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Super Rugby preview: Friday

26th April 2012 09:53

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Reds v Blues line out Ali Williams

Blues & Reds: Struggling to reach the same heights of 2011

Super Rugby reaches double figures as we head into Round 10, with the Blues, Reds, Lions and Brumbies all in action on Friday.

First up, the Aucklanders and Queenslanders will look to return to the winners circle when the trans-Tasman rivals clash at Eden Park

Then it's over to the Republic, where the Brumbies will be banking on maximum points against the toothless Lions and retain top spot in the Aussie conference.

There are six games in total, while the Rebels, Bulls and Sharks have the bye.

Blues v Reds
Eden Park, Auckland

The struggling Blues host the battling Reds in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby semi-final.

It's hard to fathom this season's rock-bottom Blues and 11th-placed Reds were contesting for a place in the 2011 final at Suncorp Stadium.

Granted, the Reds have suffered with a substantial amount of injuries with a player added to their neverending casualty list after almost every game.

The Aucklanders - last with just a single win this season - have also sustained their fair share of injuries but remain top-heavy with All Blacks.

Indeed, while the under-achieving Blues are running last in the competition following six straight losses, they still boast a quality roster and have been close to toppling the Highlanders and Sharks in the past fortnight.

They will start favourite against the travelling Reds, who must now string some victories together to ensure they qualify for the finals to try to defend their title.

Easier said than done, but with just five points seperating them from the Australian conference-leading Brumbies, anything can happen.

If the Brumbies slip up to the Lions and the Waratahs lose to the Crusaders, a bonus-point win for the Queenslanders at Eden Park will see the current title holders move to second place in their conference. However, if they lose and the Force beat the Stormers, the Reds drop to fourth and will be left with an even bigger mountain to climb.

The Blues are well and truly out of it. They're firmly rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand conference on 12 points with their closest Kiwi rivals (the fourth-placed Hurricanes) thirteen points clear of the pre-season tournament favourites.

Pat Lam's troops only have pride left to play for and against a Reds outfit desperate to halt their own slide, the Blues coach felt it wouldn't get any easier for his team this week.

"We are completely backs to the wall... it's about individual pride now, pride in the Blues, and pride in who we are," he said.

"That's what we've got to keep fighting for."

Prediction: This has been an even battle over the years with both teams winning eight matches each and there's been one draw. But as we all know, things haven't been going according to plan for both sides which makes this one tough to call. Draw would be a fair call, but we'll back the Blues to finally come good... by four points!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 George Moala, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid (c), 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Chris Lowrey, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Benson Stanley.

Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Beau Robinson, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Ed Quirk, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Faingaa.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Lions v Brumbies
Coca-Cola Park Stadium, Johannesburg

The lowly Lions will be looking to regain some momentum with a win against the Brumbies in Johannesburg on Friday, before heading on their overseas tour.

The Lions are one spot from the bottom of the overall ladder and have lost six straight after posting their lone victory at home against the Cheetahs in week one.

To the team's credit, they have conceded only 19 tries, while scoring just 10 and only two teams - the Sharks and Bulls - have managed four-try bonus points against them. They also came close in matches against in-form teams such as the Stormers and the Hurricanes.

So while they're lacking in victories, John Mitchell's pride aren't as bad as their Super Rugby record suggests.

"We're suffering because we have a few players playing Super Rugby who shouldn't be playing Super Rugby," said Mitchell.

"Unfortunately the Lions have not been a place of patience in recent times and now there is no other option but to be patient."

Meanwhile, the Brumbies are third on the combined log as Australian conference leaders, and have managed four wins in their first campaign under Jake White against four losses.

They did very well running the Bulls so close at Loftus last weekend, but the success of the Brumbies on their South African safari will be determined by the result at Coca-Cola Park.

"I think the tour would be regarded a success if we manage to get the maximum points on Friday night," said White.

While the Brumbies will probably run out as favourites, it's been five long years since the Brumbies last won at Coca-Cola Park (14-9 in 2007).

They lost in 2009, but also conceded defeat to the South Africans in Canberra last year - the Lions' first ever win in the Australian capital since the Cats franchise split before the 2006-season.

Prediction: The Brumbies deserved to win last week, they outscored the Bulls five tries to two but still lost. They showed some good touches, as they have all season thus far, so it's hard to bet against them picking up a win in the City of Gold. Brumbies by 12!

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Christo le Roux, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Michael Killian.

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 Peter Kimlin, 5 Leon Power, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Ruaidhri Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sam Carter, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Rugby Union betting odds

  • Brumbies Fixtures
  • Table
Australian Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621