We have two derby semi-finals lined up this weekend, none of them involving an Aussie team. What more, in short, could anyone ask for?
Chiefs v Crusaders 27 July at 09:35
A fitting match up sees the two best team in New Zealand square up in a game that is sure to be full of excitement. The Chiefs raced to to a great – in fact unassailable – position at the head of the conference log, while the Saders got stuck in some unaccustomed doldrums, with a loss to the Rebels the real low point. Towards the latter stage of the campaign, though, all the form and momentum has been with the Christchurch crew, as the Chiefs lost back-to-back derbies against them and the Hurricanes in their last two matches. You never want to write off a side that includes Sonny Bill Williams, but my feeling is that it’s the end of the road for the Chiefs this week. Crusaders to take it by 6.
Chiefs: 15. Robbie Robinson, 14. Tim Nanai-Williams, 13. Andrew Horrell, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8. Kane Thompson, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Brodie Retallick, 4. Craig Clarke (Captain), 3. Ben Tameifuna, 2. Mahonri Schwalger, 1. Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16. Hikawera Elliott, 17. Ben Afeaki, 18. Michael Fitzgerald, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Jackson Willison, 22. Lelia Masaga
Crusaders: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Adam Whitelock, 13. Robert Fruean, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Zac Guildford, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Richie McCaw (Captain), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Luke Romano, 3. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16. Quentin MacDonald, 17. Owen Franks, 18. Tom Donnelly, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Sean Maitland
DHL Stormers v Sharks 28 July at 17:05
The mouth-watering clash awaits in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon. The Stormers have fought their way to the very summit of the log through dogged determination, tenacious defence and resolutely sticking to their structures and game plan despite an injury list that at time bordered on the ridiculous. They’ve been criticised for lacking imagination and the ability to score tries, but only a fool could fail to recognise the supreme effort and triumph of planning and management that has got them to where they are now; with a home final to come next week if they can just knock over the Sharks. Logic says that those Sharks should be dead on their feet and running on empty after a whirwind trip to Brisbane and 266 tackles against the Reds. The Sharks were never meant to win that match, yet strangely, they did and the rugby that they played in doing so suddenly raises the possibility of an upset here, if only they can reproduce it at Newlands. By all accounts, the Sharks are in high spirits and determined to keep the dream alive this week and while not in any way underestimating the herculean task ahead of them, I feel they’re going to do it. Sharks by 2, is my call and if it’s wrong, well, then I don’t want to be right!
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. Deon Fourie, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Don Armand, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gerhard van den Heever
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Frederic Michalak, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Keegan Daniel (Captain), 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Steven Sykes, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Odwa Ndungane, 22. Riaan Viljoen