Super Rugby - Week 5 Preview

Week 4 was a weekend of upsets where the clinical opportunism of the Cheetahs and perfect execution of the Bulls brushed aside kiwi teams in two matches while the risen again Storm found a new gear to get over the line against the defending champs and the Banana Boys nearly slipped on a peel of their own making. Conclusion-a bloody brilliant weekend for South African Rugby! This week should be a great one for Rugby in general as we are presented with some epic clashes.

For the exception of the odd Superbru freak, predicting the outcome of Super Rugby matches may just be more of a coin toss than guessing Justin Bieber's gender, but I've resisted the urge to turn to said coin-or even commission an octopus with prophet like abilities to choose for me, and called winners on Rugby logic with a dusting of gut feel. Here's hoping I dont find my self at the aquarium negotiating a price for an octopus this time next week!

Friday, 22 March

Highlanders vs Huricanes - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - 08:35

It is perhaps fitting that these two sides meet each other this week considering the starts each have had to this years competition. Barring the Canes win over the Saders last week-where an intercept against the run of play clinched it for them, both these sides have been emphatically disappointing.
The Highlanders boast the incumbent All Black scrum half and first center in Aaron Smith and Ma'a Nonu along with perhaps the most dangerous back three in the competition in my Man Crush Ben Smith, Jose Gear and Kade Poki, yet in their opening two matches they have been pedestrian in attack and utterly inept in defence. Their scoreline against the Cheetahs last week was rather misleading as the Landers were in fact the ones that played most of the rugby. That said however, the Rugby played had less bite than Hugh Bladen without his false teeth in. The Canes have slowly improved week on week finally resulting in their big W over the Saders at the Cake Tin last week. This is a truly hard one to call as the Landers will be desperate for points and are experts and grinding out wins at home when most in need, but Jamie Josephs troopers just seem to be all over the place this year and have thus far had a pack putting in displays even the Rebels would laugh at. The Canes possess some true grunt upfront and all the momentum coming into this one so I think they should get the upper hand in the forwards and allow their backs to have their way with the weak defence of the Landers. Can't see them running away with it though.

My Call: Canes by 5

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Jason Emery, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Brad Thorn, Chris King, Andrew Hore (c), Tony Woodcock.
Bench: Brayden Mitchell, Ma’afu Fia, Jake Paringatai, TJ Ioane, Fumiaki Tanaka, Lima Sopoaga, Buxton Popoalii.

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Bench: 16 Motu Matu’u/Ash Dixon, 17 Reggie Goodes/Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Andre Taylor.

Waratahs vs Cheetahs - Allianz Stadium, Sydney -10:40

The new coach Michael Cheika and the Tahs spoke a big game coming into this season about
a new approach to the game that would see them leave their coma inducing Tom Carter inspired Rugby behind, but for all their preseason form and banter off the pitch the they have been just as limp as last year. Berrick Barnes returns (looking all kinds of steamy) to give their line a bit of bite and more tactical edge but dropping Drew Mitchell is a strange one. It's gonna take a lot more than the introduction of the 70's porn star look-alike to turn them around. The Cheetahs pulled off one of the most surprising wins in years last week by blowing away the Landers in NZ. They may simply have preyed on mistakes but on the back of an exceptional display by their loosies and finishing any chance on offer their game plan worked perfectly. The biggest challenge facing the Cheetahs this week is their consistency. They have always been a team capable of producing great results, just not a team capable of doing it regularly. If the Cheetahs are able to reproduce the standard of their play from last week then the Tahs won't be able to handle them in any department, but as is so often in Rugby-that is a big 'If'. Last week I was rather pessimistic with my calls involving SA teams so this week I'm gonna get behind the boys from Bloem and back them to pull off another famous win.

My Call: Cheetahs by 3

Waratahs: 1. Benn Robinson, 2. John Ulugia, 3. Paddy Ryan, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Dave Dennis (captain), 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Pat McCutcheon, 9. Brendan McKibbin, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Peter Betham, 12. Berrick Barnes, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Lachie Turner, 15. Israel Folau
Bench: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Mitchell Chapman, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Matt Lucas, 21. Ben Volavola, 22. Rob Horne

Cheetahs: 5 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 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Southern Kings vs Chiefs - NMB Stadium, Port Elizabeth - 19:10

A win over foreign opposition in their first match as a franchise, a determined defensive display that left last season's runner up tryless and crowds in excess of 35,000 in consecutive one can dispute that as mired in controversy as their inclusion may have been, the Kings have positively added to Super Rugby so far. This week should be their toughest challenge yet as the Chiefs will have targeted this match as a 5 pointer to turn their tour into a success. The kings determination and organisation on defence has been impressive but what has been surprising is their tackle execution-they boast the best stats in the competition thus far.  As should become a trend with Kings matches this year,this clash is unlikely to be overflowing with quality as the Kings game plan is aimed at spoiling the opposition ball and levelling the playing field. The Chiefs will come out the blocks with their usual physicality and most likely run in a few tries at the end, but the Kings will scrap with everything they have for that losing bonus point so the Chiefs will have to be on top of their game to get their 5 points from PE.

My Call: Chiefs by 11

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 Darron Nell (captain), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Bench: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Hadleigh Parkes.

Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ross Filipo, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Michael Fitzgerald, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith.
Bench: Rhys Marshall, Pauliasi Manu, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Charlie Ngatai, Patrick Osborne.

Saturday 23 March

Crusaders vs Bulls - AMI Stadium, Christchurch - 08:35

Having first seen the Bulls' tour fixtures shortly after witnessing their performance against the Force, I genuinely wondered whether they would return with more than three points to show for their four weeks in Australasia. However, true to the nature of this tournament, Pierre Spies' jaw-line and the rest of the guys from that terrible 'I will stand by you' youtube video surprised even Naas himself by pulling together as a unit and completely outplaying the until then Sh#t hot Blues. The Saders will be thankful that they didn't lose more ground in the NZ conference battle with that Bulls win but what may have seemed like four points for the taking a few weeks ago, is now a new beast all together..The Saders haven't started the season slowly-they have all but been in reverse, and questions over how long the Todd Blackadder version of the Saders will last begin to grow. The Bulls are full of confidence having spoken publicly about their confidence in their abilities, but week 2 in NZ is incredibly tough and having a win under their belt already they may fade in the last 20. This match will be one of test match standard where a few key events will decide the outcome so some Carter or Dagg Magic might be all that it takes. This will be the Saders first home match of the season which should see them truly step up their performance and finally get on the board in 2013.

My Call: Crusaders by 8

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. Tyler Bleyendaal, 22. Adam Whitelock

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jurgen Visser, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morne Mellett.
Bench: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Reds vs Force - Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - 10:40

Having got one over (no not a leg) his fellow boyband member James O'Bieber last week and in doing so won the 'Battle of Bromance 2013', all those that have tickets on #thequadetrain (#haveagoodlookatyourife) are in for another special match..This week sees Will Genia make his Super Rugby return after over six months out with a knee injury. Genia was Quades first love..and no matter the candle that may burn in his heart for O'Bieber..first loves are special. The Reds have started 2013 well and have shown that they are still a strong squad, but the key to them having anything to do with the playoffs later on in the season will be Genia's influence on their gameplan. Like all world class Scrum halves, through his kicking game and decision making he takes most of the pressure off his No.10-which in this case allows Quade more time to do his theatrical thing in the line and generally improves his success rate. Genia is coming back from a looooong lay off so won't be at his world beating best just yet..but that doesn't mean him and Quade won't still enjoy some slap and tickle on the field as they fall in love all over again. Haven't focussed on the actual match here much because it's got snore fest written all over it with only one outcome likely.

My Call: Reds by 13

Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Bench: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Aidan Toua.

Force: N/A at writing

Sharks vs Brumbies - Kings Park, Durban - 17:05

A perfect way to send off a truly Rugbygasm inducing weekend that sees two genuine title contenders battle for what are already crucial points. Jakes boys have been a cut above in the powder puff conference this year, completely outclassing each Aussie team they have faced. This week though presents them with their first cross conference match of the season which will be a significant step up in opposition standard for the boys from Canberra. With White's influence the Brumbies have simply bullied any pack they have come up against so far-easy to do against Aussie teams-however I see them being on the receiving end in the collisions and up front this week and thus struggling for momentum in the match. Sadly the weather forecast is for hot and humid weather with a chance of light rain meaning the chances of plenty of handling errors and both teams struggling to string phases together are high. Both teams, in Jesse Mogg and Frans Steyn, possess players with canon boots so I pray it doesn't result in 80 minutes of gaining grounds. The Brumbies don't have a great record in SA and the Sharks very rarely lose at home these days so the home side should get over the line here. I fear we may see the Sharks continue in their Stormers of 2012 style and play percentage rugby..but if it results in a win over the log leaders and form team then it will be hard for many to complain.

My Call: Sharks by 6

 Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Keegan Daniel (captain), 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 Cobus Reinach, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.
Brumbies: N/A at writing

This should be a firecracker of a Rugby weekend so make sure you've got access to the mos HD of TV's and arrive at work with sufficient excuses as to why you should be allowed to watch your walker all morning. If you've favoured the coin toss this week then you may just have more chance of a grand slam point on Superbru than the rest of us. The Oval Ball Rules All!

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