Super Rugby preview: Saturday

Date published: May 4 2012

Only the Stormers and Chiefs are guaranteed four points in Round 11, with the former on a bye week and the latter up against the Lions.

Only the Stormers and Chiefs are guaranteed four points in Round 11, with the former on a bye week and the latter up against the Lions.

Harsh? Perhaps. But on current form, it's hard to bet against the table-topping Chiefs crumbling to the last-placed Lions.

The other fixtures on Super Saturday are a lot tougher to call though.

The Waratahs take on the Brumbies in a must-win Aussie derby in Canberra, the Highlanders then go fishing for Sharks in Durban before the Cheetahs and Force battle it out for a much-needed win in Bloemfontein.

Chiefs v Lions
Pukekohe, Auckland

Super Rugby heads to the south of Auckland in Pukekohe for the first time in 12 years when the Chiefs take on the Lions.

The tournament leaders are coming off an eighth consecutive win (the best winning streak of 2012) and should have too much firepower for the competition strugglers, who are out to avoid eight straight defeats.

Indeed, the Chiefs are expected to bag maximum points against the lowly Lions following the South African side's drubbing to the Brumbies in Jo'burg where they conceded six tries.

Saturday's task will not be any easier for John Mitchell's pride in the first hit-out of their four-match tour against the high-flying Chiefs, who did their title credentials no harm with an impressive win over the Hurricanes a week ago.

The Chiefs shrugged off jet lag after a long-haul flight back from South Africa to outplay the 'Canes and stay on top of the Super Rugby ladder where they are destined to stay after Round 11.

It seems the men from Waikato can do no wrong with their defence remaining rock-solid as Dave Rennie's men continue to concede on average of just one try a game, while they are no strangers to the try-line (just ask prop Sona Taumalolo, who pre-round is level with Hurricanes full-back Andre Taylor as the competition's top try-scorer with seven!).

Complacency appears to be the only factor standing in their way as the Chiefs machine rolls on into the crucial second half of the season. But lets be honest, an upset defeat at the hands of the Lions won't happen and the big question is not if the home side will win, but by how much.

Maximum points will be ideal before the Kiwi outfit's clash against the defending champion Reds next Sunday in Brisbane – which will no doubt prove to be more of challenge before taking their well earned second bye.

Prediction: If you're playing in fantasy leagues, now is the time to go crazy with Chiefs if you haven't already. Chiefs by 20!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Alex Bradley, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tawera Kerr- Barlow, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Maritino Nemani.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Franco Van der Merwe, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen/JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ Van der Linde, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 James Kamana, 22 Michael Killian.

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Brumbies v Waratahs

Aussie derbies rarely get the pulses racing, but there's a few reasons for Super Rugby fans to sit up and take notice of Saturday's clash between the Brumbies and Waratahs in Canberra.

It looms as a crunch match for both sides. The Brumbies will be looking to cement their place on top of the Aussie conference ladder, while the Waratahs need a bonus-point win to stay in touch after their narrow loss to the Crusaders last week.

Whilst it hasn't been a stellar year for Australian sides thus far, the Brumbies – Australia's surprise leaders – continue to prove the critics wrong and sit in the top six on the overall standings with 31 points with the Waratahs in eighth (26).

Jake White's men aren't lacking in confidence either after coming back from a tough fortnight in South Africa with a hard-earned seven points in clashes with the Bulls and the Lions – making it their best performance in the Republic since 2002.

It made a statement about the Brumbies' potential to make the play-offs this year after a seven-year drought – and a win over the Waratahs would only emphasise the call.

But while the Brumbies may be the Australian flag bearers it is three years since they have beaten the Waratahs in what is one of the competition's great rivalries.

However, teams have found it tough to beat the Brumbies in the capital this season and home advantage has proved to work in the men from the Canberra's favour who are four from five at home in 2012.

“This is the biggest game of a lot of these young guys' careers, which is great. These are games you want to play in and play well in,” said hooker Stephen Moore.

Prediction: This won't be pretty, but with everything to play for expect both sides to throw everything but the kitchen sink at one another. History favours the Waratahs, who've won the past three and seven of the last nine against the Brumbies. Still, this ain't any ordinary Brumbies team. Tough one… Brumbies by three!

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Fotu Auelua, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen (c), 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

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

Sharks v Highlanders
Kings Park Stadium, Durban

The Sharks will try to hand the Highlanders only their third defeat of the season and elevate themselves back into a play-off position.

The home side have had a topsy turvy season and coach John Plumtree will be determined to get one over his countrymen from Dunedin.

The Sharks are fresh after last weekend's bye and keen to return to the victory trail. They were competitive in their last match against the table-topping Chiefs, and it's not