Super Rugby Week 8 Preview!

Friday 05 April

Blues vs Highlanders, Eden Park, Auckland - 08:35

Perhaps it is my man crush for Ben Smith, perhaps it is because they boast around eight All Blacks, but each week I look at the Landers line up and battle to comprehend how this outfit is still winless. I really felt last week would be the match they turn it around but in those closing stages they just seemes a side that had forgotten how to win.

The big W will come eventually but sadly for Jamie Josephs I think the tough times are not over just yet. The Blues have blown extreme versions of hot and cold thus far but they will look at this the match to start building some consistency  The Landers forwards simply haven't fronted this year while the Blues have a pack that have been unplayable for patches. Friday all Kiwi clashes always make great viewing and I can't see this being any different. It should be close, but being at home and having a playoff run at stake should give the Blues the mental edge needed.

My Call: Blues by 6

Blues 15. Charles Piutau, 14. Frank Halai, 13. Rene Ranger, 12. Jackson Willison, 11. George Moala, 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. Tim Perry
Bench: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18. Anthony Boric, 19. Brendon O’Connor, 20. Jamison Gibson-Park, 21. Baden Kerr, 22. Francis Saili

Highlanders: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Buxton Popoalii, 13. Jason Emery, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Colin Slade, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Mose Tuiali’i, 7. John Hardie, 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 5. Josh Bekhuis, 4. Brad Thorn, 3. Chris King, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. Jamie Mackintosh.
Bench: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Ma’afu Fia, 18. TJ Ioane, 19. Elliot Dixon, 20. Fumiaki Tanaka, 21. Lima Sopoaga, 22. Phil Burleigh.

Brumbies vs Kings, Canberra Stadium, Canberra - 10:40
One look at their team sheet and I picked up on what I imagine the coaching staff of the kings have in mind. No side will ever take the field wanting to lose, but for the kings this week I think it will be about not losing any one to injury. Week 3 on tour, in Canberra against the Brumbies, is hard for any side in any given season, but when you are the newest franchise to SR possessing severely limited resources up against the strongest Brumbies team in close to a decade, your chances get as close to zero as they do in sport. As I said..Alan Solomon's and his fellow brains know this. Their final match on tour is against a Rebels team in meltdown and the kings MIGHT even go in as favourites. Damage control of playing resources-not the score-shall be the order of the the score it self, might get messy...

My Call: Brumbies by 24
Brumbies: 15. Robbie Coleman, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Joseph Tomane, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Nic White, 8. Fotu Auelua, 7. George Smith, 6. Ben Mowen, 5. Etienne Oosthuizen, 4. Peter Kimlin, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Siliva Siliva, 1. Ben Alexander.
Bench: 16. Stephen Moore, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Sam Carter, 19. Colby Faingaa, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Andrew Smith, 22. Zack Holmes.

Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 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 Engelbrecht, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Marcello Sampson, 22 Elric van Vuuren.

Sharks vs Crusaders, Kings Park, Durban - 19:10
The sharks may have struggled for fluidity early in the season and the Saders may have struggled to get on the winning side of encounters, but with both seemingly over their early season troubles I can see this clash have the feel of a test match. Both sides boast back lines brimming with xfactor, but with the sharks selecting Frans Steyn at 15 and Bleyendaal being a very territorial focussed fly half, the kickers from each side should be the ones who have the most influence on proceedings. The Sharks back three lack a bit of pace with the introductions of Ndungane and Steyn but both are good under the high ball and possess alot more ability with regards to returning it than the two players they have replaced. The Sharks have picked a very mobile pack so I think Plumtree is very wary of Matt Todds ability at the breakdowns. The withdrawal of Corey Flynn should give the Sharks an edge at the set pieces and on that platform they should get over then line here. They may have been called a B team in recent weeks but this Saders side still has a very All Black look to it for me. That said however, I think the Sharks will use the errors made by Storm in their clash last week as a 'what not to do manual', and with Lambie, Bosman and Steyn they should getter the upper hand in the territorial duel.

My Call: Sharks by 2

Sharks: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 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 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Louis Ludik/S’bura Sithole

Crusaders: 1. Wyatt Crockett 2. Corey Flynn 3. Owen Franks 4. Luke Romano 5. Samuel Whitelock 6. George Whitelock (c) 7. Matt Todd 8. Luke Whitelock 9. Andy Ellis 10. Tyler Bleyendaal 11. Zac Guildford 12. Ryan Crotty 13. Robbie Fruean 14. Adam Whitelock 15. Tom Marshall
Bench: 16. Ben Funnell 17. Joe Moody 18. Dominic Bird 19. Jordan Taufua 20. Willi Heinz 21. Telusa Veainu 22. Israel Dagg

Saturday 06 April

Hurricanes vs Waratahs, Westpac Stadium, Wellington - 08:35

The Canes are now on a three match winning run and looking in very good form. With the Saders going into a very tough encounter in Durban the Canes will know this is there chance to make some important ground in the playoff hunt. The Tahs themselves come into the match on the back of two victories but form means little when reffering to them. The Canes forwards have been very impressive this year and should simply overpower the Tahs in most departments letting Beauden and his crew do what they do best-attack from everywhere! As great as they are with ball in hand the canes could be the worst defenders in the tournment so Tahs will definitely have their chances. As one expects these days though, I see the Tahs inner dullness to overcome them again and stay in the match but never really look like winning it.

My Call: Hurricanes by 12

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

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

Force vs Rebels, NIB Stadium, Perth - 10:40
To be frank, considering the quality of sides that Australia has produced in the history of this magnificent tournament, I think it is really sad when one thinks of how Aussie derbies are now detested and even feared by some. The truth is however, The Force vs The Rebels is as bad as Super Rugby gets. If you had to add Tom Carter to one of the sides i geriatric lawn bowls would be more entertaining to many. Although Campo would celebrate like the Tahs had won the championship. The Force really aren't special, but they have been competitive in most of their matches-picking up 4 losing bonus points thus far-and were able to shock the Reds. The rebels have just flown across time zones after being completely outclassed on SA soil and seeing two players sent home early for fighting...with each other! When both sides are this average anything can happen but home ground advantage and lack of squad chaos give the Perth boys the edge.

My Call: Force by 5 

Rebels: 1. Nic Henderson , 2. Ged Robinson , 3. Paul Alo-Emile , 4. Hugh Pyle , 5. Cadeyrn Neville , 6. Luke Jones , 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Scott Higginbotham (c) , 9. Nick Phipps , 10. Angus Roberts , 11. Richard Kingi, 12. Rory Sidey, 13. Mitch Inman, 14. Jason Woodward, 15. James O’Connor
Bench: 16. Shota Horie, 17. Laurie Weeks, 18. Jarrod Saffy, 19. Jordy Reid, 20. Nic Stirzaker, 21. Tom English, 22. Cooper Vuna

Cheetahs vs Stormers, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - 17:05
Had you told someone in preseason that at this stage of the season this match would be a really tough one to call, most would have thought you were a deluded Cheetahs fan or simply watched less Rugby than a skinny jean wearing hipster that gets a 'Tim Henman' at the sight of photos of coffee art on Instagram..The reality is though, that the Cheetahs have over achieved as much as the Storm have stuttered, which now makes this one a bloody tough nut to call! It is odd to say considering it is a game in week 8, but this may be one of the most important matches in the Cheetahs franchise history. A win would see them open up a healthy lead on the Storm but more importantly give them the psychological boost to go on and perhaps mount their first ever play off challenge. Will it happen? I'm not convinced. The Storm may not have been at their best so far this season but they have played the best teams in the competition..beating the two many predict to make the final. The Cheetahs have improved considerably from previous years but they will be a step down in standard from what the Storm have faced so far.  The Cheetahs have been less adventurous in recent weeks which has been a big contributor to their winning run but with Deon Fourie's sloppy lineout work they are likely to be gifted plenty turnover ball so they might fall in to the trap of running too much. The Cheetahs loosies have been brilliant so far this year and for them to win this they will have to match their showing from the Landers match. If Goosen was fit to play I would be completely torn on this one but with Burton Francis at pivot it makes it an easier call. SA derbies are never pretty but this should be a goodie to watch with the importance it carries.

My Call: Stormers by 4

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 2 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip 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 Oosthuisen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Stormers: 15. Jaco Taute, 14. Joe Pietersen, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Gio Aplon, 10. Elton Jantjies 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain), 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. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Damian de Allende

So we are back to only six matches this week with the blandest of Aussie derbies effectively making that five. Three of those five are on Friday meaning this Saturday will be about as Rugby-less as you get during the glorious time of the year that is the Super Rugby season. BOO! BUT..on the bright side only six matches means only six chances of crying man tears as your Superbru picks fail you once again..may the force (luck) be with you!

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