Planet Rugby



Super Rugby preview: Saturday

04th May 2012 08:58


brumbies v tahs preview

Brumbies v 'Tahs: It won't be pretty

Only the Stormers and Chiefs are guaranteed four points in Round 11, with the former on a bye week and the latter up against the Lions.

Harsh? Perhaps. But on current form, it's hard to bet against the table-topping Chiefs crumbling to the last-placed Lions.

The other fixtures on Super Saturday are a lot tougher to call though.

The Waratahs take on the Brumbies in a must-win Aussie derby in Canberra, the Highlanders then go fishing for Sharks in Durban before the Cheetahs and Force battle it out for a much-needed win in Bloemfontein.

Chiefs v Lions
Pukekohe, Auckland

Super Rugby heads to the south of Auckland in Pukekohe for the first time in 12 years when the Chiefs take on the Lions.

The tournament leaders are coming off an eighth consecutive win (the best winning streak of 2012) and should have too much firepower for the competition strugglers, who are out to avoid eight straight defeats.

Indeed, the Chiefs are expected to bag maximum points against the lowly Lions following the South African side's drubbing to the Brumbies in Jo'burg where they conceded six tries.

Saturday's task will not be any easier for John Mitchell's pride in the first hit-out of their four-match tour against the high-flying Chiefs, who did their title credentials no harm with an impressive win over the Hurricanes a week ago.

The Chiefs shrugged off jet lag after a long-haul flight back from South Africa to outplay the 'Canes and stay on top of the Super Rugby ladder where they are destined to stay after Round 11.

It seems the men from Waikato can do no wrong with their defence remaining rock-solid as Dave Rennie's men continue to concede on average of just one try a game, while they are no strangers to the try-line (just ask prop Sona Taumalolo, who pre-round is level with Hurricanes full-back Andre Taylor as the competition's top try-scorer with seven!).

Complacency appears to be the only factor standing in their way as the Chiefs machine rolls on into the crucial second half of the season. But lets be honest, an upset defeat at the hands of the Lions won't happen and the big question is not if the home side will win, but by how much.

Maximum points will be ideal before the Kiwi outfit's clash against the defending champion Reds next Sunday in Brisbane - which will no doubt prove to be more of challenge before taking their well earned second bye.

Prediction: If you're playing in fantasy leagues, now is the time to go crazy with Chiefs if you haven't already. Chiefs by 20!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Alex Bradley, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tawera Kerr- Barlow, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Maritino Nemani.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Franco Van der Merwe, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen/JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ Van der Linde, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 James Kamana, 22 Michael Killian.

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Brumbies v Waratahs

Aussie derbies rarely get the pulses racing, but there's a few reasons for Super Rugby fans to sit up and take notice of Saturday's clash between the Brumbies and Waratahs in Canberra.

It looms as a crunch match for both sides. The Brumbies will be looking to cement their place on top of the Aussie conference ladder, while the Waratahs need a bonus-point win to stay in touch after their narrow loss to the Crusaders last week.

Whilst it hasn't been a stellar year for Australian sides thus far, the Brumbies - Australia's surprise leaders - continue to prove the critics wrong and sit in the top six on the overall standings with 31 points with the Waratahs in eighth (26).

Jake White's men aren't lacking in confidence either after coming back from a tough fortnight in South Africa with a hard-earned seven points in clashes with the Bulls and the Lions - making it their best performance in the Republic since 2002.

It made a statement about the Brumbies' potential to make the play-offs this year after a seven-year drought - and a win over the Waratahs would only emphasise the call.

But while the Brumbies may be the Australian flag bearers it is three years since they have beaten the Waratahs in what is one of the competition's great rivalries.

However, teams have found it tough to beat the Brumbies in the capital this season and home advantage has proved to work in the men from the Canberra's favour who are four from five at home in 2012.

"This is the biggest game of a lot of these young guys' careers, which is great. These are games you want to play in and play well in," said hooker Stephen Moore.

Prediction: This won't be pretty, but with everything to play for expect both sides to throw everything but the kitchen sink at one another. History favours the Waratahs, who've won the past three and seven of the last nine against the Brumbies. Still, this ain't any ordinary Brumbies team. Tough one... Brumbies by three!

The teams:

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

Waratahs: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Tom Kingston, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Jono Jenkins, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Rocky Elsom, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.

Sharks v Highlanders
Kings Park Stadium, Durban

The Sharks will try to hand the Highlanders only their third defeat of the season and elevate themselves back into a play-off position.

The home side have had a topsy turvy season and coach John Plumtree will be determined to get one over his countrymen from Dunedin.

The Sharks are fresh after last weekend's bye and keen to return to the victory trail. They were competitive in their last match against the table-topping Chiefs, and it's not often that they drop two games in a row in Durban.

"We want to play well every week and improve every week," said Plumtree.

"It's not just about relying on winning at home. We have a job to do - home and away - if we want to be where we aim for.

"Playing a quarter-final in New Zealand is no fun. We have to set our sights higher than that. Making the play-offs in this competition is a good effort because it's such a tough competition, but we want to talk about going further than that."

The Highlanders have become a formidable unit under the guidance of coach Jamie Joseph despite being without several key players through injury for most of their campaign.Although most of their crocked players are back in action, they are still without the services of first-choice fly-halves Colin Slade and Lima Sopoaga although Mike Delany and Chris Noakes have come to the fore with impressive performances in recent weeks.

Delany notched 20 points in the Highlanders' win over the Blues in Round Nine and Noakes played a leading role in their remarkable comeback against the Cheetahs last week.

They've had another week to settle into South Africa and if they get off to a good start this week they'll be hard to beat.

Prediction The Sharks are desperate for that spot in the play-offs so expect them to come out all guns blazing. The Highlanders, showed against the Cheetahs, however, that they don't give up easily. Expect a humdinger but we think the hosts will just edge it.... Sharks by five!

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis/Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis/Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Frederic Michalak, 22 Meyer Bosman.

Highlanders 15 Ben Smith, 14 Siale Piutau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Doug Tietjens, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Maafu Fia/Jacob Ellison, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Kurt Baker.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

Cheetahs v Western Force
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Both these sides have struggling in recent weeks and head into this match winless after several rounds of action.

The Cheetahs' last win came in Round Seven when they beat the Lions while the Force haven't been on the winning side since their 45-19 triumph over the Reds in Round Six.

Despite being lower than the Force on the table, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske will not be underestimating the men from Perth.

"By this time we all know there is no such thing as a good or a bad side," he said.

"The Force showed last weekend against the Stormers that they have a good defensive pattern and that they can attack. They are a very physical team and if we want to win, we'll have to be 100% switched on."

The Cheetahs were dealt a blow when first-choice fly-half Johan Goosen suffered a shoulder injury in last weekend's loss to the Highlanders, which has ruled him out for the rest of the tournament.

His replacement in that match, Sias Ebersohn, had what is probably the worst moment by an individual player in this year's competition when he missed what could have been the match-winning penalty from bang in front of the posts.

Ebersohn will wear the number 10 jersey in this weekend's clash and it will be interesting to see if he has put that incident to bed as prepares for the challenge of facing the Force.

The Australian franchise have been struggling for consistency this season and have been in the news for events away from the playing field in recent weeks.

Former Force coach Richard Graham dropped a bombshell on the Western Australia franchise two weeks ago when he announced that he will be leaving Perth at the end of the season to join the Reds. But he was then summarily fired reportedly on the recommendation of senior Force players.

And this past week it was initially revealed that Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia has signed to join the Force in 2012, only for the diminutive number nine to to do a U-turn and sign a new deal with the Reds.

Despite that, the Force possess seasoned campaigners like veteran lock Nathan Sharp and fellow Wallabies David Pocock and Matt Hodgson who are expected to take the fight to the Cheetahs this weekend.

Prediction: The Cheetahs will be reeling after last week's loss, but playing at home should give them the edge if Sias Ebersohn can land his kicks. Cheetahs by seven.

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Philip Snyman.

Western Force: 15 Alfie Mafi, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Nick Cummins, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 David Harvey, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Salesi Manu, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Rory Sidey.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)

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