In a round of action that could do much to either cement the Sharks’ spot in the play-off race, or on the other hand dent their aspirations somewhat should things not go to plan, Super Rugby is really starting to hot up after 12 weeks. Let’s see if we can pick the right winners in round 13.
Hurricanes v Brumbies 18 May at 09:35
We start with what should be an intriguing game between two sides with an equal number of wins. The Canes are currently out of the play-off permutations, but will know that a win here brings them right back into contention; the Brumbies on the other hand are on top of the Aussie log and in 4th spot overall, although the Reds are starting to make their move and will capitalise on any slip-up from the Canberra boys. With little to separate the sides, I think the Canes will take this one, based purely on home ground advantage and a little bit more momentum after beating the Highlanders last week. Hurricanes by 5.
Hurricanes : 15. André Taylor, 14. Cory Jane, 13. Conrad Smith (Captain), 12. Tim Bateman, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Tusi Pisi, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Brad Shields, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Ben May, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16. Motu Matu’u, 17. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Jack Lam, 20. Chris Eaton, 21. Beauden Barrett, 22. Jayden Hayward
Brumbies : 15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Joseph Tomane, 10. Zack Holmes, 9. Ian Prior, 8. Fotu Auelua, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Ben Mowen (Captain), 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Ruaidhri Murphy, 18. Peter Kimlin, 19. Ita Vaea, 20. Nic White, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Tevita Kuridrani
Highlanders v Vodacom Bulls 19 May at 07:30
This is the game, simply put, where the Highlanders can quite literally do every other team in the entire competition a favour. The Bulls actually stand a scarily good chance of going through their tour unbeaten, which would be unprecedented in Super Rugby and must surely set them up for a home semi-final if they get it right. They’ve got some momentum and are looking okay in terms of injuries, with only the loose trio a little unsettled at the moment. The Landers, on the other hand, are still woefully short of personnel after some bas luck with injury and will need to be at their best to defend their southern fortress. While the so-called “week 3 blues” may just trip the Bulls up here, I find it hard to see them not winning. Bulls by 3.
Bulls: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Akona Ndungane, 13. Johann Sadie, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Pierre Spies (Captain), 7. CJ Stander, 6. Dewald Potgieter, 5. Juandre Kruger, 4. Flip van der Merwe, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1. Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Rayno Gerber, 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19. Arno Botha, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Louis Fouche, 22. JJ Engelbrecht
Crusaders v Blues 19 May at 09:35
The Saders have rung the changes and with Dan Carter back at flyhalf, it’s hard to see them failing to pile further misery on a Blues team that has been crap all year. Crusaders by 10.
Crusaders: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Adam Whitelock,13. Robbie Fruean , 12. Ryan Crotty,11. Zac Guildford, 10. Dan Carter (vc) , 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Richie McCaw (c), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Samuel Whitelock , 4. Luke Romano, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Wyatt Crockett
Replacements : 16. Quentin MacDonald,17. Ben Franks,18. Tom Donnelly,19. Brendon O’Connor,20. WIlli Heinz,21. Tyler Bleyendaal,22. Tom Marshall
Reds v MTN Lions 19 May at 11:40
Again, only one winner here. The unlucky Lions, whose Super Rugby fate may well be sealed later today, must surely succumb to a second-successive tour loss against the Reds, working their way back to form and with Quade Cooper back in tow. This, I fear, will be ugly. Reds by 25.
Reds: 15. Ben Lucas, 14. Dom Shipperley, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 12. Mike Harris, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 7. Liam Gill, 6. Jake Schatz, 5. James Horwill (Captain), 4. Rob Simmons, 3. James Slipper, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Greg Holmes
Replacements: 16. James Hanson, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19. Ed Quirk, 20. Nicholas Frisby, 21. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 22. Luke Morahan
Lions: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Jaco Taute, 11. Michael Killian, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Joshua Strauss (Captain), 7. Grant Hattingh, 6. Derick Minnie, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Franco van der Merwe, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Callie Visagie, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. CJ van der Linde, 18. Cobus Grobbelaar, 19. Jaco Kriel, 20. Tian Meyer, 21. Ruan Combrinck, 22. James Kamana
Toyota Cheetahs v Sharks 19 May at 17:05
The Sharks head down to their not-so-happy hunting ground of Bloemfontein for the first of two matches against the Cheetahs in relatively short order. Considered a bogey team in the past, Naka Drotske’s men will base their game around a strong forward showing – so nearly successful against the Stormers last week. Disruption amongst the hosts’ backs, though, coupled with more firepower all round should see the Sharks win here because frankly, they have a lot more at stake than the already-eliminated Cheetahs do. Let’s hope the players remember that. Sharks by around 8 points.
Cheetahs: 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Cameron Jacobs, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Willie Le Roux, 10. Riaan Smit, 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. Sias Ebersohn, 22. Philip Snyman
DHL Stormers v Waratahs 19 May at 19:10
The challenge here for Alister Coetzee’s men is not so much whether they can win (we know they can and I’m sure, will) – it’s whether they can start to show some sort of invention on attack to complement their amazing defence. Super Rugby is not traditionally a competition won on defence and defence alone; one feels that if the Stormers are to win a maiden title in 2012, that trend will probably have been broken. Stormers to win a dour game, probably by around 9 points.
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (Captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Jebb Sinclair, 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. Don Armand, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gerhard van den Heever
Force v Rebels 20 May at 08:35
Don’t know, don’t care. I guess the Rebels will win, although it won’t be fun to watch for anyone. It’s the referee I feel for most. He doesn’t have the option to not watch.