Planet Rugby

Super Rugby Preview: Saturday

06th May 2011 09:34


2010 Jacques Fourie Stormers 42 14

Stormers: Got the better of the Crusaders last time out

Super Saturday whips up a feast of mouth-watering encounters, but none more so than the clash between the Stormers and Crusaders. It's Round Twelve!

The match in Cape Town has been billed as a possible semi-final or even final, and with several key head-to-heads all over the Newlands pitch - this is one Super Rugby spectacle that shouldn't be missed.

The Stormers lead the South African Conference and are second overall on the table with 42 points - one behind the Blues - while the Crusaders are second in the New Zealand Conference and fourth overall with 40 points.

The Chiefs and Highlanders kick off proceedings in Hamilton in one of two derby encounters set for Saturday, as the Waratahs look to make it a double over the improving Force in Sydney.

The action then turns to Newlands for the clash between the two heavyweights before the Sharks and Brumbies look to return to winning ways in Durban.

Chiefs v Highlanders
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Defeat is not an option for the struggling Chiefs who face the Highlanders in this must-win Super Rugby derby clash.

The 2009 finalists returned from a tough two-match tour of South Africa, where they held out a spirited Lions fightback and gave up a 20-3 lead to lose to the Bulls.

The Chiefs showed glimpses of a return to form in South Africa where they toppled the Lions 34-30 before being run down by the defending champions.

Saturday's match in Hamilton is indeed last-chance saloon for Ian Foster's men, who occupy last place in the New Zealand Conference and 11th on the overall ladder.

But winning the rest of their games won't be enough (they've won three, lost seven so far), and will need other results to go their way if the Chiefs were to stand a realistic chance of making the top six.

Whilst the Highlanders aren't in the same sinking boat, the southerners can ill-afford another loss either following last week's 20-15 defeat to the Blues at home.

Currently third in the New Zealand Conference and fifth overall, the Highlanders had a poor game against the Blues but at least were able to bag a losing bonus point - and at this stage of the tournament, every point counts. So all is not lost for the men from Dunedin.

The visitors will also hold the psychological advantage entering this match, having got the better of the Chiefs in their last meeting between the two sides in Round Two of the competition.

Prediction: The Chiefs at home should give the Highlanders a hard time, but we think the visitors will have more fuel in the tank to bag a close tussle. Highlanders by four.

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Tim Nanai-Williams, 22 Jackson Willison.

Highlanders: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Ben Smith, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (capt)
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 James Paterson.

Referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)

Waratahs v Force
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney

The Waratahs will be striving for back-to-back victories when they take on the Western Force at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Force currently sit fourth in the Australian Conference, 12 points adrift of the second-placed Waratahs.

The home side are coming off a 28-9 win over the Melbourne last weekend, a result which ensured they didn't concede a try against the Rebels in either of their 2011 fixtures.

After a Round Eight 31-3 victory over the Force in Perth four weeks ago, the Waratahs will be hoping they can reproduce the performance which allowed the backline to run in four unanswered tries to score a bonus point victory.

However, the Force have beaten the Brumbies, Bulls and ran the Crusaders mighty close since then and have set their sights on winning all four of their remaining Super Rugby derbies in an ambitious bid to finish second in the Australian Conference.

"There's the old the cliche you've got to look after yourself, and in this instance we can," Force coach Richard Graham told AAP.

"We've got the four other teams (to play in the Australian conference) and it's very important we win all four of those games.

"There's no doubt everyone loves to play the 'Tahs.

"(It's a) good opportunity for us this weekend. We need to go there and win.

"If we do that we'll look after ourselves as our season progresses."

If past matches between these teams at the SFS is anything to go by, it is set to be a tight encounter. In 2007 the two sides played out a 16-all draw while in 2009 the Force recorded their only ever victory against the Waratahs by a solitary point.

The Waratahs go into the match minus Tatafu Polota-Nau who has been rested from this weekend's match after suffering a head knock against the Rebels. The Force have lost international full-back Cameron Shepherd which has forced a reshuffle in their backline.

Prediction: Forget the result between the two sides last time out in Perth. The Force are a different kettle of fish, and this has the potential to go down to the wire. Ah heck. Force by three!

The teams:

Waratahs15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Sosene Anesi, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm(c), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Ben Roberts, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Kingston.

Western Force: 15 Pat Dellit, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 James O'Connor, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 James Stannard, 21 Rory Sidey, 22 Alfie Mafi.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Stormers v Crusaders
Newlands, Cape Town

All eyes will be on this Cape Town clash when the hard-hitting Stormers tackle the attack-minded Crusaders.

This much-anticipated twelfth round encounter pits the best defensive side in the tournament against the best attacking with a battle royale at Newlands.

Last year's losing finalists are top of the South African Conference, second on the overall table and have tasted defeat just once this year. It's no surprise then that the Stormers have been attracting big crowds where their supporters are enjoying that winning feeling in 2011.

Alistair Coetzee's side pulled off a vital win against the Sharks last weekend, bagging a much-needed four-try bonus point in the process which gives the Stormers some breathing space in their conference and sets them up nicely for a place in the play-offs.

A win against the star-studded Crusaders will put them top of the overall ladder should the Blues lose to the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.

The Crusaders - second in the New Zealand Conference and fourth on the combined log - face a daunting prospect in front of another capacity Newlands crowd on Saturday, with memories of last year's 42-14 defeat at the same venue no doubt still fresh in their memory.

The seven-time Super Rugby champs had to work over-time to bounce back from their loss against the Highlanders in Round Ten to beat the Western Force last week. Two tries in the last seven minutes sealed the deal, but it so nearly could have been back-to-back defeats for Todd Blackadder's troops.

Regardless of these issues, the injury-ravaged Crusaders still remain one of the title favourites and can't be written off on their first match on tour in the Republic against South Africa's top side.

And with just two points separating them, it's also a clash between the two teams many believe could be fighting it out for the silverware come July 9.

Prediction: Your guess is as good as mine - actually, probably better. But with news just in that Richie McCaw has pulled out, it means the visitors are now missing two influential All Blacks in the form of McCaw and Dan Carter. The Stormers may not have an experienced fly-half or wing, but ooze class everywhere else. Stormers by seven.

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Johann Sadie, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Andrew Olorenshaw, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Matt Todd, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Marshall, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Sharks v Brumbies
Kings Park, Durban

The Sharks will be desperate to get back to winnings ways when they host the bumbling Brumbies in Durban.

The match at Kings Park pits the sixth-placed Sharks against a Brumbies team languishing in 10th spot with just two wins from nine games.

The Sharks will be hurting from last week's defeat to the Stormers, while the Brumbies are coming off a 47-36 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in which they conceded three tries in the first 12 minutes to be 25-0 down.

The hosts have a bye next weekend, so will rest easier with a victory under their belts heading into the break.

"We have to back the boys, we're in a similar position to what we were a couple weeks ago (after losing three games and then beating the Lions before the first bye)," said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

"We have a bye next weekend so it's important that we play well this week.

"The Brumbies are a side we haven't beaten in a while but they'll be hurting a bit after their loss to the Cheetahs so it's going to be a big game, for both teams.

"It's really important that we play well as a group and that we come out feeling good about ourselves.

"There is a fair bit of pressure on us to get it right."

Prediction: The Sharks are hungry for redemption, but must be careful not to underestimate a Brumbies team who can quite easily play the spoilers role. We think the Sharks will sweat out a closer than expected win. Sharks by five.

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden,. 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo

Brumbies: 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Franky Fainifo.

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8Western Force1640
15Melbourne Rebels1621
Australian Conference
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3Western Force1640
5Melbourne Rebels1621
New Zealand Conference
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South African Conference
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