We're already into week 4 of this year's Super Rugby tournament and although it's given us a lot to debate, it has been a rather slow start in terms of action with most teams struggling to settle into their respective game plans early on. The Kiwi teams have been electric with ball in hand, but Chiefs aside have been woeful on defence. The SA sides are a mixed bag at this stage with only the Sharks reasonably happy with their performances, and the Australian teams are...well..Australian. Some quality Rugga on display this round so make sure you're a Wizard with the PVR as this may just be the weekend Super Rugby 2013 finally lives up to it's Super reputation.
Friday, March 08
Hurricanes vs Crusaders - Wellington - 08:35
What a way to get us going this week. The opening matches of the last two rounds have been the best to watch and this clash should be no different. Sibling rivalry as Franks takes on Franks upfront while the battle of the 9/10 combinations should be delicious. The Canes were the best team to watch last year but they haven't even located the gear box this season let alone found first gear. The Saders showed last week that slow starts seem to be part of their culture but as fired up as the Canes will be after being robed last week, I feel they're gonna have to wait another week for their first W in 2013.
My Call: Crusaders by 6
Hurricanes: 1. Ben Franks, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Jason Eaton, 6. Brad Shields, 7. Karl Lowe, 8. Victor Vito, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Tim Bateman, 13. Conrad Smith (c), 14. Alapati Leiua, 15. Andre Taylor
Bench: 16. Motu Matu’u / Ash Dixon, 17. Ben May, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Chris Smylie, 21. James Marshall, 22. Reynold Lee-Lo
Crusaders: 1. Wyatt Crockett , 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Samuel Whitelock, 5. Dominic Bird, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Dan Carter, 11. Johnny McNicholl, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Robbie Fruean,14. Tom Marshall, 15. Israel Dagg
Bench: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Joe Moody, 18. Tom Donnelly,19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Adam Whitelock
Rebels vs Reds - AAMI Park, Melbourne - 10:40
This game is likely to be the low point of the weekend in terms of quality. Both sides are in fact great to watch at their best but even though the Reds can boast 3 wins already, neither have been an advert for the game thus far. The Rebels up their game for home derbies and will look to do the same this weekend, but injuries are already taking their toll as they will be without key players Gareth Delve and Kurtley Beale this week. Beale's absence sees O'Bieber slot in at 10 to take on his man lover Quade Cooper to see who can out bromance each other in a mini trial for the vacant Wallaby number 10 jersey. The Rebels will be up for it but the Reds should have enough to get over the line-even if Quade spends most of the game admiring O'Biebers hair.
My Call: Reds by 5
Rebels: 15 Angus Roberts, Richard Kingi, Mitch Inman, Lachlan Mitchell, Alex Rokobaro, James O’Connor (capt), 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Bench: 16 Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Jordy Reid, Jarrod Saffy, Nic Stirzaker, Rory Sidey, 22 Tom English.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 Ed O’Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper (c), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Bench: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Saturday, March 09
Highlanders vs Cheetahs, Rugby Park, Invercargill - 08:35
In week 2 I picked the Landers to beat the Chiefs as I felt the Champions might struggle from second season syndrome-having lost a few key players-and get off to a slow start. How wrong I was. The Landers on the other hand seemed like a team that had taken a step forward as a squad since last season and with a few great additions and a brilliant coach in Jamie Josephs might just have a real go at the play-offs this year. Although depth may be an issue come July, their starting 15 is very strong and one poor defensive showing in their opening match hasn't completely derailed my view on the boys from the DEEP South. The Cheetahs fought hard in their first 40 minutes in Hamilton last week but the combination of Sarel Pretorious' pathetic service and a near perfect defensive set up by the Chiefs meant they just never managed to get on the front foot and release their dangerous backline. Barring Van Zyl having a niggle, it's beyond me how Sarel starts once again, and if he doesn't improve on last week's showing then everyone's second team from Bloem are going to be in for the same level of pain this round. Away from the the Landers indoor home in Dunedin the weather will likely be a factor in this match so that may just keep the score down.
My Call: Highlanders by 9
Highlanders: N/A at writing
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Bench: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Heinrich Brussow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Brumbies vs Waratahs - Canberra Stadium, Canberra - 10:40
The Tahs boast 5 Wallaby starters in their pack, possibly two in the back line and the exceptionally talented League convert Isreal Folau. Should be a formula for success...not so much. They are a strong team with a decent squad, but much like the Storm their game plan is often their biggest enemy. I see them improving as the season goes on but a lot will depend on the effect Barne's reintroduction to the backline will have-Tom Carter is all that is wrong with this world. The Brumbies are definitely the only real deal out of the Aussie conference this year and I'm backing Jake and his troops to drive home that point this week.
My Call: Brumbies by 8
Brumbies: 1. Ben Alexander, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Dan Palmer, 4. Scott Fardy, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Peter Kimlin, 7. David Pocock, 8. Ben Mowen, 9. Nic White, 10. Matt Toomua, 11. Clyde Rathbone, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 13. Andrew Smith, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Jesse Mogg.
Bench: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Fotu Auelua, 19. George Smith, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Joseph Tomane, 22. Robbie Coleman.
Waratahs: 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Bench: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Greg Peterson, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Lachie Turner.
Stormers vs Chiefs - DHL Newlands, Cape Town - 17:05
The nightmare opening run in Super Rugby 2013 doesn't get any easier for the Storm this week as the Champion and red hot Chiefs march into Cape Town ready to teach the Cape boys that scoring tries is in fact a part of Rugby. Losing to the Bulls, Sharks and Chiefs in your opening three matches is not season destroying but should the Storm go down to the champions this week then fail to revise their gameplan, they could quickly see their season slide into the red zone. The Chiefs have simply carried forward the form which saw them crush the Sharks in last years final and have been the only side thus far to apply a game plan perfectly balanced with attack and defensive structures. They may have lost a couple big names but they have not lost their edge and as good as the Storm's defence is, the Chiefs will inevitably find holes. The Chiefs might struggle early on up against a much better defence than what they have faced so far but where they may actually get the upper hand is in the set piece where the Storm have been club rugby esque so far.
My Call: Chiefs by 5
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain), 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Don Armand, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Dewaldt Duvenhage, 21. Peter Grant, 22. Gerhard van den Heever
Southern Kings vs Sharks - NMB Stadium, Port Elizabeth - 19:10
The Kings shocked the Rugby fraternatity with their opening round victory over the Force in their first ever Super Rugby match, but that was two weeks ago, against perhaps the weakest team in the competition, who had just flown around the world. I don't want to take anything away from the Kings because their victory over the Force was great for the region and in a small way SA Rugby as a whole, but their fans are in for a rough day as quality opposition vistits PE for the first time this year. The Kings have made it public that they are aiming to take on the Sharks upfront and feel their forwards are the key to them staying in the contest-brave when up against the best pack in the competition. The Kings will fight hard in the first quarter and on the back of their great crowd could even be within 7 points come half time. Like the Cheetahs last week however they will inevitably break down and the Sharks should canter to a 5 pointer.
My Call: Sharks by 20
Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Steven Sykes 4 Darron Nell (captain), 3 Kevin Buys , 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Bench: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Hadleigh Parkes
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Francois Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Odwa Ndungane
Sunday, March 10
Blues vs Bulls - Eden Park, Auckland - 05:05
The Bulls were beyond pedestrian at times last week and had their opposition been any other foreign team would likely have lost in the same manner they did to the Blues at Loftus last year. The Auckland outfit have been this years surprise package by blowing the Canes and Saders away in their opening two fixtures. Under the mentorship of Sir's Kirwan and Henry the Rugby revolution at the Blues has been astounding. The Bulls will present a different challenge for this young Blues team as they will have to cope with a bombardment of high balls and a very physical pack, but their backs led by the electric Piutau at the back-are well rounded, and their pack will look capable at fronting up to anyone. For me the Bulls just don't have anything to their game this year besides good kickers and a well gelled pack and their trip to Auckland should be the first lost on a very long tour..
|My Call: Blues by 9|
|Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Lionel Mapoe, Mornè Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett.|
Bench: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Jacques Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouché, Jürgen Visser.
So as much as it pains me to say it, I'm predicting a rather dark weekend for South African teams with just The Sharks to pick up a win in PE. Two Aussie derbies this weekend but at least we seem to be getting them out the way early! The Canes vs Saders clash on Friday morning should be a cracker and with that im hoping to be bathed in cringe worthy metaphors by Marshal and his commentary team! The match of the weekend is definitely in CT although as we've come to learn, Stormers matches these days are more Late Harvest than Champagne Rugby so here's to hoping they make at least one line break this week!
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