Planet Rugby



Super Rugby preview: Saturday

23rd March 2012 09:06


rod davies bulls v reds 2011

Seeing red: The Bulls looking to bounce back with a win in Pretoria

We're in for a busy day on Super Saturday with five key fixtures set to keep us entertained as the Round Five action continues.

Lets skip the chit-chat and get straight to it shall we?

Waratahs v Sharks

The Waratahs will be looking to get their season back on track when they host the Sharks at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

It's a must-win encounter for the hosts, who have only managed one victory from their four outings thus far and looking to avoid their worst start to a Super Rugby season.

Despite having a formidable team, their one win over the lowly Rebels is all the Waratahs have to show for their efforts in 2012.

Losing bonus points picked up against the Reds, Highlanders and Western Force have kept the Sydneysiders afloat - albeit barely. But a third consecutive defeat will surely see their title aspirations sink with a two away games in between a bye still to come.

It's not that they're incapable of matching it with the big teams (their performance against the in-form Highlanders proves that), but have lacked the killer blow against teams they should have beaten.

They came unstuck against the lowly Force, and unsurprisingly their disgruntled fans were simply fed up of watching their team - who scored more tries than any other side in 2011 - playing like a bunch of zombies. As a result, the Waratahs were booed off the pitch.

A big improvement is needed if they are to win back their supporters with a vital win over the Sharks, who arrive Down Under brimming with confidence following last week's come-from-behind victory against the reigning champion Reds.

Indeed, the Sharks will be buoyed by the result of that game after fighting their way back from seventeen points down to win 27-22 and will have landed in Sydney in high spirits.

However, the South Africans don't have the best record against the Waratahs in Sydney (they have recorded just two wins in nine games, the last win in 2000), and this is not something that has escaped the coaching staff.

"We had a long meeting about this: why we've failed in Sydney," said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

"We've managed to beat them at home, but we haven't had much success here. We just need to put emphasis on making sure we don't get distracted while we're here, that rugby is the reason why we're here, winning is why we're here."

Prediction: History certainly favours the home side. They've beaten the Sharks on the past six occasions at Allianz Stadium and they've won four of the past five and nine of the last eleven overall. Waratahs by six!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Replacements (from): John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Jono Jenkins, Sarel Pretorius, Daniel Halangahu, Peter Betham, Brackin Kauraria-Henry.

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler , 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Louis Ludik.

Crusaders v Cheetahs
Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch

The Crusaders will be determined to return to winning ways when they host the Cheetahs at the newly built Christchurch Stadium.

After two consecutive losses, the match shapes as a must-win for the Crusaders and it is sure to be an emotional one for the home side as they play their first match in Christchurch since May 2010.

The town will be buzzing with excitement with a packed house anticipated, and what was already going to be a tough road trip, will become a daunting experience for the South Africans.

This season the Crusaders' defeats to the Highlanders and Chiefs have been by slim margins and could easily have been victories but coach Todd Blackadder won't be satisfied at the manner in which they were lost.

In both cases his All Blacks-laden forwards were out-muscled and no team wants a reputation as lacking stomach for a fight. The worry for Blackadder will be that teams will see a weakness there and continue to exploit it.

That, though, is not likely to be an issue against the Cheetahs, although they did break their six-match losing streak with a 33-26 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne, only the second time they have won in Australia.

Although they often trouble the Crusaders at home in Bloemfontein, they have never won in Christchurch and could be the perfect stage for the Crusaders to play their high-pressure, fast-paced game.

Prediction: You get the feeling the Cheetahs are in for a long night up against the Crusaders. It's their return to Christchurch and star fly-half Dan Carter is back on deck, albeit off the bench. Crusaders by 17!

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ross Kennedy, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Dan Carter, 22 Tom Marshall.

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

Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Brumbies v Highlanders
Canberra Stadium, Canberra

The Brumbies are back in the Aussie capital where they play host to the unbeaten Highlanders at Canberra Stadium.

Undefeated against the Waratahs, Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues, the Highlanders present a massive challenge for the Brumbies looking for their third win from four games.

A victory on Saturday for the hosts would go a long way towards a finals drive, claiming valued home-ground competition points against the Super Rugby ladder-leaders who are struggling somewhat with key injuries.

After four consecutive wins, the Highlanders will be without forwards duo John Hardie and Adam Thomson, as well as valuable centre Phil Burleigh for their second away clash of the season.

However, new Brumbies boss Jake White is correct with his warning not to take the injury-hit Highlanders lightly.

"They've obviously got some young guys coming in," said White.

"But at the same time, a guy like (flanker) James Haskell comes in who's played international rugby and 40-odd Tests for England, so it's not like they're losing too much.

"With changes comes a new enthusiasm as well, so let's not underestimate the fact that when you do make a couple of changes, those boys see it as an opportunity.

"We can't be banking too much on the fact that five changes are going to help us."

The Kiwi outfit's record in Canberra also doesn't make for impressive reading, with just two wins in eight visits. The Brumbies have won both home games at Canberra Stadium so far with a close victory over the Western Force and a final-minute win over the Cheetahs.

Prediction: It's hard to bet against a team that's undefeated so far this season. Highlanders by five!

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.

Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Scott Fardy, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Doug Tietjens, 6 James Haskell, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Buxton Popoali'i.

Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)

Bulls v Reds
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

The Bulls and Reds will both be looking to bounce back from defeat when the 2010 tournament winners and defending champs lock horns at Loftus Versfeld.

The Reds suffered their first loss of the season in a closely contested 27-22 match against the Sharks last weekend, while the Bulls - back from a bye - went down to the Blues a fortnight ago.

The Aussie tourists go into the weekend's match severely depleted due to injury and other factors.The team is already without playmakers Quaid Cooper, Mike Harris and Ben Lucas and suffered another setback after winger Digy Ioane received a hefty five-week suspension for a tip-tackle.

The Queenslanders also have a miserable record against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld as they have not beaten the hosts in their backyard since 2001.

These two sides still share the record for the biggest victory in Super Rugby history, when the Bulls crushed the Queenslanders by 92-3 in 2007.

Chances of that happening again on Saturday though are very slim.

"They are the champions and that will be how high the bar will be set," said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.

"We will have to deliver a championship performance if we want to beat them. The effort against the Blues was below par and we know that. We worked hard to be accurate on the weekend and to create and convert chances."

Prediction: Fresh from a bye, the Bulls will be keen to take advantage of the fact that the Reds aren't at full strength. Bulls by seven!

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

Reds: 15 Rod Davies, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Jono Lance, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Dallan Murphy, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 James Slipper, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Van Humphries, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Nathan Eyres-Brown.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Lions v Stormers
Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

The unbeaten Stormers will be wary of a Lions side depleted by injury when the two sides battle it out in the final match of Round Five.

Even though the Lions- coming off a bye - are reeling from numerous injuries to key players, they still present the visitors with a big challenge.

Memories of the last year's Currie Cup semi-final defeat will be fresh in Stormers players minds who made up the bulk of the Western Province side that were crushed by the Golden Lions.

However, the Stormers hold the upper hand over the Lions in Super Rugby.

The Lions haven't beaten the men from Cape Town since 2001 - that's eleven losses on the trot. Playing at home isn't a huge advantage for the Lions either because they have won just one of their past 17 games at Coca-Cola Park.

Be that as it may, the visitors will not be resting on their laurels in Johannesburg when they aim to better their position at the top of the log and Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers is adamant they won't be easy opponents.

"The last time we played in Johannesburg, we got smashed. We will definitely not be underestimating their team," he said.

"In this competition, it is dangerous to underestimate any side and it doesn't matter who is selected. It is typically South African that when a team is down that is when they are at their most dangerous so we are very much aware of that."

Prediction: They Stormers have won on their last six visits to the City of Gold and we're pretty confident they can make it seven on the trot. Stormers by eight!

Lions: 15 James Kamana, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Andries Coetzee, 10 Butch James, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (c), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Marius Coetzer, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Stephan Greeff, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Michael Killian, 22 Ruan Combrinck.

Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean De Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)

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