Preview: Stormers vs Rebels
The Stormers can set an interesting record this weekend if they manage to beat the Rebels without getting a try-scoring bonus point.
They will then become the first team ever to reach the play-offs without once scoring four tries in a regular season match.
Only seven teams have completed a season without scoring any bonus points. In 1996, Western Province finished 11th with three wins, in 1999 the Blues got four wins and came ninth, in 2000 the Sharks won one and finished last, in 2006 the Highlanders came ninth with six wins, in 2007 the Lions managed five wins but still finished 12th, while the Reds came last with only two wins, and in 2008 the Lions won twice and came last.
In 1999, the Reds managed their first and only try-scoring bonus point for the season in their final league match, against the Sharks. They topped the log but lost in the semi-finals against eventual champions, the Crusaders.
The Stormers have already set a South African record for the most wins in a single season when they beat the Cheetahs last week (13). The Reds, with 15, hold the overall record for the most wins in a season (2011).
It’s only the second time the Stormers are taking on the Rebels and also the Melbournians’ first visit to Cape Town.
They are still looking for their first victory over South African opposition, but it looks unlikely this weekend. Last year, the Stormers scored five tries in their 40-3 victory.
Allister Coetzee, coach of the Stormers, said his team will chase the four-try bonus point, something that’s always been part of their game plan.
“The game plan was always to go and score as many tries as possible and I would like to see an improvement this week when it comes to our finishing.
“On attack, we created even more scoring opportunities, but in the end some bad decision-making that let us down. Creating try-scoring opportunities is one thing, but finishing them is another.
“We know that is something we have to get right going into the play-offs where you might only get one opportunity to score and you have to take it.”
Key Battle: Jean de Villiers vs. Stirling Mortlock. The former Wallaby captain could not have asked for a more suitable opponent as the curtain comes down on his decorated Super Rugby career than old rival and incumbent Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers.
Last Meeting: Stormers 40-3 Melbourne Rebels (Melbourne).
Prediction: With the result surely a foregone conclusion, the real question is will the Stormers finally earn that elusive four-try bonus point?
We think they will (bar inclement weather) in addition to winning the match by 15 points.
Saturday 14 July: Stormers vs. Melbourne Rebels, Cape Town (15:00)
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Deon Fourie, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Brok Harris, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 11 Cooper Vuna/Lachlan Mitchell, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Hugh Perrett, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Ryan Hodson, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Cooper Vuna/Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Richard Kingi.