Super Rugby week 4-Part 1

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We are into the fourth week of Super Rugby 2013 and although we have seen some great rugby from the New Zealand  and even some of the Aussie franchises, I’m hoping that this weekend it will be the South African teams who start to show some real class and play some attractive rugby. The SA derbies are on hold for now apart from the Sharks up against the Kings, although we cant really label this as derby yet, as its the first encounter between the two teams.

Friday’s fixtures:

Hurricanes VS Crusaders

The Hurricanes came close at Suncorp last week and some might say they were even unlucky. I did say that the Reds are good at home and have the ability to close out the close games, which they did. The Canes are win less after two outings and even though they are back home, are up against a Crusaders side filled with experience and determined to wash away the disappointment of last weeks encounter against the new look and rejuvenated Blues. Dagg is back at his preferred 15, and will be looking to make amends for  an uncharacteristically poor game last week. Conrad Smith will be hoping that the referee keeps his hands off him, unlike Steve Walsh last weekend as he tries to inspire his team to a much needed victory. This will be a bruising encounter, but The Saders should step it up this week and pull off a hard earned victory in Wellington. Carter, Dagg and Read will be key for the Saders, as will Smith, Savea and Vito for the Canes.

Crusaders to grind their way to a 5 point victory.

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 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 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 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: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Rebels VS Reds

The Reds have been solid enough at home the past two weeks and should leave Melbourne with their first away win of the season. The Rebels again had a solid first 40 last week, but they just seem to fall away in the second 40 against more experienced and quality opposition. Beale wont feature for the Rebels as he is out with a hand injury. This sees O’ Connor take up the 10 jersey as he goes head to head with his mate, Quade Cooper. O’ Connor makes his 50th appearance at Super Rugby level at just 22 years old, pretty impressive and he will captain the side. The battle of the 10’s should be a good one to watch. Overall the Reds experience and  superior class should see them home. The Rebels will continue to throw the ball around and probably test the Reds defense early on, but they will most likely fizzle away again in the second half.

Reds to claim their first away scalp of 2013 with a 8 to 10 point win.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Alex Rokobaro, 10 James O’Connor (captain), 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Jordy Reid, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 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 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O’Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia.

Saturday morning’s fixtures:

Highlanders VS Cheetahs

A solid first half last week against the Chiefs, but unfortunately the Cheetahs couldn’t convert their chances into points. In addition, Goosen missed three penalty attempts and a rash decision to take a tap kick from a penalty deep in their own half, saw the Cheetahs trailing at half time. The second half started badly for the men from Bloem with a charge down gifting the Chiefs their second try, and then the Chiefs hit the play button and ripped the Cheetahs to shreds. Its a game they will need to quickly forget as they tackle the Highlanders at Rugby Park. The Highlanders have featured in only one match so far, and although they went down to the Chiefs, it was a game filled with tries, where the Chiefs only broke away in the last quarter. I cant see the Cheetahs bouncing back this week against a rested and no doubt motivated Highlanders team, who wont want to disappoint their home fans like they did against the Chiefs. Watch out for Nonu, Gear and Smith who will surely test the Cheetahs frail looking defense. In somewhat good news for the Cheetahs, Brussouw returns to the bench after injury and will be itching to get onto the field. Cheetahs and Bok supporters will be hoping that Goosen has sorted out his kicking woes and that he puts together a solid all round performance. I said last week that the Cheetahs would go down, but that they would cross the line themselves a few times. Well that obviously didn’t happen, but I’m holding thumbs that their attack will make a far bigger impact this week, even though it will probably be in a losing cause, again.

Highlanders to win with a bonus point by about 10.

Highlanders:15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock. Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Chris King, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Shaun Treeby.

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.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Brumbies VS Waratahs

Its 2 from 2 for Jake’s Brumbies who would have enjoyed a weekend off after a bonus point win against the Rebels. They will look to continue to build on what has been a solid start. At this early stage of proceedings, they look most likely to take their conference. They will take a big step forward to asserting their dominance as the Aussie top dog franchise this year, if they can overcome the Tahs challenge. The Brumbies have acquired the experienced, George Smith, who finds a place on the bench. It will be good to see him back in Super Rugby, and to see if he is still up to the challenge. Keep an eye on Mogg who has had a great start to the season. Speight also provides the Brumbies with some excitement on attack as he returns from injury. The Tahs struggled in the first half last week against the Rebels, as they did the previous week against the Reds. Thankfully, a strong second 40 saw them home. I said it before their first match, the Tahs are a talented group of players, but they really need to come out the blocks firing this weekend and put in a 80 minute performance, if they are to knock over a confident,  Brumbies side, in Canberra. I’m looking forward to this game, something I wouldn’t have said last year, but the Aussie conference, so far, seems to be slightly more intriguing than in the past, with the Reds, Brumbies and Tahs, all having the potential to win the conference. Folau still needs to show something special after all the hype regarding his move to union. He has been moved to the wing for this week’s clash, as Volavola gets a start at 15 after some great performances off the bench.  I feel that in the end, the Brumbies, with home ground advantage and good early momentum, will see off the Tahs.

Brumbies for the ‘W’  by a slender margin.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 David Pocock, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 George Smith, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Joe Tomane.

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, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Greg Peterson, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Lachie Turner.

Current form Springbok team? First selection

I’ve decided to select a Springbok team every few weeks based exclusively on overall Super Rugby form. It is obviously still very early days in the competition and the team will no doubt change later on, as the regular Bok players hopefully start stepping up, but its fun to see which players have made a fairly good start. I will say though, that for me, there haven’t been many players who have clearly stood out, which is slightly disappointing and makes picking a team quite challenging.

15-SP Marais (Kings)

Had a great first game against the Force and showed some promise on the counter attack. Other fullbacks who have been fairly solid-Kirchner (not a favorite of mine), Ludik.

14-Sergeal Petersen

Fantastic Super Rugby debut for the 18 year old with 2 tries against the Force. Sampie Mastriet was good for the Bull this past weekend, he is very small, but fast and agile.

13-Paul Jordaan

Has shown potentially what he can do with a bit of space. Seems very energetic and would love to for him to get his hands on the ball a lot more.

12-Frans Steyn

He hasn’t done anything that amazing, yet, but he has been solid and the stand out 12 so far.

11-Lwazi Mvovo

Scored a good try against the Cheetahs where he read the situation perfectly. He has put in some good runs and seems to have been working nicely on his aerial and kicking game.

10-Patrick Lambie

Like Frans Steyn, he hasn’t done anything amazing, yet, but he has been solid and has set himself up well for the rest of the season. Morne Steyn has been good to, although I think its time for the Boks to move on without him.

9-Francois Hougaard

An OK start after spending most of last year on the wing. I though Vermaak was looking good when he came on against the Force and Nic Groom hasn’t been too bad either. Really hoping Reinach can step it up after showing much promise in the Currie Cup last year.

8-Jacques Engelbrecht

I know he came on for Watson at 7, but I think he would make a great 8. One of the stand out loosies so far, will be interesting to see how he goes against the Sharks.

7- Jean Deysel

A powerful man of the match performance against the Stormers. I know not many people like him, but I thought Watson actually looked rather good before he went off injured against the Force.

6-Arno Botha

He is very enthusiastic and seems to look for work. Doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff. He is a big man!

5-Steven Sykes

His experience was a key factor in the Kings victory against the Force. Francois van der Merwe has been fairly solid for the Sharks so far in a position where they have perhaps been lacking for the past few seasons.

4-Flip van der Merwe

He has made some great carries and his line out work has been OK as well. Both lock positions are perhaps a little concerning at this early stage of the season as no one has truly been that awesome. Cant wait for Etzebeth to return!

3-Jannie Du Plessis

Part of a Sharks front row that has looked very solid so far.

2-Adriaan Strauss

Still giving of his best, despite his side’s difficult start.

1-Beast

As with Jannie,  been part of a Sharks front row that has looked very solid so far.

What are your thoughts?

What does round 3 have in store?-Part 2

Chiefs VS Cheetahs

The Chiefs showed no signs of the Sonny Bill blues as they got their season off to a good start against the Highlanders. It was a game filled with some excellent running rugby and superb tries. The Chiefs will more than likely look to continue to throw the ball around and could make life tough for the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs will be disappointed that they effectively only really put in a 20 minute performance last week. They will be looking to turn that 20 minute period, where they put the Sharks under all sorts of pressure, into a full 80 minute performance. They to look exciting when they  throw the ball around and this could be a fairly free flowing game with plenty of tries. It will be great to see the match-up between two quality 10’s as Cruden and Goosen do battle.  The Chiefs should really be too strong for the Cheetahs, who are a long way from Bloem and up against a Chiefs side looking to repeat their heroics of 2012. Despite that though, I think the Cheetahs will cross the chalk line on a few occasions themselves.

Chiefs to take it by 10 in a try fest.

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam  Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika  Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Patrick Osborne.

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.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Bulls VS Force

The Force are being labelled as a bit of a bogey side for the Bulls, but I honestly cant see them leaving Loftus with a win. The Force have been poor so far apart from a solid first 30 minutes against the Rebels and will have to work hard to avoid a hiding against a Bulls side who will take a lot of confidence into this game. Lets face it the Bulls generally don’t play the most exciting brand of rugby, but it was effective last week and will be effective again this week against a struggling Force side . Morne Steyn was solid last week with some pinpoint kicking and he will be feeling confident after a nightmarish 2012 with the boot. Jacques Potgieter will be a welcomed addition to the Bulls pack as he returns from injury. Arno Botha gets a start this week, he was really good last week off the bench and perhaps someone to keep an eye on. For the Force, well no one really stood out for them last week against the Kings and I’m sure its a game they will feel a bit embarrassed about losing.

Bulls should take this comfortably by 10 to 15 points. Long season ahead for the Force.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Western Force: TBC

Sharks VS Stormers

The Sharks host the Stormers in what is always a very physical and intense game. The Sharks will be somewhat happy with there win last week, but they certainly didn’t tick all the boxes. It seemed as if they were holding back, and it could well have cost them the game. The Stormers, well they were well below par and will no doubt have to lift their game to take out the Sharks. Etzebeth was sorely missed and Jantjies, in his first outing for the Stormers, was awful. Jantjies, is however, a classy player and will no doubt bounce back. Lambie on the other hand had a very solid start to the season. He kicked all his goals and showed some confidence in taking on the line on a few occasions. He will look to step it up this weekend as the Sharks head to the tank. As a Sharks fan, I’m hoping to see more of the back line this week, with players like Pietersen, Jordaan and Steyn having more of an opportunity on attack. The Stormers will again miss Etzebeth, both at line out time and in the loose. They will really need Bekker to step it up in Etzebeth’s continued absence. Despite the Stormers performance last week, this is a tough one too call as both sides are filled with classy players and the Stormers players especially,  will have a point to prove after last weeks failure. I’m really hoping for some excitement from both sides Bok stars and would love to see an open running game. However, that’s probably not likely, given its a derby.

I’m going with the Sharks to win by no more than 5, based largely on their home advantage and the fact that they are probably under less pressure than the Stormers after starting off with a win.

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.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.

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, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

What does round 3 have in store?-Part 1

Last weekend saw the introduction of the New Zealand and South African franchises. To be honest the South African derbies didn’t produce the kind of rugby that I was hoping for. In comparison the New Zealand teams were really exciting, throwing the ball around and willing to take a few chances. The Kings, against the odds, did however make a successful debut, and may have won over a few fans.

Blues VS Crusaders

The first match of the weekend sees the Blues hosting the Crusaders. This will be the Crusaders first game of the competition, and they will be up against a very determined and exciting new Blues team. The Blues beat the odds last week and turned over the Hurricanes in Wellington. The Blues young backs looked very dangerous and full of running and I was very impressed with the likes of Pitaua, Francis Saili, Moala and Halai. Ranger and Weepu, the two more experienced backs, also put in excellent performances. Peter Sailia and Luatua were immense for the forwards, and both carried the ball really well. We all know the pedigree and reputation of the Crusaders in Super Rugby. The likes of Carter, Read, Fruean, Dagg and Franks, to mention a few. However, I think this new look Blues team will be too good for them, if they are able to put in a performance like they did last week. None the less, it will be a close game, which should be full of great attacking prowess.

Blues to take this one, at home, by a narrow margin. The Crusaders should again be a threat for the title, but its their first match, and its away from home, against a Blues side who were on fire last week.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Bryn Hall, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.

Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Tom Marshall.

Waratahs VS Rebels

The Tahs were very rusty against the Reds and coughed up numerous attacking opportunities through some poor handling. However, it was their first outing against a Reds team who had already had a hit out against the Burmbies. It was clear to see that their is a desire from the Tahs, to play some attacking and positive rugby. Considering that one of the Reds tries was from an intercept, they could maybe even consider themselves slightly unlucky, despite a below par performance. If they can gel as a unit, there is definite potential for this Tahs side to finally make a real impact in Super Rugby. The Rebels went down to the Brumbies last week, and with the Kings even beating the Force, the Rebels win against the Force, doesn’t look like it will count for much. The Tahs will be hoping to build on the positives from last week and if they can do so, will be too strong for the Rebels, who despite a few select star players, don’t seem to have what it takes to grind out a win against the stronger sides.

Waratahs to crush the rebellion or lack thereof by 10 to 15 points.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Ben Volavola.

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

Reds VS Hurricanes

I was rather disappointed with the Canes last week. They showed some promise last year after undergoing some changes in personal.Its still early days, but it looked like they hadn’t made any progress since last year and were caught napping, by a determined Blues side. They will need to quickly right the wrongs of last week if they are to beat the Reds at Suncorp. The Reds will be delighted to have recorded a win last week and continue to be a side who play well at home. They are still nowhere near the side they were when they won in 2011, but they are making steady progress, all be it slow progress. I was impressed last week with the Reds loose trio and they will need to fire again to ensure good quality ball for their exciting runners.

The Reds should seen this one through with a win. It wont be easy, but they are good at coming out on top in the tight games. Reds by 5.

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O’Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Luke Morahan.

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

 

Round 2, enter the SAFFA’s & Kiwi’s-Part 2

Saturdays games-

Hurricanes VS Blues

The Blues will be starting a new era under former All Black World Cup winner and Italian, and Japanese coach, John Kirwan. Its definitely a rebuilding year for the Blues who have lost a number of experienced players such as Nonu, Kaino, Wulf, Mathewson and Toeava. The loss of Nonu is obviously a big one and his shoes will be hard to fill. They have gained the services of Highlanders players, Retallick and Noakes, who are both in this weeks starting lineup. The Blues do still have some seasoned campaigners in the likes of Weepu (who plays his 100th Super Rugby game), Ranger, Williams, Saili, Braid, Mccartney and Faumuina. It could be a long season for the Blues, but its too early to tell and their supporters will be holding their breath in anticipation. The Hurricanes, despite not making last seasons play-off, would have taken many positives, during what was a rebuilding year for them. Senior players such as Vito, Smith and Jane lead by example and inspired some great victories. Taylor also had a fantastic season, as did newcomers Barret and Perenara. Barrett  was drafted into the All Black mix and many believe if it wasn’t for an injury, Perenara may well have found himself in the All Black mix last year as well. The Hurricanes will look to build on last seasons positives and despite being without Cory Jane (who will be a big loss) could be a team to watch. They play an exciting brand of rugby and are usually a joy to watch.

The Hurricanes at home will be too good for a rather new looking Blues team, with changes not only on the field, but also in the coaching box. Hurricanes to take it by 10-12 points.

Hurricanes:15. Andre Taylor, 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Conrad Smith (captain), 12. Tim Bateman, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Brad Shields, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Victor Vito, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Ben May, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Ben Franks

Replacements: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Reggie Goodes, 18. Mark Reddish, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Chris Smylie, 21. James Marshall, 22. Reynold Lee-Lo

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Bryn Hall, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.

Reds VS Waratahs

The Reds will be hurting after their loss to the Brumbies. They showed little imagination on attack, despite the presence of exciting players such as Cooper and Ioane. They will be fairly happy with their defensive effort, as both of the Brumbies tries had elements of opportunism to them. They were bossed at the breakdown last week and would no doubt have highlighted this as an area to work on during this weeks training sessions. The Waratahs didnt play last weekend and its difficult to tell what to expect from them. By their standards they were poor last year. They did suffer from a large number of injuries, but we all know that is part of the game. The big signing for the Tahs is former league and AFL star, Folau. Much has been said about his attacking promise and now we will get a chance to see what all the hype is about. The Tahs have a strong line up with an exciting back three in Folau, Mitchell and Kingston. The mid field pairing is solid and nine and ten can certainly hold their own. Hooper adds strength to a loose trio, all boasting Wallaby caps. The tight five also contains a number of Wallabies. The Tahs have had the right players for a few seasons now, but never seem to be able to kick on. They will be hoping that new coach, Michael Cheika,  holds the key to unlocking success for the Tahs.

So who will win this Aussie derby? Its difficult to say… The Reds weren’t great last week, but may have an advantage in that they have had a game to get rid of the cob webs. In addition they have won the last three encounters between these two sides, and have a fairly good record at home over the last two seasons. Despite a stronger team on paper, I’m going with the Reds based on my reasoning above. I do think the Tahs could be a threat this season, but I think  it will take them a few games to settle in. Reds by 5.

Queensland Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O’Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Luke Morahan.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Jeremy Tilse.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Ben Volavol

Cheetahs VS Sharks

The Cheetahs have struggled in Super Rugby, despite causing a few upsets now and again. They do have an exciting back line full of exciting runners in the form of Le Roux, Rhule, Ebersohn, Pretorious and Goosen. Defensively they have a fairly poor record  though and they will no doubt want to improve in this area. They have a solid pack of forwards who work well as a unit, lead by their captain and Bok hooker, Strauss. Strauss was impressive for the Boks last year as he replaced the injured Du Plessis. Coenie returns from his neck injury and will surely get some game time from the bench. He is a player with promise, lets just hope his injury woes are finally over. Goosen we all know is full of talent and X-factor. Should he remain injury free, he could provide the Cheetahs with something  extra special. Sadie, who was supposed to promise so much, has moved from the Bulls and will start for the Cheetahs on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if he makes more of an impact, in a side that is possibly more suited to his style of play. The Cheetahs may be at home for this encounter, but the Sharks are still the favourites. Even without the likes of Bissie, Keegan and Willem, they still look a formidable side with stars like Steyn, Lambie, Beast, Coetzee, Kanko, Pietersen and Jannie. Jordaan is also a player which I feel has plenty of future Bok potential. He may be small, but that hasn’t stopped him yet. Kanko is back from a short stint in Japan and will be looking to build on the form he was showing just before he left. Lambie has been working with King Carlos and hopefully some of his brilliance will rub off onto Lambie, who we know is already a talented player. The match-up between Lambie and Goosen will be a fascinating one. Unfortunately for the Sharks , the Cheetahs have been a bit of a  bogey side for them in the past and they will need to try and put that firmly behind them.

It will be tough, especially in Bloem, but the Sharks class will shine through and be too much for the Cheetahs. Sharks to win by 8-10 points.

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 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.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

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. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Odwa Ndungane

Kings VS Force

The Kings  players and fans will be very excited about finally getting their first Super Rugby outing. I’m not sure if excitement and hype will be enough though to get them a victory against the Force. My feeling is that the Kings will be competitive for the first 40 minutes, but in the second half the Super Rugby experience of the Force will be too much for them. The Force may not have the best Super Rugby record, but they have experience at this level on their side. They would have been frustrated to lose last week after an impressive opening 30 minutes, during which they perhaps didn’t do enough with the possession that they had. They did score some decent tries though and will be looking to stretch the Kings defense as often as possible. The Kings will be going into this game with a loss against Griquas hanging over them, which doesn’t instill much hope for their supporters. Stranger things have happened though and as in any sport, one cant underestimate your opponent. The Kings do posses some Super Rugby campaigners  in their match day 22, such as, Sykes, Parkes, Maku and captain, Watson. What the Kings may have going for them, is that they are a fairly unknown entity and that they are at home, but, it probably wont be enough.

Despite them having to travel and their loss last week, the Force should take this game by about 10 points. I will however be shouting for the Kings, as I do for all SA teams, when they play foreign opposition.

Kings:15 SP Marais, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8. Luke Watson (captain), 7. Wimpie van der Walt, 6. Cornell du Preez, 5. Steven Sykes, 4 David Bulbring, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Daniel Adongo, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Johan Herbst, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Hadleigh Parkes

Force: TBA

Round 2, enter the SAFFA’s and Kiwi’s-Part 1

Round one has come and gone and this weekend sees the South African and New Zealand franchises unleash themselves. Its a weekend dominated by derbies, as we have become accustomed to in the first few weekends of Super Rugby. The derbies are always known to be very physical, especially in New Zealand and South Africa. This weekend should be no different as players look to put up their hands early for national selection.

Fridays games-

Highlanders VS Chiefs

The first game of the weekend should not disappoint. The defending champs are up against the Highlanders, who after a fantastic start to last years competition, faded towards the end and missed out on a play-off spot. The Chiefs have obviously lost Sonny Bill who was an instrumental part of the Chiefs attack last season. They have gained the services of Gareth Anscombe from the Blues, who had a solid 2012 season, especially with his goal kicking (not that goal kicking is a problem for the Chiefs with Cruden at 10). The Chiefs are starting this game without some key players in Kahui, Leonard, Robinson and Horrell. This sees Nanai-Williams switch to 13. He apparently played well there in a warm up game, but its definitely an area that I would target if I was the Highlanders coach. He isn’t the biggest chap and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. Cruden was in good form last season and will  continue to be a key player for the Chiefs on attack. Overall its still a solid looking Chiefs side and this game will no doubt go down to the wire. The Highlanders have added Nonu to their roster and he along with Hosea Gear and Ben Smith, will no doubt make things tough for the Chiefs defense. Tony Woodcock will also add power and experience to the Highlanders front row. Colin Slade is likely to return to action for the Highlanders sometime in March. He will be hoping that his injury days are over after two broken jaws and a broken leg. He was the back up to Carter at one stage, but will now find himself well down the line in terms of All Black back up. Aaron Smith was superb last season and this saw him selected as the All Blacks first choice scrummie. He will look to continue to provide the Highlanders back line with quick and quality ball.

This game is tough too call as are a few others this weekend. I’m going with the home side though, but only just.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear (captain), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Buxton Popoali’i.

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Rebels VS Brumbies

The Rebels will be well happy with their win last week, but the Brumbies look a far superior side to the Force. They were excellent up front against the Reds last week and will in my opinion be too strong up front for the Rebels. The Rebels will not be able to afford a slow start like last week, if they are to stand any chance against the Brumbies. The Rebels are unchanged from last week, which is a positive for them and although I feel they are up against it, they will come out hard and not stop fighting until the final whistle. The Brumbies have hopefully sorted out their goal kicking woes from last week as they need to take all their chances, to ensure that they put the Rebels under pressure. Keep your eye on Kimlin he was good last week, and will no doubt be looking to over shadow his Wallaby rival, Higginbotham. The  match-up between these two should be intriguing. The Brumbies only scored twice last week, and both tries were fairly opportunistic, but I think credit for that must be given to the Reds defense. Although the Rebels scored a few tries last week, they also conceded a few and the Brumbies seem to posses more attacking prowess than the Force. They will therefore provide a far greater test to the Rebels defensive system than the Force . The Brumbies will unfortunately be without attacking threat, Henry Speight, who is out with a rib injury, but they still have enough threats elsewhere. As well as looking more potent on attack, the Brumibies will also provide the Rebels with far more defensive resistance, than the Force were able to..

The Brumbies should win this one, but the Rebels are at home and should they get some quality ball to their x-factor players such as Beale and O’ Connor, then it could be interesting. However, the Brumbies look solid on defense and up front, and in reality should win this one. Brumbies by 5 to 10.

Rebels:15. James O’Connor, 14. Lachlan Mitchell, 13. Mitch Inman, 12. Rory Sidey, 11. Richard Kingi, 10. Kurtley Beale, 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Gareth Delve (captain), 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 6. Scott Higginbotham, 5. Luke Jones, 4. Hugh Pyle, 3. Laurie Weeks, 2. Ged Robinson, 1. Nic Henderson
Replacements: 16. Shota Horie, 17. Paul Alo-Emile, 18. Cadeyrn Neville, 19. Jarrod Saffy, 20. Nic Stirzaker, 21. Alex Rokobaro, 22. Tom English

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 David Pocock, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

Bulls VS Stormers

Finally, the first game that us SAFFA’s will be really interested in. The Stormers have won this clash in Pretoria the last two years running and will be hungry to make it three in a row. The Bulls side actually looks more settled than the Stormers with mostly tried and tested combinations such as Hougaard/Steyn, Kruger/van der Merwe, Spies/Stegmann/Potgieter. The Stormers on the other hand have a few new combinations with Jantjies, Cilliers and Taute joining the team. The Stormers for me look the far more exciting of the two sides, but if this game remains tight, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Both sides are missing some key players, but the biggest loss has got to be Etzebeth for the Stormers. Yes, Schalk Burger is also still out, and is a fantsatic player, but the Stormers have become used to playing without him of late.  Etzebeth on the other hand  was key in the Stormers and Western Province campaigns last year and his physicality, youth and intensity will be missed. Spies returns after injury and I’m excited to see him battle it out against the current, inform, Bok number eight, Vermeulen. Bulls fans will be praying Morne Steyn has sorted out his kicking and confidence issues, and if he has, he could have an influence on the game. Meisiekind (Olivier) returns to the Bulls, and although I never want to see him in a Bok jersey again, he has a knak of doing a good job for the Bulls. It’s disapointing that de Jongh is out with injury, as I would have enjoyed the rivalry between the two inside centres. Hougaard has a lot to prove after an up and down 2012, were he played wing and scrumhalf. He is a player with some X-factor, but he needs to develop his all round game, and his ability to play under pressure. Kolisi was immense for the Stormers last year after having to step  into Burger’s shoes. He is no doubt, someone to watch again this year.

This will be another close game, but against the odds I’m going with the Bulls. Home field advantage (I know it didn’t help them the last two years) and the fact that they look more settled and are due a win over the Stormers. If Etzebeth was playing it would be different, that’s how big a player I feel he already is. Bulls to sneak home by less than 5.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Francois Venter.

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Joe Pietersen.

Round 1 re-cap

The Ozzie teams got things off to a fairly good start last weekend. Unlike the Ozzie derbies of the past 2 years, these games were entertaining, with lots of tries in the first and plenty of intensity in the second.

Rebels VS Force-30-23

As I predicted the Rebels were too strong for the Force. The Force had a fantastic first 30 minutes, but perhaps unlike a side with real quality, didn’t make enough of their early dominance. It was a game filled with tries and in the end the Rebels were deserved victors.Both sides will have to watch their discipline with  3 yellow cards being issued.

Catch the highlights

Brumbies VS Reds-24-6

The Brumbies through some fantastic defense and physicality at the breakdown, were able to see off the Reds. The Reds lacked any real penetration on attack and weren’t able to create any try scoring chances. The goal kicking from both sides was very poor and is something that both sides will have to address very quickly. Pocock had a strong game in his first outing for the Brumbies, especially in the second half when his fitness was superb. Rathbone wasn’t presented with many opportunities, but looked solid and will be delighted to get through his first game without injury and with a win. Lealifano looked hungry after his injury break, but will need to work on his goal kicking. Kimlin was strong on both attack and defence and for me was the best blindside flanker of round one. Jesse Mogg scored both tries for the Brumbies and was definitely a stand out player, could he make his way into the Wallaby mix for the Lions? Quade Cooper was fairly quiet and seems to be missing his partner in crime, Will Genia.

Catch the highlights