Only a last minute Chris Latham try prevented us from claiming a clean sweep last week, but that is the nature of the Super 14. Just a week before the halfway mark in the tournament, and our tally stands at 34/40…
The Brumbies and Lions are both on a bye this week.
With that, let’s get to the previews for Round 7…
Hurricanes vs Crusaders
The Hurricanes come off a bye last week, so will be well rested for this game. They have shown flashes of brilliance so far in this tournament, and on their day they could be a match for anyone. Any team with a backrow of Masoe, Collins, and So’oialo has got to be a force.
The Crusaders were stifled for the first 50 minutes of their game against the Waratahs last week, and that won’t have gone unnoticed by other teams. But when they found their rhythm late in the game, there was no staying with them. They continue to impress more and more every week.
This is one of the few games that you could actually see the Crusaders losing. It is a local derby, away from home for them, so it is definitely not going to be an easy game. It looks like it could be a battle of the loose forwards in this one, and whoever wins the breakdown contest could end up walking away with the game. Despite all the obstacles, I’m going to still go with a Crusaders win here, by less than 7.
15. Cory Jane, 14. Ma’a Nonu, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Tamati Ellison, 11. Shannon Paku; 10. Jimmy Gopperth, 9. Piri Weepu; 8. Rodney So’oialo (captain), 7. Chris Masoe, 6. Jerry Collins; 5. Jason Eaton, 4. Craig Clarke; 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore, 1. John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16. Hikawera Elliot, 17. Tim Fairbrother, 18. Jeremy Thrush, 19. Scott Waldrom, 20. Alby Mathewson, 21. Tane Tu’ipulotu, 22. Hosea Gear
15. Leon MacDonald, 14. Scott Hamilton, 13. Casey Laulala, 12. Tim Bateman, 11. Kade Poki, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Andrew Ellis, 8. Mose Tuiali’i, 7. Richard McCaw (captain), 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. Caleb Ralph, 22. Sean Maitland
Waratahs vs Cheetahs
The Waratahs actually had the Crusaders rattled for a large part of their encounter last week, but just could not go the distance with them. You could point to a lack of fitness for this, but it just seems that the Crusaders are better conditioned than all the other teams in the tournament. The Waratahs are still in a good position on the log, however, so will want to consolidate that with a good win here.
You have to feel for the Cheetahs this year. They’ve really tried to play attractive rugby, and the times that it’s come off, it has been good to watch. With a few more experienced players in their side, they would have been more of a force, and could easily have closed out some of the tight games they’ve been involved in.
The Waratahs should have too much know-how for the Cheetahs in this one. You can see the Cheetahs scoring a few well-crafted tries again, but unfortunately that is not enough at this level. If they can keep the same structures and players for the next two years (follow the Western Force model), then they could develop into a top side.
1. Benn Robinson, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 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. Lachie Turner, 15. Sam Norton-Knight.
Reserves: 16. Adam Freier, 17. Al Baxter, 18. Will Caldwell, 19. Beau Robinson, 20. Josh Valentine, 21. Daniel Halangahu, 22. Rob Horne
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 Hendrik Meyer, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Darron Nel, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Rory Duncan (captain), 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Force vs Stormers
The Force are scoring plenty of tries this year, and with the bulk of their remaining games to be played at home, should be a good bet for the semi-finals. The one thing that could derail their campaign is injuries, however, with which they’ve been very fortunate thus far. Their backup is not of the same quality as their starting lineup, so if Giteau, Mitchell, Cross, and the rest get injured, they could struggle.
Heartbreak for the Stormers last week when they lost on the buzzer to the Blues, but they need to get their heads right immediately for this game, because it’s going to be just as tough. They’ve developed into a good side during this tournament, and if they can scrape a win here, it will set them up nicely for their home run in SA.
This game, like the ‘Canes-Saders one, is very hard to call. The Stormers will want to put in a good last performance on tour, but you just wonder how much gas they have left, especially after their great effort last week. I’d have to pick the Force here, and it could be by more than most people expect if the Stormers are as fatigued as most teams are in their fourth week on tour.
15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Scott Daruda, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau (vice-captain), 9 Chris O’Young, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fava, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 AJ Whalley, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Troy Takiari, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Tamaiti Horua, 20 James Stannard, 21 Lachlan MacKay, 22 Nick Cummins
15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani 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 Ross Skeate, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19. Robbie Diack, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Gio Aplon, 22 Tony Brown.
Chiefs vs Highlanders
Last week’s win against the Bulls will have given the Chiefs the bit of confidence they need, because they seem to essentially be a team that thrives on confidence. With the players they have, they seem to be underperforming, and if they want to challenge this year, then they’ll have to start firing from now ’til the end.
The Highlanders just don’t seem to be able to buy a win, and are, along with the Cheetahs, the only other side yet to register a win. Unfortunately, you just don’t see that drought ending for them this week against this Chiefs side.
No matter what the positions on the log, local derbies are never easy. With all their firepower out wide, the Chiefs should definitely have enough for the Highlanders though, and they should look to up their points differential in this one. If they get sucked into the Highlanders style of play, then it could all unfold for them.
15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Simms Davison.
Subs: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben May, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 David Bason, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Viliame Waqaseduadua
Blues vs Bulls
Without Nick Evans, the Blues just do not look like the same side, and were very fortunate to scrape a win against the Stormers last week. Their star-studded backline just never got going, and they will be hoping that he is fit enough to play this week. If he does play, then the Bulls could be in for a long evening.
The Bulls had the Chiefs on the ropes at one point in the game last week, and were only 9 points behind with still about 15 minutes to go. Their lack of concentration cost them dearly though, and they will need to address the focus of most of their senior players, because as was said last week, they look very disinterested at the moment.
Even if Nick Evans does not play, you still feel that the Blues should have enough in this game. The scoreline could get really ugly if the Bulls are not careful.
1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. John Afoa, 4. Kurtis Haiu, 5. Troy Flavell (Capt), 6. Justin Collins, 7. Daniel Braid, 8. Jerome Kaino, 9. Danny Lee, 10. Nick Evans, 11. Rudi Wulf, 12. Benson Stanley, 13. Isaia Toeava, 14. Joe Rokocoko, 15. George Pisi.
Replacements: 16. Nick White, 17. Bronson Murray, 18. Anthony Boric, 19. Nick Williams. 20. Taniela Moa, 21. Ben Atiga, 22. David Smith
15 Kirchner, 14 Ndungane, 13 Nel, 12 Olivier, 11 Habana, 10 Hougaard, 9 Du Preez, 8 Spies, 7 Van Heerden, 6 Wannenburg, 5 Rossouw, 4 Botha, 3 Gerber, 2 Kuun, 1 Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Maku, 17 Kruger, 18 Steenkamp, 19 Stegmann, 20 Adams, 21 Steyn, 22 Potgieter
Sharks vs Reds
The other team with a bye last week, the Sharks should be raring to go in this one, and will want to carry on the momentum they have built up thus far. The one concern that they do seem to have, is where to accomodate everyone in the backline. Dick Muir has done well to give players an extended run in their positions, and continuity will be the key-word for them now.
The Reds have had two positive results in the last two weeks, so their confidence will have been growing all the time. Latham is in red-hot form again, and like we said, this is when the Reds are most dangerous. They are also the Sharks’ bogey team, so the Durban boys will do well not to take them lightly.
Even with Latham in such inspired form, he is only one man, and they Sharks just have too much quality around the park to lose this. We’ve been saying this for a while now, but they need to start picking up bonus points, because the points that the Crusaders have accumulated have almost become an extra win already. Sharks to take this, but need to get the four tries.
1. Greg Holmes, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Dayna Edwards, 4. Van Humphries, 5. James Horwill, 6. John Roe, 7. David Croft, 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. Sean Hardman, 17. Rodney Blake, 18. Ed O’Donoghue, 19. Poutasi Luafutu, 20. Ben Lucas, 21. Charlie Fetoai, 22. Digby Ioane.
* subject to fitness