Planet Rugby

Super Rugby preview: Saturday

16th March 2012 09:35


Julian Savea Hurricanes v Highlanders 2011

NZ derby: The Hurricanes take on the Highlanders in Wellington

The weekend's Super Rugby action continues with matches in each of the three competing nations.

Saturday's action kicks off with a New Zealand derby between the Hurricanes and the Highlanders in Wellington.

After that Australian neighbours, the Waratahs and the Western Force, do battle in Sydney before the Sharks face the Reds in Durban to bring the day's proceedings to a close.

On Sunday, the Rebels and Cheetahs bring the curtain down on Round Four with a bottom-of-the-table scrap in Melbourne.

Hurricanes v Highlanders
Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett's young side face a stern examination when they host the unbeaten Highlanders in Wellington.

Despite being on the road, the Hurricanes have been competitive in all three their opening matches and have proved to be the surprise packages at this early stage of the tournament.

They lost their opening match to the Stormers after matching the Cape Town-based side for most of the 80 minutes. After that, they won a thriller thanks to a late penalty by exciting fly-half Beauden Barrett in the closing stages of their match against the Lions in Johannesburg.

And last weekend they registered another valuable away win when they beat the Western Force 46-19 in Perth and scored six tries in the process.

With Barrett proving a revelation in the playmaking role and other youngsters like Andre Taylor (full-back), Dane Coles (hooker) and TJ Perenara (scrum-half) also putting their hands up in a big a big way, the future looks bright for the NZ franchise.

Perenara announced himself by scoring a hat-trick against the Force last week and the Highlanders defence will be on high alert when he is in possession close to the tryline.

Being unbeaten will boost the Highlanders' confidence and it will be interesting to see if the Hurricanes can replicate their away form in front of an expectant home crowd.

The southerners have grinded out victories over the Chiefs, Crusaders and Waratahs in their previous matches and will be highly-motivated to add the Hurricanes to their list of conquests.

Under the guidance of coach Jamie Joseph, the Highlanders have struck a fine balance between a physical set of forwards and an exciting back-line that have complimented each other well in their previous fixtures.

Up front, seasoned internationals like Andrew Hore and Adam Thomson have been impressive along with captain Jamie Mackintosh while the likes of All Blacks speedster Hosea Gear and former Hurricanes stalwart Tamati Ellison have stood out amongst the backs.

Another player to keep an eye on is scrum-half Jimmy Cowan who has been confined mostly to a role on the replacements bench in previous matches. Cowan will be keen to show Joseph that he should start regularly in the number nine jersey and his battle with Perenara could be one of the highlights of the match.

Prediction: Both sides head into this clash full of confidence after recording impressive wins last week. This should make for an entertaining spectacle with plenty of end-to-end action! Although the Hurricanes are an exciting side, the Highlanders should have too much experience in their ranks - especially in the forwards - to stay undefeated. Highlanders by six!

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Ma'afu Fia King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (capt).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 James Haskell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Buxton Popoali'i.

Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

Waratahs v Western Force
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

The Waratahs head into Saturday's clash with the Western Force brimming with confidence despite losing to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week.

The Sydney-based franchise came close to breaking the Highlanders' winning streak but eventually went down 18-17.

New coach Michael Foley has done well to be competitive in all their previous encounters, despite having a squad that has been decimated by injuries to key players.

New captain Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Wycliff Palu, Pat McCutcheon, Damien Fitzpatrick, Chris Alcock, Drew Mitchell and Lachlan Turner will all be missing this weekend's clash through injury.

However, they still have several experienced players in key positions who will be expected to lead the charge against their opponents.

Wallabies front-rowers Benn Robinson and Tatafu Polota-Nau and seasoned campaigners like Dean Mumm (lock) and Dave Dennis (flanker) will be vital in the exchanges up front while Daniel Halangahu (fly-half) and Berrick Barnes (inside centre) are expected to lead the onslaught from the back.

The Force, have been struggling to build momentum in this year's tournament and are also struggling with injuries to some of their stalwarts. They are yet to win a match after their three opening encounters and face an uphill task against the Waratahs who are always competitive on their home turf.

Last weekend the Perth-based side suffered a humiliating home defeat to the Hurricanes and they will be desperate to get their show on the road as another loss could see them rooted to the bottom of the table.

A lot will be expected of experienced Wallabies like former captain Nathan Sharpe - who last weekend became the first player to play 150 Super Rugby matches - and his successor David Pocock.

Prediction: The Waratahs will fancy their chances against the visitors who were totally outplayed in their clash with the Hurricanes last weekend. Derbies are usually close encounters but this could be the most one-sided match of the weekend if the rain stays away. Waratahs by 17!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (c), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Tevita Metuisela, 7 Jono Jenkins, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Tom Carter.

Western Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Winston Stanley.

Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)

Sharks v Reds
Kings Park Stadium, Durban

The defending champion Reds go up against a determined Sharks side on a high after beating the Lions last weekend.

The Sharks showed in that 32-20 win that they have the ability to play expansively after they were criticised for their dour approach in their opening defeats away to the Bulls and Stormers.

The win against the Lions was in Durban so playing in front of their fervent home support against the Reds could do wonders to boost the men in black.

The Sharks' forwards are always competitive and will be eager to dominate from the outset, and with bulldozers like Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts in their ranks they could prove a handful for the visitors.

The Springbok duo enjoy the physical nature of the game and if they manage to gain momentum it could be a long and busy day at the office for the Reds.

The Sharks attacking threat will be led by fly-half Patrick Lambie who has the ability to get the best out of his outside backs with his playmaking skills. Another player who could prove a handful for the Reds is Springboks wing JP Pietersen who has shone in the unfamiliar outside centre position.

The powerful speedster has settled in nicely in the number 13 jersey and has been difficult to stop on attack. Pietersen has also proved solid on defence and is not afraid to put his body on the line in the tackle.

Last week's victory would have rejuvenated the Sharks and they will be keen to build momentum before heading on their tour to Australia and New Zealand later in the competition.

However, they face a Reds side who are yet to lose a match this season and who can contain attacking threats in several positions in their line-up.

Despite their unbeaten record, the Brisbane-based side didn't have things their own way in their last match against the Rebels though. They found the going tough before eventually winning 11-6 and will be keen to improve on that performance.

Despite being without injured Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper, the Reds are still a threat but this is their first match without the talented pivot outside Australia's borders and it will be interesting to see how they cope withot him away from home.

Amongst the forwards, lock James Horwill and flanker Scott Higginbotham will take the game to the hosts while scrum-half Will Genia is the man who will try to provide the spark to get the Reds backs firing.

Prediction: This could a closely contested affair between two evenly matched sides. However, home ground advantage could just swing it in the Sharks' favour. Sharks by five!

The teams:

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

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

Kick-off: 17:05 (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Rebels v Cheetahs
AAMI Stadium, Melbourne

A clash between two of the competitions strugglers hardly sets the pulses racing at first glance, but there could be more to this clash than one would expect.

Both teams have endured poor starts to the season; the Rebels had a bye first up before they were out played by the Waratahs only to put in an improved showing against the Reds.

The Cheetahs have twice lost close games (against the Lions and the Brumbies) but got thoroughly walloped by the Bulls in between. The end result is two teams desperate to get their seasons going with a strong showing this weekend.

Strangely it was the Rebels' defence rather than their attack that was more prominent against the Reds. The addition of Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor has yet to add the world class attacking impetus that was expected. Perhaps the duo - Beale in particular as he has been injured - are taking some time to find their feat in Melbourne, but Damian Hill needs his stars to start firing on all cylinders in order to avoid a third straight loss.

Saturday may just be the day that they hit their straps and should they do so the Cheetahs will be in for another long day on the road.

The Cheetahs will be smarting after two dubious late penalties saw them go down against the Brumbies last weekend. The men from Bloemfontein would have been full value for the victory, only their second on Australian soil.

Naka Drotske's side have put up a fight in more matches away from home than their record suggests but the class of 2011 need to ensure that this is not another season of close contests with little reward.

The Cheetahs got the better of the Rebels when the two teams met last year in the Melbourne outfit's debut season and this will surely contribute to a healthy dose of self-belief on the Cheetahs side.

Fly-half Johan Goosen has impressed for the men in orange and white and combined with the industry of a pack that includes the ever-impressive Heinrich Brussow and bustling skipper Adriaan Strauss, the Cheetahs are not to be underestimated.

Prediction: The Cheetahs will be full of effort but expect the Rebels to cut loose on home soil. Rebels by 15!

The teams:

Rebels: Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Lloyd Johansson, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Richard Kingi, 8 Gareth Delve (capt), 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Danny Cipriani, 22 James Hilgendorf.

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 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Justin Downey, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Rayno Benjamin.

Kick-off:16:10 (05:10 GMT)
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)

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