Hallelujah, spectator friendly rugby finally begins. I haven’t been this excited about Super rugby since it was first started. So here is a peak into Week one of Super 14 rugby in 2008.
15 Feb Crusaders v Brumbies 08:35
Yes the first whistle of the 2008 Super 14 gets blown and we are underway. What a game to start the season with, but with the two most successful teams in the Super series. This year the lack of depth and interest in Australian Rugby has taken its toll on the Brumbies and with their backline missing Stirling Mortlock, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan and Clyde Rathbone you have to feel they are going to struggle. The Crusaders have an experienced squad and will benefit from having lost a number of All Blacks last season. Their loss gave vital experience to players like Stephen Brett and he is an interesting choice at 12.
My Prediction: Crusaders by 15 points.
Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Sean Maitland
Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Gene Fairbanks,11 Peter Playford, 10 Christian Lealiifano,9 Joshua Holmes, 8 Stephen Hoiles,7 George Smith, 6 Jone Tawake, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nic Henderson
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Salesi Ma’afu, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Julian Salvi, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Tyrone Smith, 22 Francis Fainifo
15 Feb Reds v Highlanders 11:05
This is the battle of the weak teams. Both these teams are the weakest teams in their respective countries and one feels this game will be ugly to watch. One has to feel for a player of Chris Latham’s calibre, as he will have to do most his attacking off Highlander’s kicks. Berrick Barnes could spark some life into the Reds, but the Highlanders should be able to contain these talented players. The Highlanders should easily take the points in this game, but by how much depends on how they can limit their mistakes.
My prediction: Highlanders by 10 points
Reds: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Chris Siale, 11 Clinton Schifcofske, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Van Humphries, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Greg Holmes
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Dayna Edwards, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Will Genia, 21 Andrew Walker, 22 Peter Hynes
Highlanders: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Niva Ta’auso, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Hayden Triggs, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Isaac Ross, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Jason Macdonald (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Chris King, 18 Adam Thomson, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Brett Mather
15 Feb The Sharks v Western Force 19:10
Unlike the previous game this one is between the respective countries strongest teams in last years competition and this will be one of the matches of the weekend. When you look at all the internationals in this game you could easily mistake it for a Barbarians vs. World 15. It will be a tough tussle, with mistakes being the factor that will lose the game. Expect a tough game with a number of handling errors due to a humid Kingspark stadium. Either team will be lucky to walk away with 5 points. The Sharks should have the edge though with homeground advantage and a world class forward pack on the field and on the bench.
My prediction: Sharks by 10 points
Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn/Stefan Terblanche, 14 Henno Mentz, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frederic Michalak/Francois Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (captain), 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Kees Lensing, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Jean Deysel/Albert van den Berg, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Stefan Terblanche.
15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Scott Staniforth, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fava, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 David Pusey, 3 AJ Whalley, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Gareth Hardy
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Troy Takiari, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 James Stannard, 21 Scott Daruda, 22 Josh Tatupu
16 Feb Blues v Chiefs 08:35
The game I don’t want to call. The Blues on paper should walk this game with the talent they have in their ranks, but the way the Chiefs played with guts last year you cannot write them off. The Chiefs had a number of unlucky results last year, and a single mistake less in a game could change those to victories. The Blues have strengthened their team with players stolen from the Highlanders and they should not be underestimated.
My prediction: A draw (Yes my brain says Blues my gut says Chiefs)
Blues: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Lee, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Justin Collins, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Onosa’i Tololima-Auva’a, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Ben Atiga, 22
16 Feb Waratahs v Hurricanes 10:40
The Hurricanes and Waratahs will want to improve on the disappointing year they had. Both teams have very explosive players, but below par performances got them stuck in the mid table last year. Waratahs are sitting with a large portion of the Australian World Cup Squad’s forwards and definately have the players to do well this season. The Hurricanes have always had the aggression and powerful backline to do better than their record shows. Their problem is they tend to blow hot and cold. With the teams so evenly matched I would lean towards the home team.
My prediction: Waratahs by 5 points.
Waratahs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Timana Tahu, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh [c], 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Matt Dunning
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau 17 Benn Robinson 18 Will Caldwell 19 Beau Robinson 20 Luke Burgess 21 Sam Harris 22. Alfi Mafi
16 Feb Stormers v Bulls 17:00
The two traditional South African powerhouses of yesteryear meet in what should be an unattractive kopstamp. Both teams have lost crucial personnel, so this game will be decided by the how the newbies handle the pressure. Up front both teams are evenly matched, with the Stormers backline just pipping the Bulls with skill. This with home advantage and Rassie’s gile, the Stormers should grind out a victory.
My prediction: Stormers by 5 points
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobano Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Francois van der Merwe, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Ross Skeate, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Dylan des Fountain.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 John Mametsa, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 James van der Walt, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Dewald Potgieter, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Marius Delport
16 Feb Cheetahs v Lions 19:05
The final game of the weekend will give us an indication of which SA team will be sitting in the bottom half of the table. The Cheetahs once again let too many of their players go, and again will have to rely on young blood to pull them through. With three Currie Cup victories under their belt you would think they would invest in keeping the excellent talent they nurture. The Lions have a decent squad that put a lot of heart into each game, but are usually let down by poor gameplans and one or two poor players. Like part of their stadium that has been demolished and is being revamped, the Cheetahs squad is going through the same changes. The Lion’s “young” team of 2007, needs to take the step up and they can finally drag themselves away from the bottom log positions they have grown accustomed to.
My prediction: Lions by 15 points
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Gavin Passens, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Rory Duncan, 4 Barend Pieterse, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Darron Nell, 21 Tobie Botes, 22 Conrad Barnard.
Lions:15 Louis Ludik, 14 Dusty Noble, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Louis Strydom, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 RW Kember, 7 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (c), 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Gert-Andries van der Merwe, 17 Gavin Williamson, 18 Alten Hulme, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Earl Rose, 22 Jaco van Schalkwyk.