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Super Rugby Preview: Saturday

03rd June 2011 10:05


bismarck du plessis sharks v cheetahs

Battle of Bloem: The Sharks face a tricky trip to tackle their bogey team

Round 16 continues on Super Saturday with three derby clashes set to define the season for a few play-off hopefuls.

The Hurricanes and Lions kick-off proceedings in Wellington in the only non-derby affair of the weekend, before Blues and Chiefs - both returning from a bye - go head to head in Auckland.

The Blues top the New Zealand conference despite two successive losses, while the Chiefs' play-off hopes have effectively been extinguished. However, the Chiefs can still spoil the Blues' party with a win at Eden Park.

The Reds will book themselves a place in the Super Rugby play-offs with another win against the Brumbies, while the Sharks face a must-win clash against the in-form Cheetahs.

Everything to play for in week sixteen then! Lets get to it...

Hurricanes v Lions

The Lions are hunting a record third win on their Australasian tour when they tackle the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington .

The tournament under-achievers threw the form book out the window since boarding the plane from South Africa, after notching up two shock wins against the Brumbies and Highlanders.

Three wins from fourteen matches thus far this season may not be earth-shattering, but their competitiveness this year has been a lot better that their position suggests and they are sure to provide the Hurricanes a stern test on Saturday.

Five of their 11 losses have been by margins of seven points or fewer, including defeats to leading sides the Reds (25-30), the Stormers (16-19) and the Bulls (20-24 and 23-30) that could have gone either way.

Coached by former All Blacks mentor John Mitchell, the Lions possess a squad hungry for more success after failing to win a game in 2010.

Their hosts are hoping to build upon last week's win over the Western Force, a game that saw the Hurricanes trailing for the majority of the match. But their returning All Blacks did the business and they'll be looking for more of the same from them against the Lions.

The victory for the Hurricanes was their fourth of the year, and with this next fixture against the Lions followed by the Chiefs in Hamilton and the Crusaders in Wellington they are looking to end 2011 in the ascendancy.

For the Lions, this is the last of four games on the road in Australia and New Zealand, before they head home to Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg to play the Sharks in their final game next Saturday. They have their second bye in the last round.

Prediction: History is certainly with the 'Canes. On home soil, the Hurricanes have won eight from eight against the Lions - five times in Wellington (all at Westpac Stadium), and once each in Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North. Hurricanes to win by 14 points.

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith / Jayden Hayward, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Jayden Hayward/Julian Savea, 22 Richard Buckman.

Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Dylan des Fountain, 13 Doppies la Grange (c), 12 Butch James, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joshua Strauss, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Michael Killian.

Blues v Chiefs

After a week's lay-off with the bye, the Blues return to Eden Park on Saturday for an all Kiwi derby against the Chiefs in what shapes as a crucial clash for the hosts heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Following an impressive nine match unbeaten streak, the Blues succumbed to consecutive losses against the Reds and Stormers in previous weeks and now find themselves needing to win all three of their remaining matches to be assured of a top three finish.

The Blues still top the New Zealand table and are in second place on the overall standings but they have a tough run home with matches against the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders.

First up is the Chiefs, and while they may be out of the finals race as they currently sit 12 points adrift of the sixth-placed Waratahs, Blues head coach Pat Lam believes that only serves to make them more dangerous.

"All the teams that are out of it are probably more dangerous than the ones that are still fighting to stay in there because they've got nothing to lose," Lam said.

"I know the Chiefs still have a mathematical chance and it all comes down to this game and other results going their way so it's going to be massive and every game we play them since I've been in this job has been tough."

The Blues are yet to lose a match against New Zealand opposition but Lam is expecting nothing less than a fierce challenge from the Chiefs.

"If there's one team the Chiefs like to get stuck into it's the Blues and particularly after we beat them down there. They've also had a week off so it's going to be very physical I'd say and that's the challenge we face."

Last time the Blues and Chiefs met in round six, the Blues prevailed 16-13 in Hamilton.

Prediction: This could be a cracker! The Blues have more to lose than the Chiefs, so expect Pat Lam's men to come good against their North Island rivals. Blues by seven.

The teams:

Blues: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Sherwin Stowers.

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 11 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Ben May.

Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Matt Vant Leven, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.

Reds v Brumbies

The Reds can secure top spot in the Australian Super Rugby conference and a place in the finals with a victory in their last regular season home match of 2011 at Suncorp Stadium against the Brumbies.

With a 12-point lead in the Australian conference and only three games remaining, the Reds require just one more victory in their next three games - against the Brumbies at home and Western Force and Chiefs on the road - to secure first place in the Australian conference.

Victory on Saturday would also extend the Reds winning streak at Suncorp Stadium to 13 matches following their thrilling last minute 17-16 win over the Crusaders at the weekend.

The Reds record setting and hoodoo busting season has them placed four points clear at the top of the Super Rugby ladder, ahead of the Blues, courtesy of 11 wins from their 13 games.

In their round three contest against the Brumbies the Reds recorded just their second-ever Super Rugby victory over their ACT based rivals in a hard fought 31-25 affair.

The result was also the Reds first victory in Canberra in the professional rugby era and was the first win in what would be a seven game winning streak, which was broken in round 11 against the Hurricanes.

Prediction: Hard to bet against the red-hot Reds who are on a roll! Reds by eight.

The teams:

Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Ben Coridas, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Will Chambers, 22 Dom Shipperley.

Brumbies: 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau (c), 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Jono Owen.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Henry Vanderglas , 20 Nic White, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Andrew Smith.

Cheetahs v Sharks

Expect fireworks when these two sides clash in this South African derby in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

While the Sharks have play-off ambitions, the Cheetahs have shown throughout this year's tournament that they do not respect reputations and this fixture could be a potential banana skin for the Durban-based side.

Earlier this year the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 23-9 in the opening round of the tournament, in what was a dour match played in rainy conditions.

Due to the wet weather, play in that match was restricted mostly to the forwards but expect a completely different matter when these teams clash at the weekend.

After losing that opening fixture the Cheetahs suffered successive defeats to the Bulls, Stormers and Lions before getting their campaign back on track with a 23-3 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney.

That result seemed to re-ignite the boys from Bloem and after returning from their overseas tour they registered successive home wins over the Brumbies, Lions, Crusaders and Rebels.

Adriaan Strauss, Ashley Johnson and Sarel Pretorius have been the Cheetahs' star performers this season, and if the Sharks can neutralise this dangerous trio then their path to victory will be so much easier.

Despite going down 31-21 in entertaining match to the Bulls last week expect the Cheetahs to stick with their attacking game-plan.

The Sharks are on a high after they came back from an eight point deficit to beat the Waratahs 26-21 in Durban.

For them a defeat could mean the difference between a play-off place and being among the competition's also rans. They will rely heavily on Springboks Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts to put them on the front foot, up front, while Pat Lambie's attacking skills could prove a handful for the home side's defence.

Prediction: This match is too close to call! The Sharks have a lot to play for but the Cheetahs are difficult to beat in their own backyard. Cheetahs by three.

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Viljoen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Philip Snyman, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Riaan Smit.

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (c).
Replacements: 16 Tendai Mtawarira, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Adrian Jacobs.

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

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