Rugby derbies kick off on Saturday.
Based on log position, it’s hard to argue that The Sharks will be the favourites when they host the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday afternoon.
The Vodacom Bulls head into relatively unknown territory to take on the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday evening.
The Southern Kings will on Saturday experience first-hand what the whole fuss about the travel factor in Vodacom Super Rugby is all about when they host the Vodacom Bulls at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Should the Bulls be beaten in Port Elizabeth they will have to take solace in having made some form of rugby history as their coach, Frans Ludeke, became a father for the second, third and fourth time on Wednesday. His wife gave birth to triplets, making him – as far as we could determine – the first Vodacom Super Rugby coach in the history of the competition to score a hat-trick of children.
The Kings only returned to Port Elizabeth late on Sunday evening after their four-match Australasian tour, which saw a a draw against the Brumbies in Canberra before they beat the Rebels in Melbourne.
A sold out Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will await the Kings on Saturday, with their regular captain and most experienced player, Luke Watson, also back after missing the Australasian tour because of injury.
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Returning from tour is not always easy. Last year, South Africa’s two most successful Vodacom Super Rugby teams, the Vodacom Bulls and The Sharks, both experienced this first hand by losing at home upon their arrival back from Australasia.
In 2011, only the Vodacom Bulls managed to win their first post-tour home match, with The Sharks, DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs all losing theirs and the MTN Lions getting a draw.
The Kings know they will have to be at their best to beat the three-time champions in Port Elizabeth and thereby recording their first victory over a fellow South African side.
“This should be a hotly contested game and I am really looking forward to it,” said Watson, who will be playing in his 84th Vodacom Super Rugby match, which includes 20 appearances for The Sharks and 62 for the DHL Stormers, whom he also captained.
The Vodacom Bulls will be hoping to build on their win over the Toyota Cheetahs last weekend – their first in more than a month.
“We had to work very hard for the win against the Cheetahs and we want that momentum carried over into the Kings match,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“I am pleased with the way the combinations worked on the night and decided to stick with that. We will need to be very structured and cohesive against the Kings, who will be fired up and spurred on by a sell-out crowd. To have an unchanged team will hopefully offset those early challenges.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said: “We had to dig deep and needed all 22 in the squad to beat the Cheetahs, something that will work in our favour when facing the Kings for the first time. We need to focus on our own game and not allow the crowd to get into the match, so need to have a strong start and keep up the effort.”
The Vodacom Bulls announced a late change to their team. Dewald Potgieter was forced to withdraw with a knee injury. Arno Botha will start against the Kings, with Despatch born ex EP King, Jacques Potgieter coming onto the bench.
The teams are:
- Southern Kings: George Whitehead, Sergeal Petersen, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Ronnie Cooke, Demetri Catrakillis, Shaun Venter; Luke Watson (captain), Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, David Bulbring, Steven Sykes, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Hannes Franklin, Grant Kemp, Rynier Bernardo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Nicolas Vergallo, Marcello Sampson, Siviwe Soyzwapi.
- Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellet. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Paul Willemse, Jacques Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Louis Fouchè, Bjorn Basson.
Southern Kings v Vodacom Bulls
- Date: Saturday, 20 April
- SA Time: 19h10
- Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
- Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
- Assistant referees: Ben Crouse (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
- Television match official: Johann Meuwessen (South Africa)
I have spoken to both the Algoa Bus and Ibongolethu Bus Services and both have confirmed that no special buses will be running.
According to the happy fellow at Ibongolethu they have asked Council via e-mail if buses may run so the situation may change.
According to Municipal Spokesman Kupido Baron; “We have Libhongolethu busses from Lillian Diedericks (formerly known as Bister House) on an hourly basis that will stop at the stadium until about 20:30. We will let you know if we can make special arrangements for busses to ran later than that. Currently we do not have anything in place. ”