Planet Rugby



Super Rugby Preview: Saturday

20th May 2011 08:59


bulls v sharks

Pick of the round: Sharks v Bulls

Hard-hitting derbies will be in full swing on Super Saturday with three local clashes coming out of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The Crusaders host the Chiefs in Napier, the Force entertain the Brumbies in Perth and the Sharks meet the Bulls for the first time this season in Durban.

In other matches, the Lions are out to make it two upsets on the trot when they face the Waratahs and the Rebels will look to bounce back against a rejuvinated Cheetahs outfit in Bloemfontein.

Round 14 will set the scene for an intriguing run-in to the knock-out rounds as the teams all vying for just six places look to secure the best possible finish before the knock-out stages.

At this stage of the competition, with roughly a third of the regular Super Rugby season remaining, teams' depth is being severely tested and it could be a telling factor when the 'quarter-finals' arrive and how those teams are able to withstand the challenge.

Crusaders v Chiefs
McLean Park, Napier

The seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders will be looking to bounce back from last week's shock defeat to the Cheetahs in their New Zealand derby with the Chiefs at McLean Park in Napier.

With a Crusaders injury list as long as the 'Land of the Long White Cloud', the Chiefs are in with a real chance of causing more damage to their rivals' morale by inflicting back-to-back defeats.

A loss at home will be a speedbump the Crusaders will be desperate to avoid with the top-of-the-table Reds lying in wait next Sunday in Brisbane. But with a casualty ward that now includes centre Sonny Bill Williams as well as flank Matt Todd, the red and black machine will need to fire on all cylinders.

All the Crusaders will need to put their bodies on the line as the Crusaders seek to stay in touch with the Blues on the New Zealand conference table and in the top six in the overall competition.

"The Chiefs have been playing well lately and will be up for this one," coach Todd Blackadder said.

"It's a New Zealand derby so it will be uncompromising and physical, that's for sure."

While the Crusaders comfortably beat the Chiefs, 34-16, in their Round Nine fixture to chalk up their third-straight win over their northern rivals, the Chiefs had won their two previous matches - the 30-24 success in Christchurch ending a 24-match unbeaten streak by the Crusaders.

Can they do it again?

With the Chiefs currently riding a wave of confidence after seeing off the Highlanders and the Stormers in successive weeks, the men from Waikato are proving to be real party spoilers while keeping their slight chance of a play-off spot alive.

Chiefs hooker Hikka Elliot said the Super Rugby competition was all about momentum.

"We're in a good place at the moment," he told the Waikato Times.

"We're winning our set-piece ball, getting some front-foot ball for our backs to play with and the likes of Sitiveni [Sivivatu], [Lelia] Masaga and Mils [Muliaina], especially Siti, the last couple of weeks have been playing tremendously."

Prediction: We'll stick our necks out here and say... Chiefs by three!

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Brent Ward, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Brad Thorn, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Steve Alfeld, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tu Umaga-Marshall.

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Jackson Willison.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Waratahs v Lions
SFS Stadium, Sydney

Any thoughts the Waratahs had of bagging an easy five points against the bottom-placed Lions at the Sydney Football Stadium, was extinguished last week in Canberra.

The Lions surprised everyone - and probably themselves - after opening their Australasian tour with a win over the bumbling Brumbies in the Aussie capital.

It was only the South Africans' second victory in 2011, and their first ever in Canberra. Can lightening strike twice for the Lions in Sydney?

It could be a long shot, as the Lions have failed to beat the Waratahs in their last nine attempts and haven't come close either - their last outing ending in a 73-12 win for Saturday's hosts.

But whilst the Lions once again have nothing to lose and only pride to gain, the sixth-placed Waratahs - fresh from a bye - have everything to play for. Chris Hickey's team are clinging to their wild card position knowing any defeat from here on in will prove extremely costly.

With the Reds a whopping ten points ahead of the Waratahs on the Australian Conference, the Waratahs can't rely on automatic qualification getting them through to the play-offs by finishing top. Instead, they have to now hope something drastic happends to the Reds whilst winning all their remaining games.

The Waratahs were beaten by the Cheetahs 23-3 in Round Five after a week four bye, handing the South African franchise its first win of the season.

Hickey believes the bye has been good for the injury-hit Waratahs after their scrappy 20-15 win over the Western Force in Round 12 but admits having the week off does have its challenges.

"There's lot of ways you can manage the bye and all the key physical indicators that we measure indicate that the bye has been really good for the players both physically and mentally," he said.

"They're quite refreshed, training yesterday was as good as we've trained ... coming off the bye you probably have to be a little bit more focused.

"You learn your lessons throughout this competition and coming off the last bye we didn't perform as well as we would have liked to.

"Players learn a lesson from that and I'm sure it won't be an issue on Saturday night."

Prediction: We can't see the Lions making it back-to-back wins on Aussie soil. Can they? Nah! Waratahs by twelve.

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Sosene Anesi, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Hugh Perrett, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Kingston.

Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Alwyn Hollenbach, 12 Doppies la Grange (c), 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Butch James, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joshua Strauss, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 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 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Dylan des Fountain.

Western Force v Brumbies

nib Stadium, Perth

Third-last meets fourth from the bottom in this all-Aussie derby hit-out at nib Stadium in Perth.

Fresh from a bye, the Force will look to make it a double over the Brumbies after upsetting their Australian rivals at Canberra Stadium in Round Eight.

The Force will also be desperate to secure what will be only their second win at home this season - their one and only victory in Perth so far this year was against the Bulls - and keep the misfiring Brumbies below them on the standings.

The Brumbies are two from eleven this year and for the very first time in their history, have now lost four home games in the one season . Injuries to prop Salesi Ma'fafu, number eight Ita Vaea and hooker Huia Edmonds doesn't help matters either, so their task gets even tougher.

The return of skipper Rocky Elsom will be a boost for the Brumbies and gives them a whole different look. It's for this reason that Force skipper Nathan Sharpe believes his team will have to be on their toes to secure the points for a second time in 2011.

"We came away with the points against the Brumbies in Canberra and they would have taken some lessons out of that, as have we. I think it will be a completely different contest tomorrow night," Sharpe said.

"We have our goals that we want to tick off, while there is also a strong desire amongst the boys to give a good performance in front of our home supporters who have again been outstanding this season."

Prediction: Bye bye Brumbies. Force by five.

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Patrick Dellit, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Rory Sidey, 12 James O'Connor, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 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 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 James Stannard, 21 Gene Fairbanks, 22 Alfie Mafi.

Brumbies: 15 Patrick McCabe, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Julian Salvi, 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Rocky Elsom, 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 Michael Hooper, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Andrew Smith.

Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)

Cheetahs v Melbourne Rebels
Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein

The battered Rebels travel to Bloemfontein to take on the giant-killing Cheetahs in what will be another tough challenge for Stirling Mortlock and his men.

The hosts, who have scored 30 tries thus far this season, are currently

the joint-leading try-scoring teams in the South African Conference this season (along with the Sharks).

The Cheetahs' 321 points are also the most by any of the five SA teams in 2011. The Rebels, on the other hand, have conceded the most tries (57) and points(430) this year.

Naka Drotske's men produced their second upset of the season after shocking the Crusaders in Bloemfontein last weekend and are chasing four wins on the trot.

A victory for the Cheetahs will be their fifth this season, which will equal their record from 2010, 2006 and 1997. With another three games to go after this weekend, the current crop of Free Staters will have a good chance of setting a new franchise record for season victories.

Prediction: The Rebels will put up a good fight. But the Cheetahs are in cruise mode, and have winning momentum behind them at the moment. Cheetahs by nine.

The teams:

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

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Richard Kingi, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (capt), 11 Luke Rooney, 10 Julian Huxley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Tim Davidson, 7 Jarrod Saffy, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Greg Somerville.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Kevin O'Neill, 19 Michael Lipman, 20 James Hilgendorf, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Peter Betham.

Referee: Pro Legoete (South Africa)

Sharks v Bulls
Kings Park, Durban

In the first of two derby clashes to come this season, the Sharks host the Bulls at Kings Park in what is shaping up to be one of the clashes of the weekend.

The Bulls are just seven points off the Sharks and eight off the Stormers and have plenty of motivation going into the final five weeks of the pool stages to perform well and finish strongly.

Gaining four points and seeing the Stormers lose to the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend means the Cape side's lead over the Sharks has been whittled down to just one point and this week's crunch match against the Bulls is the perfect opportunity for John Plumtree's men to remain on track to finish top of the South African conference.

Beating the Bulls would also place further breathing space between themselves and the men from Pretoria. The Bulls come to Durban on a mission, knowing that a loss could well put their season in severe jeopardy as they look to emulate their recent successes in the tournament.

For the Sharks, fifth place is a guaranteed quarter-final berth but they will be looking to improve on that in the hope of playing at home. That this game has huge meaning for both sides, which means fans can expect a massive clash on Saturday.

After five losses from 11 starts, the Bulls have pinpointed this as a "must win clash".

"The reality is that another defeat will again be a step back for us. The Sharks will be a huge challenge in Durban," said Bulls halfback Fourie du Preez.

The message that the Bulls are talking up this match as a Cup final is a little premature according to Sharks coach Plumtree.

"It's a bit early for that five rounds out," he said.

"We've been in a similar situation to them and yes, it does add spice to the game although Bulls-Sharks clashes have always been big encounters. Games between the two are always highly physical, and I don't expect it to be any different this Saturday."

Prediction: Tough one. Home advantage hasn't always played a big part in beating the Bulls in South Africa. Bulls by six.

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 Jacques Botes, 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 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Mornť Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Derick KuŁn, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

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