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.
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.