Super Saturday dishes up five games, including two trans-Tasman clashes and two derbies, that's sure to whet your appetite.
Super Saturday dishes up five matches, including two trans-Tasman clashes and two derbies, that's sure to whet your appetite as Round Eleven continues.
With the Lions taking a breather and bagging their first four points since beating the Cheetahs, ten teams will go head to head in a bid to either continue their surge towards the play-offs or rescue their campaign.
The Reds will be looking to extend their franchise record of consecutive wins to eight when they open up the weekend's proceedings against the Hurricanes. The 'Canes have struggled this year with only two wins from nine outings, they lie 13th in the competition with no chance of making the play-offs.
The Waratahs then entertain the Melbourne Rebels, before the Crusaders will look to recharge their season against the Western Force in Perth.
The defending champion Bulls – who are well off the pace this year – host fellow strugglers the Chiefs in Pretoria. And to end off, the Stormers return after a week's rest to tackle the Sharks at Newlands.
Hurricanes v Reds
The Hurricanes are back in Wellington from their two-match tour of South Africa where they play host to the tournament-leading Reds at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds may be top of the standings, but have not yet faced New Zealand opposition in the 2011 Super Rugby season – until now.
With 35 points still up for grabs in the Super Rugby season, the focus has switched to the misfiring 'Canes across the Tasman with the Queenslanders aiming for a record eighth win on the trot.
The Hurricanes host a Reds side in top form having beaten their traditional interstate rivals the Waratahs 19-15 in last week's tenth round to claim equal top spot on the points table.
Big second half defence against the Waratahs was the key to the Reds' seventh straight competition win, after pivot Quade Cooper had scored all their points including a solo try late in the first half.
The Reds (on 39 points) have now opened up an 11-point lead in the Australian conference standings over the next best Waratahs (28) and are level with the Blues at the top of the overall pecking order.
The Hurricanes are coming off a win and a loss in the Republic, and are returning to home territory for the first of three remaining home games in 2011. After this they host the Force in Palmerston North and the Lions in Wellington.
Despite missing some key players, including Ma'a Nonu (eye), Cory Jane (hamstring) and Serge Lilo (ankle) who were all injured in the defeat against the Sharks, all the focus will be on ending the visitors' winning run in Wellington.
Prediction: Despite a series of records behind the Reds already this season – including a clean sweep of South African teams, the Brumbies victory in Canberra and now the 'Tahs – we have a sneaky suspicion the Queenslanders are in for an upset. Hurricanes to win by five!
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Jayden Hayward, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 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 (capt), 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.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Date: Saturday, April 30
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), James McPhail (New Zealand)
Television match official: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Melbourne Rebels
The Rebels will be out for revenge in this all-Aussie derby rematch against the Waratahs, who handed the Super Rugby newbies an embarrassing 43-0 loss in the opening round.
Both sides will be striving to make amends for away defeats last time out, while the Rebels will have the added motivation of repaying the Waratahs for dampening their opening-day celebrations.
Last weekend's results squeezed the Waratahs out of the race for the finals, with the New South Welshmen now six points adrift of the sixth-placed Sharks and eleven behind the Australian Conference-leading Reds.
The Rebels, twelfth on the overall standings, slipped to the foot of the Australian Conference after their loss to the Blues – who have now become the tournament leaders following their win over the Highlanders earlier today.
The Melbourne side have been inconsistent all season and have often struggled away from home – their only away victory thus far coming against the Force in Perth.
The Rebels defence, in particular, has come in for criticism in recent weeks (they've conceded a staggering 43 tries in nine matches), which has led to the axing of pivot Danny Cipriani.
Rebels coach Rod Macqueen finally ran out of patience with Cipriani's defensive shortcomings, dropping his star import to the bench for the Sydney Football Stadium match.
The former England international paid the price for a particularly poor outing against the Blues last week, with James Hilgendorf regaining the number ten jersey he started the season in.
Hilgendorf survived just 10 minutes of the Rebels' forgettable Super Rugby debut when the Waratahs spanked the tournament newcomers in Melbourne. The 20-year-old succumbed to a shoulder injury and Cipriani has had the playmaker role ever since.
Since that season-opening mismatch, the Waratahs have won four games and the Rebels three.
“They're a very different team now. They've evolved over the last nine or 10 weeks, which is what you would expect from a new team,” said 'Tahs coach Chris Hickey
“I've seen them develop various aspects of their game significantly.”
Prediction: The Rebels won't get nilled like they were in Round One, and whilst we can't see a similar scoreline… another defeat is likely. 'Tahs by ten.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Sosene Anesi, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 20 Tom Kingston.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Peter Betham,