No-one can dispute that the Toyota Cheetahs are on a roll after five successive victories – their best-ever run in the history of the franchise – but can they bury one of their big bogeys at Loftus Versfeld this weekend when they travel to Pretoria to face the Vodacom Bulls?
By now, the Toyota Cheetahs have beaten every other side in Vodacom Super Rugby, bar two (actually three, but they have not yet played the Southern Kings).
Those two teams are the Chiefs, who have drawn twice with the Toyota Cheetahs (in 2007 in Bloemfontein and 2010 in Hamilton), and the Vodacom Bulls.
Yes, the Vodacom Bulls lead the head-to-head stakes between these sides by 9-0. The closest the Toyota Cheetahs came to upsetting the Pretorians, was in 2011 in Bloem, when they lost 23-25. Last year, the Vodacom Bulls won both derbies easily (51-19 at the Free State Stadium and 40-24 at Loftus).
Contrary to the Toyota Cheetahs, the Vodacom Bulls have lost their last three matches – all on tour Down Under – and will be looking to bounce back to winning ways after last weekend’s bye.
“We feel that we left some points on the road, but now have a good stretch back home where we play ourselves back into those important play-off positions,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“The rest did wonders to all and I am pleased with the way we prepared for this one.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies admitted that it will be good playing in front of their home support again.
“We will certainly need all the support we can get against a Cheetahs side that is playing with a lot of confidence and momentum,” said Spies.
“History counts for nothing in this one, so past performances will have no bearing on this clash. We will have to front up from the first minute of play to the last. The Cheetahs play for 80 minutes and we need to make sure we play our style and on our terms.”
Naka Drotské, coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, said his team is looking forward to the trip to Pretoria, but that they know it will be very tough at Loftus.
“Like we were against the Stormers, we’ll still be the underdogs against the Bulls,” Drotské said.
“We have a bunch of young players who have surprised everyone in Super Rugby, especially with regards to fitness. And that is one thing you need against the Bulls. But at Loftus against the Bulls I don’t think the visitors are ever the favourites.
“We couldn’t beat the Stormers since 2007 and we haven’t beaten the Bulls at Loftus in Super Rugby. But well keep on working hard.”
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellet. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Paul Willemse, Arno Botha, Rudy Paige, Louis Fouchè, Ulrich Beyers.
Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Burton Francis, Piet van Zyl, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ligtoring Landman, Frans Viljoen, Tewis de Bruyn, Francois Brummer, Ryno Benjamin.
Kick-off SA Time: 19h10
Referee: Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)