Southern Kings lock and captain Steven Sykes will become the first South African player this season to earn his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby cap – a feat only 34 domestic players have achieved since the inception of the competition.
Sykes will achieve this remarkable milestone in Wellington on Friday morning (SA time) where the Southern Kings take on the Hurricanes in their final tour game to New Zealand.
The towering lock made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut for the Cell C Sharks against the Vodacom Bulls on 3 February 2007 – he has played 69 matches for the Durbanites, 14 for the Toyota Cheetahs and is on 16 for the Kings.
Round five of Vodacom Super Rugby will feature a series of big match-ups this weekend with the Vodacom Bulls, DHL Stormers and Southern Kings doing battle overseas, while the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs face tough tests at home. The Emirates Lions have a bye.This will mark the first weekend in which the South African franchises will all face overseas opposition.
In Wellington, the Hurricanes will have their sights set on their third consecutive victory, while the Southern Kings will look to build on the positives from their last two matches against the Crusaders and Chiefs.
In a jam-packed day on Saturday, the Vodacom Bulls will go up against the Sunwolves in Singapore, the Toyota Cheetahs host the Brumbies in Bloemfontein, the Cell C Sharks take on the Crusaders in Durban, and the DHL Stormers battle it out with the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
The clash in Singapore could be thrilling as the Vodacom Bulls will enter the match with confidence after defeating the Rebels and denying the Cell C Sharks their seventh successive victory last weekend, while the Sunwolves return to the ground where they suffered a narrow one-point defeat against the Toyota Cheetahs.
The Toyota Cheetahs, meanwhile, face a tough test against a Brumbies outfit that will be determined to bounce back from a heart-breaking 31-11 defeat against the DHL Stormers, their first of the season. The hosts will be equally determined to register a victory after winning only one of their four matches so far this season to avoid slipping too far behind the pace-setters in the competition.
In Durban the Cell C Sharks will want to extend their unbeaten run this season to five games and match their longest unbeaten run of eight matches in total, but the Crusaders come of back-to-back victories, which could result in a tightly-contested encounter.
The touring DHL Stormers will also face a tough challenge against the Jaguares in Argentina, but they will enter the match with confidence after registering a morale-boosting 20-point victory against Australia’s pace-setters, the Brumbies. They will, however, be mindful of the fact that the home team have put up brave fights in all of their matches up to now, with all three defeats being by four points or less.
In the other matches the Chiefs take on the Force in Hamilton and the Rebels meet the Highlanders in Melbourne on Saturday, and on Sunday the Reds host the Waratahs in Brisbane.
The full list of South African Vodacom Super Rugby centurions (active players in bold):
148: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 133)
145: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 109)
132: Odwa Ndungane (Bulls 10, Sharks 122)
131: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10), John Smit (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks)
123: Morné Steyn (Bulls)
122: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)
121: Adriaan Strauss (Bulls 24,Cheetahs 97)
119: Pierre Spies (Bulls)
118: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 57)
117: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
115: Jacques Botes (Sharks)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 88), Werner Kruger (Bulls)
112: Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Schalk Burger (Stormers)
110: Wynand Olivier (Bulls), Willem Alberts (Lions 37/ Sharks 73)
109: Akona Ndungane (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Cheetahs 20/Stormers 89)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 3, Cheetahs 21), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs 61, Sharks 47)
107: Jano Vermaak (Cats 11, Lions 62, Bulls 31, Stormers 3)
106: Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
105: Jean de Villiers (Stormers)
104: Andries Bekker (Stormers), Peter Grant (Stormers)
103: Ryan Kankowski (Sharks)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls)
Vodacom Super Rugby information:
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Hurricanes vs Southern Kings
Date: Friday, 25 March
SA Time: 08h35
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Kane McBride
Television match official: Aaron Paterson
· Southern Kings coach Deon Davids has made five changes to his starting team, one in the backline and four up-front.
· Scrumhalf Ntando Kebe replaces Kevin Luiters in a rotational switch among the backs.
· In the front row, prop Sti Sithole replaces Schalk Ferreira, who returned home due to concussion, while hooker Edgar Marutlulle takes over from Martin Bezuidenhout. The other changes are at flank where CJ Velleman and Stefan Willemse replace Chris Cloete and Thebelani Bholi respectively. Bholi has also returned home due to a hamstring injury.
· Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has made three changes to his starting lineup, with centre Willis Halaholo and lock Michael Fatialofa being promoted from the bench to the run-on team for their first starts.
· On the left wing Jason Woodward will start in place of Julian Savea.
· This clash will mark the second encounter between the Hurricanes and the Southern Kings. The first time they met was in 2013, which the Hurricanes won 46-30.
· The Southern Kings will be hunting their second overseas victory in the competition. They won one match and drew one in their debut season in 2013 against the Rebels and Brumbies respectively.
· The Hurricanes have won their last six matches against South African teams, which is a record for them against South African opposition.
· The last time a South African side defeated the Hurricanes in New Zealand was in 2013, when the Stormers defeated them 18-16.
Hurricanes – James Marshall, Cory Jane, Willis Halaholo, Ngani Laumape, Jason Woodward, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Mark Abbott, Michael Fatialofa, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (captain), Chris Eves. Replacements: Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila, Ben May, Geoff Cridge, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor.
Southern Kings – Jurgen Visser, Luzuko Vulindlu, Stefan Watermeyer, Shane Gates, Malcolm Jaer, Louis Fouche, Ntando Kebe, Jacques Engelbrecht, Stefan Willemse, CJ Velleman, JC Astle, Steven Sykes (captain), Jacobie Adriaanse, Edgar Marutlulle, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Justin Ackerman, Tom Botha, Schalk Oelofse, Chris Cloete, Kevin Luiters, Elgar Watts, JP Du Plessis.
Sunwolves vs Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 26 March
SA Time: 12h55
Venue: Singapore National Stadium
Referee: William Houston
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo, Aki Aso
Television match official: Takashi Hareda
· Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais made four changes and one positional switch to his starting team, with two changes up front and two among the backs.
· Prop Lizo Gqoboka replaces Trevor Nyakane in the front row, while lock Jason Jenkins will pair up with RG Snyman in the engine room in place of the injured Grant Hattingh.
· At flyhalf Tiaan Schoeman starts, with Francois Brummer dropping to the bench, while Jesse Kriel replaces Jan Serfontein at centre.
· The Vodacom Bulls will go in search of their first overseas victory since the third round in the 2013 season when they line up against the Sunwolves in what will be the first clash between these sides.
· The Sunwolves, in turn, will be hoping to register their first victory in the competition following defeats against the Rebels, Toyota Cheetahs and Emirates Lions.
· The Vodacom Bulls have won only one of their last six matches directly after a draw. They played to a 16-16 draw against the Cell C Sharks last weekend.
· Two of the Vodacom Bulls’ seven tries this season have originated from lineout steals, which is more than any other team in the competition from that origin.
· Should the Vodacom Bulls register a victory, it will mark their second win of the season, as their only victory so far has been against the Rebels.
Sunwolves – TBA
Vodacom Bulls – Warrick Gelant, Jamba Ulengo, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Bjorn Basson, Tiaan Schoeman, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Jannes Kirsten, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Nic de Jager, Piet van Zyl, Francois Brummer, Jan Serfontein.
Toyota Cheetahs vs Brumbies
Date: Saturday, 26 March
SA Time: 15h05
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, AJ Jacobs
Television match official: Willie Vos
· Toyota Cheetahs coach Franco Smith made five changes and two positional switches to his team, with wholesale changes in the pack and only one among the backs.
· Props Ox Nche and Johan “Aranos” Coetzee start in place of Charles Marais and Maks van Dyk respectively, while Francois Uys joins Lood de Jager at lock, which sees Carl Wegner move to the bench.
· In the loose trio, Boom Prinsloo starts at No 6, which sees Paul Schoeman move to No 8, while Henco Venter starts among the replacements.
· The only change in the Toyota Cheetahs backline is at centre, where Joubert Engelbrecht will make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut as a replacement for the injured William Small-Smith.
· The Brumbies starting team shows two changes to the side that went down to the DHL Stormers, with No 8 Ita Vaea and wing Robbie Coleman replacing the injured Jarrad Butler and Henry Speight respectively.
· South African-born prop Ruan Smith, who was selected for the SA Schools squad in 2008 and represented Western Province at Under-18, U19, U21 and Vodacom Cup levels between 2008 and 2011, will start on the bench.
· The Toyota Cheetahs have won three of their 11 matches against the Brumbies with the score average between the sides being 24-32 to the Aussies. All three of these victories were registered in Bloemfontein, where the sides have met only four times.
· The Toyota Cheetahs have suffered defeats in their last five home matches – their longest losing run at home in the competition – and will be determined to avoid a sixth defeat.
· With the Brumbies coming off a 31-11 defeat against the DHL Stormers last week, they will go flat-out to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time this season.
· The Brumbies are second on the list of top try-scorers this season behind the Chiefs, with 16 tries in their four matches, while the Cheetahs have conceded the second-highest number of tries (15) in their four matches.
· The Toyota Cheetahs have had the least effective scrum in the competition in the opening four rounds, with a 70% success rate and an average of two scrums lost per match.
Toyota Cheetahs – Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (captain), Joubert Engelbrecht, Raymond Rhule, Niel Marais, Shaun Venter, Paul Schoeman, Uzair Cassiem, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Johan Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Ox Nche. Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais, Maks van Dyk, Carl Wegner, Hilton Lobberts, Henco Venter, Tian Meyer, Fred Zeilinga.
Brumbies – Aidan Toua, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Robbie Coleman, Christian Lealiifano (co-captain), Ita Vaea, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (co-captain), Scott Sio. Replacement: Robbie Abel, Allan Alaalatoa, Ruan Smith, Tom Staniforth, Jordan Smiler, Michael Dowsett, James Dargaville, Nigel Ah Wong.
Cell C Sharks vs Crusaders
Date: Saturday, 26 March
SA Time: 17h15
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cwengile Jadezweni
Television match official: Johan Greeff
· Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold made four changes to his starting team – three among the forwards and one in the backline.
· At scrumhalf Cobus Reinach replaces Michael Claassens, while Jean-Luc du Preez returns to the loose trio while his twin brother Daniel moves to the bench. In the front row prop Coenie Oosthuizen comes in for Lourens Adriaanse and Franco Marais takes over the No 2 jumper from Kyle Cooper.
· Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made seven personnel changes and a position switch to his team, with three changes among the backs and four among the forwards.
· Kieran Read takes over the captaincy from Sam Whitelock who led the side against the Chiefs, Blues and Kings.
· Among the backs, David Havili moves from inside centre to fullback in place of Ben Volavola, with Ryan Crotty slotting in at centre, and Andy Ellis takes over from Mitchell Drummond at scrumhalf.
· Up-front, Read replaces Jimmy Tupou at No 8, while lock Scott Barrett replaces Luke Romano and, in the front row, hooker Cody Taylor and prop Joe Moody are preferred to Ben Funnell and Wyatt Crockett.
· The Cell C Sharks have registered five victories and one draw in the 22 matches against the Crusaders, dating back to the 1996 season, with the score average at 33-21 to the Kiwis.
· The Cell C Sharks have won three of their last five matches in Durban against the Crusaders dating back to the 2004 season. However, the Crusaders made history last year by defeating the Cell C Sharks by 42 points at Growthpoint Kings Park, which marked the biggest winning margin between the sides.
· The Cell C Sharks remain unbeaten in their last seven matches, and should they register a victory or draw against the Crusaders, they would match their longest unbeaten run of eight matches in Vodacom Super Rugby.
· The Cell C Sharks remain the only unbeaten team in the competition this season, and they will be looking to extend that run to five matches on Saturday.
· The match will mark the Crusaders’ first overseas match this season and their first away from their home ground – they won their last two matches after going down against the Chiefs in their opening match of the season.
· The Cell C Sharks are the second-best defensive team in the competition this season with five tries conceded in their four matches. The Crusaders, however, have conceded only three more tries, while they have also scored only three more tries than the Durban side.
Cell C Sharks – Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Joe Pietersen, Cobus Reinach, Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc du Preez, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Franco Marais, Tendai Mtawarira (captain). Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Juan Schoeman, Lourens Adriaanse, Hyron Andrews, Daniel du Preez, Michael Claasens, Garth April, Odwa Ndungane.
Crusaders – David Havili, Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Nemani Nadolo, Richie Mo’unga, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Mike Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Jimmy Tupou, Tim Boys, Mitchell Drummond, Ben Volavola.
Jaguares vs DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 26 March
SA Time: 23h40
Venue: Velez Sarsfield Stadium, Buenos Aires
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Federico Anselmi
Television match official: Santiago Borasni
· DHL Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has made four changes to his starting team – three among the forwards and one in the backline.
· Hooker Scarra Ntubeni starts for the first time this season in place of Bongi Mbonambi, who moves to the bench, while lock JD Schickerling will earn his first start for the DHL Stormers in place of Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has been rested for the clash. Replacement lock Jan de Klerk, meanwhile, has been drafted onto the bench.
· In the loose trio flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe is back in the starting line-up, which sees Schalk Burger move to the bench and Nizaam Carr switch to No 8.
· In the backline, wing Leolin Zas replaces Dillyn Leyds, who suffered a knee injury at training, while Huw Jones starts on the bench.
· The Jaguares have been in solid form against South African opposition in their debut season, with a 34-33 victory against the Toyota Cheetahs, while they suffered a narrow 19-15 defeat against the Cell C Sharks during their tour to South Africa.
· Both the Jaguares’ defeats this season have been by only four points.
· The DHL Stormers will be hunting back-to-back victories for the second time this season following their victory against the Brumbies last weekend.
· A victory for the DHL Stormers would mark their third successive victory overseas following wins against the Force and Waratahs on tour last season.
· The DHL Stormers remain the best defensive team in the competition with only four tries conceded in their four matches – five tries less than the Jaguares. Interestingly both teams have scored nine tries this season.
· DHL Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth will enter the match as the best defender in the competition as he boasts 44 tackles this season – more than any other player in the competition.
DHL Stormers coach Robbie Fleck – “It is very exciting for us to be here, and we are determined to improve on our performance against the Brumbies last week against a Jaguares outfit who will be very tough to beat at home.
“We are a team that enjoys touring together, and we are excited to be the first DHL Stormers side to play a Vodacom Super Rugby match in South America, so we just want to embrace the occasion.”
Jaguares – TBA
DHL Stormers – Cheslin Kolbe, Kobus van Wyk, Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh (co-captain), Leolin Zas, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, JD Schickerling, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe (co-captain), Scarra Ntubeni, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Oli Kebble, Vincent Koch, Jan de Klerk, Schalk Burger, Louis Schreuder, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Huw Jones.
Other fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Saturday, 26 March
08h35: Chiefs vs Force – FMG Stadium, Hamilton
10h45: Rebels vs Highlanders – AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sunday, 27 March
07h05 – Reds vs Waratahs – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane