With only three weeks before the winter tests and only six games left in the regular season of Super Rugby the push is on for the top six spots on the log. Only 16 points separate the top 11 teams and only four points between the top five with the result that every game from now on virtually becomes a knockout game pushing the losers down, further from the play-offs.
Inconsistent performances by the log leaders, poor performances by the South African sides and with the Crusaders and the Waratahs seemingly on the rise an exciting weekend of Super Rugby lays ahead and a difficult one to predict the outcomes as most of the matches could be close battles that can go either way.
In the Vodacom Cup the final between the Pumas and the Golden Lions is the Lions last game before the June test break and their final stretch of preparation matches starting with a game against Samoa.
Last week: 3/6
Fri, 17 May
Hurricanes v Chiefs: SAST 09h35 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington
After a good stretch from week 3 the Hurricanes have gone off the boil a bit while the Chiefs have been struggling with their form and they have scraped wins against lesser sides like the Rebels and the Force. The Canes isn’t the attacking side of last year while their defence is really not up to standard either and with Conrad Smith out they have lost a valuable playmaker. The Chiefs however haven’t been the champion side of earlier in the season and their defence has been poor in recent weeks but they still scraped out wins.
Chiefs by 6
Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 James Marshall.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Save Tokula.
Rebels v Stormers: SAST 11h40 – AAMI Park, Melbourne
Normally this should be a piece of cake for the Stormers but they have struggled to decide on a game plan and nothing has come of their promised new attacking game. The Rebels, on the other hand, may not have won many games but the have lost five games by less than seven points and have in recent weeks pushed the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues close. They might just be ready for another win but without Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor they just don’t have the strike power at the back to break the Stormers defence.
Stormers by 6
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Deon Fourie, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Frans Malherbe, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Don Armand, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Gerhard van den Heever
Force v Sharks: SAST 13h45 – NIB Stadium, Perth
The Force has the forwards to compete with any side in the competition but just don’t have the backs to use the possession they gain. Since their poor start the have beaten the Reds and the Crusaders, and have drawn with the Reds in their last derby match, while they’ve earned losing bonus points in four of their last five losses. Up against a Sharks team struggling with injuries and unable to get their backs into the attack the Force must be in with a chance. However, for the first time in quite a while the Sharks is able to field an unchanged match 22 with a slight reshuffle between the starting XV and the bench and I can’t bring myself to predict a win for the Force.
Sharks by 5
The Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (Captain), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Derick Minnie / Tera Mtembu, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Sat, 18 May
Crusaders v Blues: SAST 09h35 – AMI Stadium, Addington Christchurch
Both the Crusaders and the Blues have been inconsistent in their performances, great one week and poor the next and it will depend which of the teams bring their A game on Saturday. On paper the Crusaders should be too much for the Blues but players like Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau and Frank Halai can turn the match. However, given that the game is in Christchurch I’m going with a close win for the Saders.
Crusaders by 6
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Israel Dagg.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
Waratahs v Brumbies: SAST 11h40 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney
The Waratahs seem to have gotten their act together, have been able to be more consistent in their team selection as the injuries subsided and are on the rise while the Brumbies are coming off a bye, lost to the Crusaders in their last match and are playing away from home, all of which might give the Tahs the win. But the Brumbies have been one of the few consistent sides in the competition, most of the time anyway, and have the defensive and attacking structures in place to take it.
Brumbies by 6
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Peter Betham
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Robbie Coleman.
Bulls v Highlanders: SAST 17h05 – Loftus Versveld, Pretoria
The Highlanders are really due for a win but after their loss to the Kings there is no way that I am going to predict one. Not against the Bulls the way they played in their last few matches and definitely not against Bulls at Loftus. The Bulls seem to be back in a groove and are playing some good, balanced rugby and should be too much for the Clan.
Bulls by 20
Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Bjorn Basson.
Cheetahs v Reds: SAST 19h10 – Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
After the Cheetahs performance last week the question is, have they topped out? Maybe not but against the Reds and the halfback pairing of Genia and Cooper I’m afraid that the Cheetahs just don’t half the flyhalf to win them the game. However, if they can get their defence back on track they should keep the score close and with the Reds having drawn twice already another draw is not impossible.
Reds by 6
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rynhardt Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Top 5 players per position (UDT Fantasy League)
Outside backs: Frank Halai, Henry Speight, Raymond Ruhle, Charles Piutau, Jesse Mogg
Centres: Israel Folau, Joseph Tomane, Robert Ebersohn, Ben Tapuai, Johann Sadie,
Flyhalf (kickers): Christian Lealiifano, Quade Cooper, Morne Steyn, Beauden Barrett, Patrick Lambie
Scrumhalf: TJ Perenara, Piri Weepu, Will Genia, Jano Vermaak, Andy Ellis
Loose Forwards: Ben Mowen, Jack Schatz, Scott Higgenbotham, Liam Messam, Sam Cane
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Hugh Pyle, Andries Bekker, Rob Simmons, Francois Uys
Front Rows: Ged Robinson, Ben Tameifuna, Coenie Oosthuizen, Wyatt Crockett, James Hanson
Top Try Scorers
1. Frank Halai (Blues) 8
2. Henry Speight (Brumbies) 7
2. Israel Folau (Waratahs) 7
4. Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs) 6
5. Alfie Mafi (Force) 5
5. Cam Crawford (Waratahs) 5
5. Gareth Anscombe (Chiefs) 5
5. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies) 5
5. Julian Savea (Hurricanes) 5
5. Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs) 5
5. Rod Davies (Reds) 5
5. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) 5
5. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) 5
14. Bernard Foley (Waratahs) 4
14. Charles Piutau (Blues) 4
14. Ged Robinson (Rebels) 4
14. Gio Aplon (Stormers) 4
14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 4
14. Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs) 4
14. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) 4
Vodacom Cup Finals:
Friday, May 17 2013
Pumas vs Golden Lions – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Lions by 12
Leeus vs. Pumas: Chryzander Botha; Deon Helberg, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volmink; Marnitz Boshoff, Michael Bondesio; Warren Whiteley ©, Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg, Hugo Kloppers, Hendrik Roodt, Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen. Reserwes: Francois du Toit, Van Zyl Botha, JJ Breet, Willie Britz, Ross Cronjé, Dylan des Fountain, Lionel Cronjé.
Jean de Villiers’s second try vs the Blues: