Hard-hitting derbies will be in full swing on Super Saturday with three local clashes coming out of New Zealand, Australia and SA.
Hard-hitting derbies will be in full swing on Super Saturday with three local clashes coming out of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
The Crusaders host the Chiefs in Napier, the Force entertain the Brumbies in Perth and the Sharks meet the Bulls for the first time this season in Durban.
In other matches, the Lions are out to make it two upsets on the trot when they face the Waratahs and the Rebels will look to bounce back against a rejuvinated Cheetahs outfit in Bloemfontein.
Round 14 will set the scene for an intriguing run-in to the knock-out rounds as the teams all vying for just six places look to secure the best possible finish before the knock-out stages.
At this stage of the competition, with roughly a third of the regular Super Rugby season remaining, teams' depth is being severely tested and it could be a telling factor when the 'quarter-finals' arrive and how those teams are able to withstand the challenge.
Crusaders v Chiefs
McLean Park, Napier
The seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders will be looking to bounce back from last week's shock defeat to the Cheetahs in their New Zealand derby with the Chiefs at McLean Park in Napier.
With a Crusaders injury list as long as the 'Land of the Long White Cloud', the Chiefs are in with a real chance of causing more damage to their rivals' morale by inflicting back-to-back defeats.
A loss at home will be a speedbump the Crusaders will be desperate to avoid with the top-of-the-table Reds lying in wait next Sunday in Brisbane. But with a casualty ward that now includes centre Sonny Bill Williams as well as flank Matt Todd, the red and black machine will need to fire on all cylinders.
All the Crusaders will need to put their bodies on the line as the Crusaders seek to stay in touch with the Blues on the New Zealand conference table and in the top six in the overall competition.
“The Chiefs have been playing well lately and will be up for this one,” coach Todd Blackadder said.
“It's a New Zealand derby so it will be uncompromising and physical, that's for sure.”
While the Crusaders comfortably beat the Chiefs, 34-16, in their Round Nine fixture to chalk up their third-straight win over their northern rivals, the Chiefs had won their two previous matches – the 30-24 success in Christchurch ending a 24-match unbeaten streak by the Crusaders.
Can they do it again?
With the Chiefs currently riding a wave of confidence after seeing off the Highlanders and the Stormers in successive weeks, the men from Waikato are proving to be real party spoilers while keeping their slight chance of a play-off spot alive.
Chiefs hooker Hikka Elliot said the Super Rugby competition was all about momentum.
“We're in a good place at the moment,” he told the Waikato Times.
“We're winning our set-piece ball, getting some front-foot ball for our backs to play with and the likes of Sitiveni [Sivivatu], [Lelia] Masaga and Mils [Muliaina], especially Siti, the last couple of weeks have been playing tremendously.”
Prediction: We'll stick our necks out here and say… Chiefs by three!
Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Brent Ward, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Brad Thorn, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Steve Alfeld, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tu Umaga-Marshall.
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Jackson Willison.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Waratahs v Lions
SFS Stadium, Sydney
Any thoughts the Waratahs had of bagging an easy five points against the bottom-placed Lions at the Sydney Football Stadium, was extinguished last week in Canberra.
The Lions surprised everyone – and probably themselves – after opening their Australasian tour with a win over the bumbling Brumbies in the Aussie capital.
It was only the South Africans' second victory in 2011, and their first ever in Canberra. Can lightening strike twice for the Lions in Sydney?
It could be a long shot, as the Lions have failed to beat the Waratahs in their last nine attempts and haven't come close either – their last outing ending in a 73-12 win for Saturday's hosts.
But whilst the Lions once again have nothing to lose and only pride to gain, the sixth-placed Waratahs – fresh from a bye – have everything to play for. Chris Hickey's team are clinging to their wild card position knowing any defeat from here on in will prove extremely costly.
With the Reds a whopping ten points ahead of the Waratahs on the Australian Conference, the Waratahs can't rely on automatic qualification getting them through to the play-offs by finishing top. Instead, they have to now hope something drastic happends to the Reds whilst winning all their remaining games.
The Waratahs were beaten by the Cheetahs 23-3 in Round Five after a week four bye, handing the South African franchise its first win of the season.
Hickey believes the bye has been good for the injury-hit Waratahs after their scrappy 20-15 win over the Western Force in Round 12 but admits having the week off does have its challenges.
“There's lot of ways you can manage the bye and all the key physical indicators that we measure indicate that the bye has been really good for the players both physically and mentally,” he said.
“They're quite refreshed, training yesterday was as good as we've trained … coming off the bye you probably have to be a little bit more focused.
“You learn your lessons throughout this competition and coming off the last bye we didn't perform as well as we would have liked to.
“Players learn a lesson from that and I'm sure it won't be an issue on Saturday night.”
Prediction: We can't see the Lions making it back-to-back wins on Aussie soil. Can they? Nah! Waratahs by twelve.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Sosene Anesi, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Hugh Perrett, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Kingston.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Alwyn