Super Rugby preview: Saturday

Date published: May 25 2012

It's Round 14 and with just five regular season rounds remaining in the competition remaining, it's do or die for most teams!

It's Round 14 and with just five regular season rounds remaining in the competition remaining, it's do or die for most teams!

There's some cracking encounters in store on Super Saturday, but perhaps none more so than the crucial Australian conference summit clash between the Brumbies and defending champion Reds in Canberra.

The Stormers have a feisty South African derby with the sixth-placed Sharks in Durban, while the Hurricanes host the Rebels in Wellington, the Blues play the Highlanders in Auckland, Western Force take on the Lions in Perth and the Cheetahs face the Waratahs in Bloemfontein.

Hurricanes v Rebels
Westpac Stadium, Wellington

The Hurricanes will be desperate to claim five points to keep their play-off hopes alive when they host the ever-improving Rebels in Wellington on Saturday.

With five regular season rounds remaining in the competition, the Hurricanes are currently fourth in the congested New Zealand conference standings while the Rebels occupy third spot in the Australian conference.

On the overall ladder the Hurricanes (35 points) are one place above the Melbourne outfit (29), who are tenth overall.

With two wins from their past two starts – including a shock 28-19 victory over the Crusaders – the Rebels pose a real danger for the hosts, especially after their 37-25 capitulation to the Brumbies last Friday.

Victory is non-negotiable for the men in yellow, as back-to-back defeats will surely spell the end of their hunt for a top-six finish.

Whilst the Rebels have no chance of reaching the finals, they still have plenty to play for. For one, they're chasing a hat-trick of victories for the first time in their franchise history, and are also bidding to win their first game on New Zealand soil.

In their only other meeting, the Rebels upset the Hurricanes 42-25 at AAMI Park last season.

Prediction: The Hurricanes have won just one game at the Cake Tin in 2012, so home advantage won't count for much. However, we'll still back the hosts to bounce back with a win against a game Rebels outfit. 'Canes by seven!

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Reg Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Tim Davidson, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Al Campbell, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Stirling Mortlock.

Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)

Blues v Highlanders
Eden Park, Auckland

The Blues will be out to play the spoilers role when they host the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday.

With the visitors desperate to stay in the play-offs mix, a slip-up against the rock-bottom Blues – backing up from a 59-12 demolition by the Crusaders – could cost them dearly with only a few rounds remaining.

Last time the two teams met, just over a month ago in Dunedin, the Highlanders edged home 30-27.

Whilst the Highlanders are enjoying better form than their struggling Kiwi rivals, history is against the visitors heading into this match. The southerners have won just once at Eden Park, in 2002, in 17 years of Super Rugby.

But following the Highlanders win against the former table-topping Bulls in Dunedin last weekend, Jamie Joseph's troops will sense a chance to gain a rare win in Auckland.

Prediction: It's the Highlanders to lose. 'Landers by eight!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili/Luke Braid (c), 7 Luke Braid/Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Daniel Braid/Peter Saili/Daniel Pryor, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Ma'a Nonu, 22 Lachie Munro.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Hoani MacDonald, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Scott Fuglistaller, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Kenny Lynn.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)

Brumbies v Reds
Canberra Stadium, Canberra

It was the Will Genia-Quade Cooper alliance that was pivotal in leading the Reds to the Super Rugby title last season. The duo mesmerized many defences and provided the go-forward ball necessary to set their side on fire.

It's this brilliance that the Reds have lacked this season. While Genia have been ever-presented, until recent weeks, he has looked a shadow of the player that impressed in the previous campaign. Knee surgery has meant that Cooper made his bow only in Round 13. Reunited at last, the pair combined to see off the Lions last week but it was not a polished showing from the men from Queensland.

They have lacked sting among the backs and their execution in general has been poor. Yes, they've had some horror injuries, but even the most ardent Reds fan cannot deny that the defending champions have looked half-baked thus far.

The Brumbies mirror their opponents on Saturday in that they too have been dealt heavy blows in the fly-half department. However, that is where the comparison ends.

While the Reds when expected to do well in the comparatively week Australian Conference, Jake White's inexperienced Brumbies were not by any means fancied.

Many a punter must be hanging their heads in shame as the Brumbies top the Australian standings and have largely played entertaining rugby that shows all the groundwork for success in the future.

Key to the Brumbies chances in the current campaign is how number ten Zack Holmes adapts to life in the fast lane, and the rookie made an accomplished start in the win over the Hurricanes. Ben Mowen needs more of the same from his newly anointed playmaker.

The Brumbies will be looking for a healthy dose of revenge after missing out against the Reds in the reverse fixture, a game they'll feel they should have won.

Prediction: Both teams head into the clash with consecutive wins to their names and had this match taken place a few weeks ago, one