Super Rugby Preview: Friday

Date published: May 6 2011

Ding, ding! It's Round 12 of Super Rugby with derby clashes the order of the day when the action kicks off on Friday.

Ding, ding! It's Round 12 of Super Rugby with derby clashes the order of the day when the action kicks off on Friday.

The tournament-leading Blues travel to the New Zealand capital where the Hurricanes will be looking to burst their North Island rivals' bubble in this all-Kiwi affair.

Attention then turns to Melbourne, the city of the Rebels who will be desperate to avoid a hat-trick of defeats when they take on the second-placed Reds.

The last derby match of the day sees the Lions tackle the Cheetahs in this bottom-of-the-table scrap in Johannesburg.

Hurricanes v Blues
Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Fresh from knocking the Reds off the top of the Super Rugby table, the Hurricanes host the new overall competition leaders at Westpac Stadium.

It's another tough assignment for the home side, but they were at least handed a massive confidence-booster after beating the Reds in a thriller last weekend.

With their play-off hopes dashed, the men in yellow only have pride left to play for and showed they still have plenty of it in stock against the Queenslanders.

Much of the same will be required against the Blues who have now gone eight games unbeaten – their sole defeat to date was against the Sharks in Durban back in Round Two – and are coming off a 15-10 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The Aucklanders have won their last five matches against Kiwi sides and their last nine straight in New Zealand. So it's fair to say the 'Canes will have a mighty battle on their hands come kick-off on Friday.

This is the second clash of the season between the Hurricanes and the Blues, the latter having won 41-17 when they met at Albany seven weeks ago. The large scoreline belied a much closer contest that saw the Blues pull away with three converted tries over the last 13 minutes.

Friday's match promises to be just as hard fought between two sides that both bring steely resolve to the close quarter exchanges and attacking flair out wide.

Expect a big battle up front, especially with the tussle at hooker between the two skippers and Super Rugby centenarians Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu.

Prediction: The Blues haven't won at Wellington since 2002, but we think that's all about to change come kick-off. Blues by five.

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Jayden Hayward, 12 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Julian Savea, 22 Beauden Barrett.

Blues: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saiili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Chris Lowrey, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 James King, 19 Sean Tolwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Aaron Bancroft, 22 Sherwin Stowers.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Rebels v Reds
AAMI Park, Melbourne

Both the Rebels and the Reds will be keen for a win after slipping up with defeats in their Super Rugby fixtures last week.

The Rebels came short when they lost 28-9 to the Waratahs in Sydney and the Reds went down 28-26 to the Hurricanes in Wellington.

After two losses on the road, the Rebels will be happy to return to their home ground. Apart from the defeat to the Waratahs last week they also went down 40-23 to the Blues in Auckland a week earlier.

The Melbourne side have surprised all and sundry by being competitive this season and the Reds can expect a far tougher encounter than their 53-3 win in Brisbane in Round Five of the competition as Rebels coach Rod MacQueen is a shrewd tactician, who will not make the same mistakes again.

It's been an eventful week for the Melbourne side with England international fly-half Danny Cipriani and utility back Richard Kingi both suspended from the clash against the Reds due to disciplinary issues.

MacQueen will once again rely heavily on experienced Wallabies like captain Stirling Mortlock, Julian Huxley and Mark Gerrard in the backline and former All Black front-ranker Greg Somerville among the forwards.

The Reds have been in fine form for most of the competition and were unlucky to go down to a last-minute penalty by Hurricanes fly-half Aaron Cruden.

If they had won that match it would have been their eighth successive victory and they would have been on top of the overall points table.

The Reds' success has come largely because of a dominant set of forwards and the fine performances of their halfback pairing, Will Genia and Quade Cooper.

The duo have been combined well for the Reds and the Rebels will be eager to put them under pressure from the outset.

However, it could be a long day at the office for the hosts if the Reds' pack takes control of proceedings and Genia and Cooper weave their magic.

Prediction: Although the Rebels have performed well in their debut season they've been blowing hot and cold and one doesn't really know which Rebels side will turn up. The Reds however will be shaken up after their recent defeat and we can expect a backlash this week. The Reds to win by 14.

The teams:

Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Peter Betham, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Hoani Macdonald, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Greg Somerville.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Nic Henderson, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Cooper Vuna, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.

Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Will Chambers, 22 Dom Shipperley.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

Lions v Cheetahs
Coca-Cola Park, Jo'burg

Friday's Super rugby clash between the Lions and Cheetahs should be another bruising South African derby with no quarter asked or given.

Both teams have been struggling in this year's competition but the Cheetahs will be keen to build on their deserved 47-36 win over the Brumbies in Bloemfontein at the weekend.

The Lions have been the whipping boys in this season's tournament and are propping up the points table with 14 points from 10 matches and just a