Planet Rugby

Super Rugby preview: Friday

10th May 2012 09:09


blues lions preview

Last-place battle: Blues v Lions

Round 12 of Super Rugby serves up an interesting duel between two desperate sides out to avoid the ignominy of finishing last.

The faded Blues take on the toothless Lions in Auckland, with the winner here set to increase their chances of avoiding this season's wooden spoon.

The Lions have finished last in 1998, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2010, whilst the Blues have never ended bottom of the standings in their history of Super Rugby.

We then cross the Tasman to Sydney where the Waratahs face a do-or-die clash with the Bulls. Another loss for the home side - who haven't beaten the Bulls since 2005 - will spell the end of their play-off hopes.

Blues v Lions
Eden Park Stadium, Auckland

The tournament's two bottom-placed teams go head to head at Auckland's Eden Park for what may be the battle of the wooden spoon.

Blues coach Pat Lam must be at his wit's end as he tries to get his team back on the victory trail. The Aucklanders are bringing up the rear of the table with a paltry 12 points from 10 matches while the Lions are in 14th position with 14 points from nine games.

Both teams have managed just one victory apiece during the entire competition.

The Lions' sole triumph came in the opening round of the tournament when they edged the Cheetahs 30-27 in Johannesburg, while the Blues' solitary win came in Round Three against the Bulls in Pretoria.

Lam said this weekend's match is 'quite a desperate game' for both sides and despite talk of him losing his job at the end of the season, the former Samoa loose forward is focussed on getting that much-needed win under his belt.

Despite losing several key players to injury for this crucial match, Lam remains upbeat and believes his charges can still claim a second win of their torrid campaign.

"It's obviously a big game for us and what we need to do to get the win is having clarity for all the individuals concerned," he said.

It can be argued that Lions coach John Mitchell is much more desperate than Lam as the struggling felines have much more to lose if they don't start winning matches soon.

If they finish as South Africa's bottom-placed team in the standings, the Lions will not feature in next year's tournament as the South African Rugby Union (SARU) have already promised the Southern Kings that they will be the country's fifth Super Rugby franchise in 2013.

Mitchell's charges showed in their defeat to the table-topping Chiefs in Pukekohe last week that they are no pushovers and were competitive for large portions of that match.

Their captain and number eight Josh Strauss was immense against the Chiefs and if he gets some momentum he could prove a handful for the Blues' defence.

Prediction: A high-scoring affair is expected between two teams who are amongst the tournament's worst defensive side's in this year's competition.It's really difficult to call a winner in this clash but home advantage could swing in it for the Blues. It will be close... Blues by three!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Benson Stanley, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Sherwin Stowers.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Michael Killian, 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 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ Van der Linde, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Ruan Combrinck, 22 James Kamana.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

Waratahs v Bulls
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Both these teams will be highly motivated to be victorious in this match after they gave indifferent performances in last weekend's encounters.

The Waratahs went down 23-6 to the Brumbies in Canberra, while the Bulls were given a scare in their clash with the Rebels before eventually winning 41-35.

For the hosts, this has been a topsy-turvy campaign and their record of four wins and six defeats will not impress their ardent supporters.

Michael Foley's troops struggled to assert themselves against the Brumbies and he showed his dissatisfaction with that performance by making seven personnel and three positional changes to his starting XV.

The Bulls win over the Rebels elevated them to top spot on the South African conference, but coach Frans Ludeke will be far from happy with his side's showing last weekend.

As usual, they will rely on their huge set of forwards to give them momentum up front, before their Springbok half-backs (Steyn and Hougaard) will try to dictate proceedings from the back.

The visitors do possess dangerous outside backs and Bjorn Basson in particular is someone who the Waratahs will have to keep a close eye on if they want to win this clash. The Springbok wing is amongst the tournament's leading try-scorers and one of the best finishers in the game.

Prediction The Waratahs have been unpredictable throughout their campaign and if they can match the Bulls in the tight exchanges they should be successful. This, however, is easier said than done and the boys from Pretoria will be keen to improve on their performance against the Rebels. It will be an intruging battle but the Bulls should take seven points.

The teams:

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

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs Australia14:30
USA vs New Zealand20:50
More International Match fixtures
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh19:35
Ospreys vs Connacht19:35
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table