The topsy-turvy world of Super Rugby continues, with Round 8 set to throw up it’s usual mix of interesting clashes and boring Aussie derbies. Let’s see if we can pick the winners this time.
Blues v Sharks 13 April at 09:35
Both of these teams have their backs properly to the wall after copping hidings last week. One is a team in crisis whose maddening inconsistency this year has seen them slump to a lowly log position despite their pre-season billing; to the extent that their coach is now enduring public anger from the fan-base. The other team is the Blues! Will home-ground advantage and the dreaded “one foot on the plane” syndrome be enough to secure a victory for the home side? My view is that the Sharks will bounce back strongly after their New Plymouth caning and find a way to win in Auckland. Sharks by 8.
Blues: 15. Rudi Wulf, 14. Hadleigh Parkes, 13. Benson Stanley, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Rene Ranger, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Alby Mathewson, 8. Chris Lowrey, 7. Daniel Braid, 6. Luke Braid, 5. Filo Paulo, 4. Liaki Moli, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 2. Keven Mealamu (Captain), 1. Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16. Tom McCartney, 17. Tevita Mailau, 18. Ali Williams, 19. Peter Saili, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Michael Hobbs, 22. George Moala
Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. Louis Ludik, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (Captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Jandre Marais, 19. Willem Alberts, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Frederic Michalak
Force v Waratahs 13 April at 13:40
The first Aussie snore-fest sees two teams that nobody cares about attempt to pull themselves out of mid-table mediocrity and make an assault on the lofty summit of the Aussie conference log. Last time around the Force won unexpectedly, so I guess it’s the Waratahs’ turn. Tahs by 5. Or whatever.
Force: 15. David Harvey, 14. Rory Sidey, 13. Nick Cummins, 12. Winston Stanley, 11. Alifeleti (Alfi) Mafi, 10. Ben Seymour, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Matthew Hodgson, 7. David Pocock (Captain), 6. Richard Brown, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 4. Toby Lynn, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 2. Nathan Charles, 1. Pekahou Cowan
Replacements: 16. Elvis Taione, 17. Kieran Longbottom, 18. Phoenix Battye, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Josh Holmes, 21. Cameron Shepherd, 22. Patrick Dellit
Waratahs: 15. Bernard Foley, 14. Tom Kingston, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Tom Carter, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Brendan McKibbin, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Dave Dennis, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Dean Mumm, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson (Captain)
Replacements: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Paddy Ryan, 18. Sitaleki Timani, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Jono Jenkins, 21. Sarel Pretorius, 22. Daniel Halangahu
Crusaders v DHL Stormers 14 April at 09:35
This is going to be a real humdinger, between the competition’s best side so far this season and the competition’s best side since its inception! The Saders have just returned from a long road-trip to SA and are searching for cohesion after coming a-cropper in Pretoria. The Stormers, meanwhile, are firing on all cylinders but one, with the team yet to rack up a four-try bonus point in the first seven weeks. Their so-far amazing defensive system will be tested by the Saders, but my feeling is that the men from the Cape won’t be bested here. Stormers by 4.
Crusaders: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Robert Fruean, 12. Dan Carter, 11. Zac Guildford, 10. Tom Taylor, 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Kieran Read (Captain), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Tom Donnelly, 3. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16. Quentin MacDonald, 17. Owen Franks, 18. Luke Romano, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Ryan Crotty, 22. Tom Marshall
Stormers: 15. Johan Pietersen, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (Captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Frans Malherbe, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gio Aplon
Brumbies v Rebels 14 April at 11:40
Anyone really going to watch this one? I mean really? Ok, Brumbies will probably win, by around 7. Don’t let it interfere with your lunchtime braai, though.
Brumbies: 15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Joseph Tomane, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Nic White, 8. Fotu Auelua, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Ben Mowen (Captain), 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ruaidhri Murphy
Replacements: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Ben Alexander, 18. Peter Kimlin, 19. Ita Vaea, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Andrew Smith
Toyota Cheetahs v Chiefs 14 April at 17:05
Hoo boy, if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that there will not be a shortage of tries in this match! Two of the competition’s more attack-oriented sides come up against each other in Bloem and this one will pose a huge test to the Cheetah’s resolve and commitment. They’ve had a good tour and can really consolidate with a string of home games – dare I say that a play-off place is not completely out of sight for them? With both sides prone to attack with abandon, I’d say the team that defends better will take the spoils here and for that reason, I have to go with the Chiefs by about 6 points.
Cheetahs: 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Rayno Benjamin, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Willie Le Roux, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 9. Piet van Zyl, 8. Philip Van der Walt, 7. Justin Downey, 6. Heinrich Brussow, 5. Izak van der Westhuizen, 4. George Earle, 3. WP Nel, 2. Adriaan Strauss (Captain), 1. Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements: 16. Hercu Liebenberg, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Andries Ferreira, 19. Ashley Johnson, 20. Tewis de Bruyn, 21. Johan Goosen, 22. Philip Snyman
MTN Lions v Vodacom Bulls 14 April at 19:10
We finish off with the Jukskei derby and while these matches often tend to be closer than expected, I simply cannot say that I see the Lions turning their season around by winning it. The Bulls are not a side that tends to lose “gimme” matches and with the Lions still suffering a nasty injury toll, the men from Pretoria are unlikely to be in charitable mood. Bulls by around 10.
Lions: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. Jaco Taute, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. James Kamana, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Tian Meyer, 8. Joshua Strauss (Captain), 7. Derick Minnie, 6. Cobus Grobbelaar, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Stephan Greeff, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Callie Visagie, 1. Caylib Oosthuizen
Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Jacobie Adriaanse, 18. Marius Coetzer, 19. Christo le Roux, 20. Ross Cronje, 21. Butch James, 22. Lionel Mapoe
Bulls: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Akona Ndungane, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Pierre Spies (Captain), 7. Jacques Potgieter, 6. CJ Stander, 5. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4. Juandre Kruger, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1. Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16. Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17. Frik Kirsten, 18. Dewald Potgieter, 19. Arno Botha, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Louis Fouche, 22. Johann Sadie