What a colossus of a Rugby weekend awaits us! Seven matches, Six on Saturday, not an Aussie derby in sight, the Waratahs don't play (thank you baby Jesus) and the Rebels and Force are both involved in matches you really don't want to miss! The ONLY down side to this Rugbygasm of a weekend is that literally every match has as much certainty attached to it as the most farcical of T20 matches. Let the 'Educated' guesses begin!
Friday, 12 April
Highlanders vs Brumbies - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - 09:35
It seems every week there is a large collection of people that feel that it will finally be the round that this extrenely talented Landers team get their shit together and win a match. I have been in said collection of believers twice this season and will likely be again..not this week however. The Brumbies are a class act and will have seen the worst side of Jake after their draw with the Kings. They were droth that day but a lot of it had to do with the countless new combinations tested by White on the day. Dropped points at home last week means at least four points here become non negtioable. Jesse Mogg back fit and everything to play for should be enough against a side that last won a Super Rugby match 12 rounds ago going back into last year.
My Call: Brumbies by 4
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 John Hardie, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Bench: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Jason Emery.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Bench: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.
Saturday, 13 April
Chiefs vs Reds - Waikatto Stadium, Hamilton - 06:35
Rich Kahui starts!! Rich Kahui starts!!
The man oozes skill and possesses scary amounts of talent. His return alone should be enough to get Rugby junkies out of bed at that time on a Saturday but if that doesn't excite you, surely the quality of this clash and it,s influence on the top of the log should get your Rugby engine revving. It is first versus the rightful third on the log-wake up man! The Chiefs have been the form team throughout the tournament thus far and far and away the most consistent. The return of Kahui, Horrell and Leonard has only strengthened their match day 22. The Reds have surprised me this year, and although their log position is inflated by the extra week played by Aussie teams, I've finally had to admit that they are genuine playoff contenders. The Chiefs are as physical as you can get and if the Reds forwards aren't up for an assualt then the tem it self could get blown off the park. Since Willy willy Genia's return they have shown glimpses of the champions they once were, but oh so brief glimpses. They are not yet there, and anything short of brilliant doesn't leave Hamilton with more than a bonus point.
My Call: Chiefs by 8
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Tim Nanai Williams, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 August Pulu, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Bench: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Michael Kainga, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Bench: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 22 Aidan Toua.
Blues vs Hurricanes - Eden Park, Auckland - 9:35
I picked the Canes to win when these teams clashed in week one and we all know how that worked out, but it hasn't stopped me from backing Mark Hammet's men again. Since that first match the Canes have gone from strength to strength while the blues have been as inept at times as they have been simply electric. Both teams have made rather key positional shuffles in their backline with one seeming inspired and the other exceptionally questionable. Rene Ranger has been outstanding at 13 for the Blues this season so shifting him out to wing and away from the action is a very strange call for me. On the other hand Hammet has decided to move Beauden Barrit to fullback bringing in the physical Tusi Pisi at 10. Barrit is at times unplayable with ball in hand but defends like a passivist with no arms. Barrit has Super Rugby experience at 15 so he will be comfortable at the back but I can see the two switching positions on defence and attack. As is the theme this week these two sides are very evenly matched so there should only be one score in it. The Blues don't have a reliable goal kicker and the Canes have all the momentum.
My Call: Hurricanes by 5
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Bench: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Albert Nikoro.
Hurricanes: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 TJ Perenara , 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Ben May, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Ben Franks / Reggie Goodes.
Bench: 16 Dane Coles / Ash Dixon, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Jack Lam, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Reynold Lee-Lo, 22 Andre Taylor.
Rebels vs Kings - AAMI Park, Melbourne - 11:40
The Kings came agonisingly close to pulling off what would had to have been the biggest Super Rugby upset ever. Still, their last movement try and subsequent draw so them leave Canberra with 3 log points. Hollywood stuff. The Rebels have two wins this season-both against the Force-so not exactly a record to be proud of. This may just represent the last chance of a win this season for both sides-so both will be well aware of it's importance-but I get the impression that winning means so much more to the Kings. Both sides are strong in different areas, yet very evenly matched overall. All that said..after their performance last week and their season as whole..how does a South African not back the Kings here!! Come on boys!
My Call: Kings by 2
Rebels: 15 Richard Kingi, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Bench: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Jordy Reid, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Angus Roberts.
Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Bench: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Jacques Englebrecht, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Marcello Sampson, 22 Siviwe Soyizwapi
Force vs Crusaders - NIB Stadium, Perth - 13:45
At first glance this match may seem a no brainer. The juggernaut that is the Crusaders against the feeble Force. It may present least stress inducing call of the weekend but don't be fooled into thinking the Saders are in for a 5 point canter. As most top sides do, the Saders consistantly seem to have a 'bogey team'-the boys from Perth. Ready for it? In their three visits to Australia's western city the Saders have not managed a win. Two draws and a historic Force victory are the stats they face going into this clash. The Saders are still without Dan the man as he pulled up in training, while Blackadder has decided to let Matt Todd and Sam Whitelock work on their tans this week. It's as weak a Saders team as you are likely to see against a Force team full of kiwis desperate to prove a point. Saders to win..but it won't be easy.
My Call: Crusaders by 7
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Tom Marshall, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Shane Christie, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Bench: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Telusa Veainu, 22 Zac Guildford.
Stormers vs Sharks - DHL Newlands, Cape Town - 17:05
In the build up to this clash AC has mentioned how the bounce of the ball has eluded them thus far and if they continue to work hard results will turn in their favour...whats that saying about doing the same thing and expecting different results? Have no doubts about it-the Storm are a quality side, but quality in reputation and personnel does not immediately promise returns. In their attempt to take the next step up and balance their style of play, they seem have taken significant steps back in areas that were so vital to their success. Most importantly the set pieces. Last week the Cheetahs did not contest on the storm throw which gave the impression that they had improved in this area..I'm not convinced. The sharks possess 3 very strong jumpers and will know that if they get in top in the lineouts, with the Lambs current kicking form, the battle will be theirs to lose. John Plumtree has taken a bit of a flyer and picked 19 year old Sean Robinson on the wing. With Robinson being a Fullback by trade this is clearly with the storm's kicking game in mind. SA derbies are always erratic things and with the Stormers being at home this game is very much 50/50. The Sharks have been growing since their rugby lesson at the hands of the Brumbies while the Storm seem to be treading water. I don't expect many tries so I feel Pat Lambie's boot should win it for the Sharks..just..
My Call: Sharks by 3
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Damian de Allende, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Gio Aplon, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Cheslin Kolbe
Sharks: 15. Francois Steyn, 14. Sean Robinson, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Ryan Kankowski, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Riaan Viljoen, 22. Odwa Ndungane
Bulls vs Cheetahs - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - 19:10
"Hello Cheetahs, I'm the playoff race. Nice to finally meet you!"
No longer the 'beautiful losers' of seasons past, their new commitment to defensive structures have seen them garner the ability to finish on the right end of close matches. As deserved as their win at home was last week, the Storm still had ample opportunities to put that match to bed. The Bulls are coming off the back of a bye and know that they need the points here to stay in contention for the playoffs. Where the Storm scrambled I see the Bulls being clinical, and with the extra gas that they should have in the tank from their week with their feet up they should not lose this one.
My Call: Bulls by 6
Some strange looking Cheetahs fans
Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet
Bench: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Ulrich Beyers
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 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 Frans Viljoen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin
I will be attempying it so I challenge each of you to do the same! Put your lives on hold for around 14 hours and prove your manliness by watching each of the SIX clashes Saturday has to offer! It may result in a rugby choma but no one will judge..except maybe your respective non-males. Do it for men everywhere!