Last week was quite a shock to the systems of most tipsters out there; “a weekend of upsets” is what most people were calling it. Still, we managed to get a respectable 4/6 to take our tally to 29/34 for the tournament so far. Not bad going…
Remember that the Hurricanes and Sharks are both on a bye this week.
Let’s get to the previews for Round 6…
Crusaders vs Waratahs
The Crusaders seem to have been playing in second gear for most of this tournament so far, and looked like they were going through the motions last week against the Cheetahs. The scary thing is that they still managed to put 50 points on them, and it could actually have been a lot worse. When they start firing on all cylinders, you don’t really see anyone stopping them. One-off playoff games can be funny things, however…
The Waratahs will be well rested from last week, but you just wonder whether the timing of their bye will have disrupted a bit of the rhythm they managed to get going so far. They’ve only lost once this year, and will be looking at getting back into the swing of it as soon as possible.
You just don’t see the Crusaders getting beaten at home, even though the Waratahs are a decent side this year. As usual, bonus points are going to be crucial come the end of the tournament, so the Waratahs will want to run in as many tries as they can to ensure they come out of this game with at least one point.
15. Scott Hamilton, 14. Kade Poki, 13. Casey Laulala, 12. Tim Bateman, 11. Caleb Ralph, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Andrew Ellis, 8. Mose Tuiali’i, 7. Richard McCaw (Capt), 6. Kieran Read, 5. Ali Williams, 4. Brad Thorn, 3. Greg Somerville, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Ben Franks.
Reserves: 16. Ti’i Paulo, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Paterson, 19. Nasi Manu, 20. Kahn Fotuali’i, 21. Hamish Gard, 22. Sean Maitland
1. Sekope Kepu, 2. Adam Freier, 3. Matt Dunning, 4. Dean Mumm, 5. Dan Vickerman, 6. Rocky Elsom, 7. Phil Waugh [c], 8. Wycliff Palu, 9. Brett Sheehan, 10. Kurtley Beale, 11. Lote Tuqiri, 12. Tom Carter, 13. Ben Jacobs, 14. Alfi Mafi, 15. Lachie Turner.
Reserves: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Al Baxter, 18. Will Caldwell, 19. Beau Robinson, 20. Josh Valentine, 21. Sam Harris, 22. Rob Horne,
23rd Man – Benn Robinson
Brumbies vs Cheetahs
The Brumbies had no real answer to the attacking threat of the ‘Canes last weekend, and will need to tighten up their defence a bit for the rest of the tournament. Their side is mostly inexperienced and young, and what they learn this year will stand them in good stead for next season.
Despite the attractive attacking rugby that the Cheetahs display at times, they could not counter the awesome Crusaders last week. They were lucky to only lose by 50, so their confidence has obviously taken a knock. Naka Drotske needs to explain to his players that it’s only one week in a long tournament, and that they need to keep learning from losses like that. If they can bring in a few more experienced players in the next offseason to help the youngsters along, then this franchise could be one to look out for in future.
Two quite similar sides in that there are a lot of previously unknown players, and not a lot of experience to rely on. They both also play very attractive rugby, but it is not always enough in a tough competition like this. I have to go with the Brumbies in this one, as they look like they have a bit more mental strength and self-confidence than the Cheetahs.
Hennie Daniller, Eddie Fredericks, JW Jonker, Meyer Bosman, Jongi Nokwe, Conrad Barnard, Falie Oelschig, Duanne Vermeulen, Darron Nell, Heinrich Brüssow, Barend Pieterse, Rory Duncan (capt), Kobus Calldo, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez.
Substitutes: Richardt Strauss, CJ van der Linde, David de Villiers, Kabamba Floors, Tewis de Bruyn, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Hendrik Meyer
Highlanders vs Force
The other side who had a rest weekend last week, the Highlanders will hopefully have used their time off to re-evaluate what they want to achieve for the rest of the season. Still the weakest of the New Zealand sides, their first win in this year’s competition is critical to the confidence of the players. When you keep losing like they have, then it’s easy to forget what it feels like to win, so the sooner they get that first win, the better.
The Force are proof of what proper planning and management can achieve. They were everyone’s joke two years ago when they struggled to win a game (Remember that the Force and the Cheetahs joined the Super 14 at the same time). Fast-forward a couple of years and you would be hard-pressed to find a side who has made more progress than them. Their first win in New Zealand last week just added to the list of their recent achievements. They continue to get stronger, and you can see them being a genuine threat to the Crusaders this year.
I’d have to go with the Force here, simply because they are the better team. The Super 14 has a way of springing up surprises where you least expect it, so this will be no formality for them. Simply put, if they have a bad day, then the Highlanders will beat them. If the Force win this one, then it will be 2 wins in each of SA and New Zealand… they will thus be sitting in a very strong position.
15 James Wilson, 14 Paul Williams, 13 Niva Ta’auso, 12 Aaron Bancroft, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan (vice-captain), 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Craig Newby (captain), 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Keith Cameron, 18 Hayden Triggs, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Brett Mather
Blues vs Stormers
The strange decision to play in North Harbour last week might not have been the deciding factor in the Blues’ loss to the Force, but I feel it certainly played a part. When you have a home ground as intimidating as Auckland, I don’t see why you are not going to use it for every home game. In saying that, the lack of direction once Nick Evans leaves the field is a real concern for the Blues, and when Isa Nacewa is not there as well, they tend to struggle to free their strike runners. They will be glad that this has been brought up at such an early stage of their campaign, so that they still have the chance to address it.
After being a little bit overly critical of the Stormers, a couple of weeks ago we called them out as being potential dark horses, and they are certainly proving us right. When they play to their strengths by running the ball, it shows that the Cape side still have the most talented ball players in South African rugby (despite what they Sharks may say). The Stormers concern has never been a lack of talent though, rather a lack of discipline in key areas. Hopefully Rassie Erasmus is addressing this shortcoming, which may push the Stormers to fufil the huge potential that their players have.
My heart says the Stormers, but my head says that it’s a bridge too far. 10 points so far on their travels is a fantastic return, and if they run the ball like they have been, then they have a real chance in this game. It’s very seldom that the Blues lose 3 games in a row, however, so I think they may just have enough in this one. Home ground advantage, so the Blues by less than 7.
Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (c), Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Ross Skeate, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, JD Moller.
Subs: Deon Fourie, Brok Harris, Andries Bekker, Robbie Diack, Conrad Hoffmann, Gio Aplon, Tony Brown
Chiefs vs Bulls
The Chiefs have not had the best of starts, as is customary with their franchise, but when you look at the strike runners they have on display, then you feel it’s only a matter of time before things click into gear for them. They ran into an improving Stormers side last week, and you get the feeling that they underestimated them a bit. With the quality of teams in this tournament, you are almost guaranteed to lose if that happens.
It’s all gone downhill for the Bulls since Frans Ludeke took over. You’ve got to question those in charge when they appoint a coach with such a dismal record to coach the defending champions. Last week against the Reds was an absolute disgrace, and you only feel it’s going to get worse from here. If you look at last week’s backline, they only had one change from the stock backline that played most of the games last year, yet they looked clueless. The senior Bulls players look very disinterested right now, and it’s almost like none of them want to be there.
You just don’t see the Bulls getting anything out of this one, especially in the Chiefs’ backyard. This has got to rank as the worst title defence in the history of the Super 14, and they had better pulls their socks up if they do not want to finish dead last this season. If the Bulls throw in the towel like they did last week, then this one could get ugly, because the Chiefs are a much better side than the Reds. The Chiefs to take this reasonably comfortably. They have a few injury problems this week, but you still get the feeling that they have too much for the Bulls.
Morne Steyn; Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Danwel Demas; Derick Hougaard, Fourie du Preez (Capt); Pedrie Wannenburg, Wikus van Heerden, Deon Stegmann, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Rayno Gerber, Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Werner Kruger, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Hilton Lobberts, Heini Adams, Stephan Dippenaar, Dewald Potgieter
Lions vs Reds
The Lions play reasonably well most weeks, but you just feel that they don’t have the game to beat the better sides in this competition, as seen last week against the Sharks. Finishing off the chances that they are creating seems to be a big problem for them, and their backline looks a bit short of confidence at the moment.
The Reds pulled off quite a surprise last week when they gave the Bulls a big whack. The Bulls are quite awful at the moment, however, so it might not be wise to read into that too much. But when Latham fires, the Reds are generally on fire, so they’ll be hoping for another big performance from their brilliant fullback.
In tight games like these, it’s always a good call to go with home ground advantage. This might be negated, however, by the fact that Ellis Park seems to be a ghost stadium at the moment. Still, you’ve got to fancy the Lions in this one, as the Australian teams don’t often travel all that well to the Republic.
1. Greg Holmes, 2. Sean Hardman, 3. Dayna Edwards, 4. Van Humphries, 5. James Horwill, 6. John Roe, 7. Poutasi Luafutu, 8. Leroy Houston, 9. Sam Cordingley (c), 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Peter Hynes, 12. Berrick Barnes, 13. Morgan Turinui, 14. Clinton Schifcofske, 15. Chris Latham.
Replacements: 16. Stephen Moore, 17. Rodney Blake, 18. Ed O’Donoghue, 19. David Croft, 20. Ben Lucas, 21. Brando Va’aulu, 22. Scott Higginbotham