Super Rugby preview: Saturday

Date published: March 30 2012

We're in for a jam-packed Super Saturday this weekend with no less than six games primed to keep us glued to the couch.

We're in for a jam-packed Super Saturday with no less than six games primed to keep us glued to the couch.

Of the 34 games so far, 25 have been decided by seven or less, and we could be in for more close encounters when the Round Six action resumes this weekend.

Six matches, six previews… lets get to it then!

Hurricanes v Cheetahs
Westpac Stadium, Wellington

The Hurricanes play host to a Cheetahs team who have proven to be no easy-beats as the visitors look to continue their newfound form away from home that's made them a real threat.

The 13th-placed Cheetahs may only have one victory to their name thus far, but don't let their position on the Super Rugby ladder or winning record fool you.

In fact, the men from Bloemfontein are something of a mystery.

They lost by a whisker to the Lions (two points) and Brumbies (one point), were thrashed by the Bulls, beat the Rebels and gave the Crusaders a fright in Christchurch last Saturday before eventually losing 21-28.

The Cheetahs now head to Wellington with their tails up, aiming for their first ever Super Rugby victory in New Zealand (in 2010 they drew 25-25 with the Chiefs in Hamilton). Even if they lose, just one log point bagged against the 'Canes will make this Australasian tour the most successful in their history.

Cheetahs pivot Johan Goosen has also proved he is a player to watch. Goosen runs hard with ball in hand and is also a pinpoint goal kicker having scored well over half of the Cheetahs' points (81) in their five games so far.

This fleet footedness, together with a strong loose forward combination headed by 20-Test Springbok Heinrich Brussow, is a strength that they are sure to continue to utilise in Wellington against a Hurricanes side that earned a compelling victory over the Blues at Eden Park in the previous round.

The fifth-placed Hurricanes will now be hunting their opening home win of the season, after dropping their last match played at Westpac Stadium to the Highlanders two weeks ago. However, coach Mark Hammett is under no illusions of the task facing his team.

“Anyone who knows anything about rugby will know the Cheetahs are a very, very well coached team and they don't bring the traditional African game,” said Hammett, whose side have been one of the early success stories this season.

“I'd expect them to look at us and play to our weaknesses.

“You can see from the results, I think they've only had one game where the score has blown out a wee bit. We aren't underestimating them at all.”

Prediction: The Cheetahs will want to leave New Zealand shores on a high, however after four weeks on the road, they may not have enough in the tank to go the distance. Hurricanes by eight!

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tristan Moran.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Jack Lam, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman.

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Chiefs v Waratahs
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

The Chiefs return fresh from their bye to tackle the Waratahs in Hamilton, where the hosts will aim to stay top of the New Zealand conference with a win.

After losing their opening game, the Chiefs bounced back with a hat-trick of wins and an easy four points from last week's bye to sit second on the overall log.

Their last game against Australian opposition nearly ended in a draw, before the Chiefs scraped home after snatching a last-minute victory over the Brumbies. In a match they were expected to run away with, Dave Rennie and his troops would have been working hard during their break to make sure they do a lot better against the Waratahs.

The Chiefs haven't managed to beat the Waratahs in three years, and will be determined to avoid a fourth loss on the bounce to their trans-Tasman rivals who will fancy their chances.

The Waratahs might have lost three of their first four games, but their bonus-point victory over the Sharks in Sydney on Saturday was a major return to form and will have regained some self belief.

However, their record in New Zealand isn't anything to write home about with the Sydneysiders losing their last four and six of their past seven. Coincidently, their last win in the Land of the Long White Cloud was against the Chiefs in 2010.

Prediction: If the Chiefs' forwards can supply their quality backs with plenty of ball, we think the Waratahs will be in for a tough day at the office. Chiefs by seven!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Jono Jenkins, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.

Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

Brumbies v Sharks
Canberra Stadium

Those who predicted the Brumbies to be topping the pile in Australia at this stage of the competition deserve a round of applause and tip of the cap. Believe it or not the outfit from Canberra has won three of four, with their most recent victory over the Highlanders arguably their most impressive.

Only three recognised Wallabies have been in their line-ups so far but that hasn't stopped the side putting in performances that showed belief in what they are about. Credit where credit is due, new head coach Jake White has obviously got inside the heads of his charges to create a winning mentality.

The only doubt about last weekend's victory was that the Highlanders clearly