Keo.co.za looks at the likely winners and key match-ups of the weekend.
HURRICANES vs REDS, WELLINGTON, FRIDAY 08:35.
No team can afford defeat to the Brisbane franchise, especially at home and for this particular encounter, the Canes back row holds the key. Chris Masoe is a clear cut above David Croft, while Rodney So’oialo will have a vital role to play from the back of the scrum. Jerry Collins will be huge from a ball-carrying perspective, especially with the increased number of free kicks. The Canes front row have also received a timely boost with Neemia Tialata picked to combat Greg Holmes in the scrums. This should ensure parity at the set-piece allowing Jimmy Gopperth the necessary platform to unleash the formidable Ma’a Nonu and elusive Hosea Gear. The Reds will stay in touch if the game remains tight, but if the Canes have it their own way, a looser game will see a home-team bonus point.
PREDICTION: Canes to win by 7.
Hurricanes – 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tane Tuâ€™ipulotu, 11 Maâ€™a Nonu, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney Soâ€™oialo (c), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Subs: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Willie Ripia, 22 Shannon Paku.
Reds – 1. Greg Holmes, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Rodney Blake, 4. Van Humphries, 5. James Horwill, 6. Hugh McMeniman, 7. David Croft, 8. John Roe (c), 9. Sam Cordingley, 10. Berrick Barnes, 11. Clinton Schifcofske, 12. Chris Siale, 13. Morgan Turinui, 14. Digby Ioane, 15. Chris Latham
Subs: 16. Sean Hardman, 17. Dayna Edwards, 18. Ed Oâ€™Donoghue, 19. Leroy Houston, 20. Will Genia, 21. Peter Hynes, 22. Quade Cooper
CHEETAHS vs FORCE, BLOEMFONTEIN, FRIDAY 18:00
Both teams are hurting after their respective losses in round one, but the Force’s woes were compounded with the loss of Matt Henjak and Cameron Shepherd. Nathan Sharpe’s return should see the visitors remaining competitive at line-out time, but the scrums and tackle points should go the way of the Cheetahs. The Force are a threat from broken play, but if the Cheetahs can maintain their structure and improve on their sub-standard tactical kicking, they should win this one comfortably.
PREDICTION: Cheetahs to win by 7.
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Gavin Passens, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Rory Duncan, 4 Barend Pieterse, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Richard Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tobie Botes, 21 Conrad Barnard, 22 Hendrik Meyer.
Force – 1. Pek Cowan, 2.Tai McIsaac, 3. Troy Takiari, 4.Tom Hockings, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 6. Sam Wykes, 7. David Pocock, 8. Richard Brown, 9. James Stannard, 10. Matt Giteau, 11. Nick Cummins, 12. Scott Daruda, 13. Scott Staniforth, 14. Ryan Cross, 15. Drew Mitchell
Subs: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. AJ Whalley, 18. David Pusey, 19. Tamaiti Horua, 20. Scott Fava, 21. Lachlan MacKay, 22. Josh Tatupu
BULLS vs CRUSADERS, PRETORIA, FRIDAY 20:00
The win in Cape Town was praised as great display from a champion team under pressure, but when measured against the Crusaders’ beating of the Brumbies, it was never in the same league. The Crusaders aren’t likely to smash the Bulls at home, but they should still walk away with the points. They have the forwards to match this Bulls in the tight, and Richie McCaw will have the better of Wikus van Heerden at the breakdown. Dan Carter will welcome back Andy Ellis, and while Fourie du Preez will be a force for the hosts with his accurate boot, the Crusaders halfbacks have the edge as a combination. The two backlines are chalk and cheese, and the Bulls will need to produce another great defensive effort if they’re going to keep the Saders from running them ragged.
PREDICTION: Crusaders to win by 10.
Bulls - Zane Kirchner, John Mametsa, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Marius Delport, Derick Hougaard, Fourie du Preez (c), Pedrie Wannenburg, Wikus van Heerden, Deon Stegmann, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Danie Rossouw, Rayno Gerber, Derick KuÃ¼n, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: James vd Walt, Werner Kruger, Jaco Engels, Dewald Potgieter, Heini Adams, MornÃ© Steyn, Danwell Demas.
Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andrew Ellis; 8 Mose Tuialiâ€™i, 7 Richard McCaw (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Tiâ€™i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Kahn Fotualiâ€™i, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Caleb Ralph.
CHIEFS vs WARATAHS, HAMILTON, SATURDAY 08:35
A trip to Hamilton is never easy, and despite their recent performances the Chiefs remain one of the most underrated teams in the competition. Led by Jonno Gibbes, the Chiefs pack will try to keep it close and wear down the Tahs forwards. However, young Tanerau Latimer faces a significant challenge in Phil Waugh when the two compete for fetching honours. Both teams have exciting backlines, but the experience in the Chiefs’ back division could be the clincher on this occasion.
PREDICTION: Chiefs to win by 3.
Chiefs – 1. Simms Davison, 2. Tom Willis, 3. Ben Castle, 4. Jono Gibbes (c), 5. Kevin O’Neill, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 8. Sione Lauaki, 9. Brendon Leonard, 10. Stephen Donald, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12. Callum Bruce, 13. Richard Kahui,14. Viliame Waqaseduadua, 15. Mils Muliaina
Subs:16. Aled de Malmanche, 17. Ben May, 18. Toby Lynn, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Tom Harding,21. David Bason, 22. Lelia Masaga
Waratahs -15 Lachie Turner, 14 Timana Tahu, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Brett Sheehan; 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Matt Dunning.
Subs: 16 Benn Robinson, 17 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 18 Will Caldwell, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Alfi Mafi.
BRUMBIES vs HIGHLANDERS, CANBERRA, SATURDAY 10:35
Forced to select an inexperienced backline, Laurie Fisher will know his side are the underdogs going into this fixture. The Kiwis boast a number of new combinations as well, and Jimmy Cowan’s synergy with Daniel Bowden will be crucial to an away win. Whether the Highlanders can keep the mobile Brumbies pack down to a modest pace is debatable given that the Canberra side possess the likes of George Smith and Stephen Hoiles in the back row. The Highlanders didn’t set the world alight in their first outing against the Reds, but they look to be the better organised of the two teams.
PREDICTION: Highlanders to win by 7 or less.
Brumbies - Julian Huxley, Mark Gerrard, Tyrone Smith, Anthony Faingaa, Francis Fainifo, Christian Lealiifano, Josh Holmes; Stephen Hoiles, George Smith (c), Mitch Chapman, Al Campbell, Mark Chisholm, Guy Shepherdson, Huia Edmonds, Nic Henderson.
Subs: Saia Faingaa, Salesi Maafu, Peter Kimlin, Julian Salvi, Patrick Phibbs, Peter Playford, Afusipa Taumoepeau.
Highlanders -15 James Wilson, 14 Paul Williams, 13 Niva Ta’auso, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan; 8 Steven Setephano/Ezra Taylor, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Jason Macdonald (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 David Hall, 17 Chris King, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Tim Boys/Ezra Taylor, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Brett Mather.
SHARKS vs STORMERS, DURBAN, SATURDAY 17:00
Conditions will dictate the flow at Kings Park, as the humidity could force a more conservative approach. This will see the Sharks kickers gaining the ascendancy, with Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar having the wood on their Stormers counterparts. The return of Conrad Jantjes will lend the Stormers more weight in this department, and the Springbok fullback will also form part of a dangerous counter-attacking unit in the visiting back three. Up front, BJ Botha should give the Sharks the edge, and much will depend on Brian Mujati’s performance against ‘The Beast’ if the Stormers are to limit the hosts. The breakdown battle between Schalk Burger and Jacques Botes is the match-up of the weekend, although both will depend heavily on their respective tight-fives to thrive. In this respect, the Sharks are once again favourites.
PREDICTION: Sharks to win by 10.
Sharks – Francois Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Brad Barritt, JP Pietersen, Frederic Michalak, Ruan Pienaar, Ryan Kankowski, AJ Venter, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller, Johan Ackermann, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtwarira. Reserves: Craig Burden, Jannie du Plessis, Albert van den Ber, Keegan Daniel, Rory Kockott, Adrian Jacobs, Stefan Terblanche.
Stormers – Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers, Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Tiaan Liebenberg, JD Moller.
Subs: Schalk Brits, Brok Harris, Ross Skeate, Francois van der Merwe, Bolla Conradie, Gio Aplon, Dylan des Fountain.
LIONS vs BLUES, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY 19:00
To keep writing Loffie Eloff’s Lions off seems dangerous, but it pays to remember they are always punching above their weight. The Blues are loaded with stars who all enjoy the expansive game and the loss of Luke McAlister is yet to be felt. Isaia Toeava’s impact in midfield will be significant, as will that of his opposite number Jaco Pretorius, who had a great pre-season and first game against the Cheetahs.
Flyhalves Nick Evans and Louis Strydom employ contrasting styles, with the All Blacks pivot favouring the running game. Strydom and Jano Vermaak’s kicking will be crucial in terms of accuracy, but it wouldn’t be wise to supply the likes of Joe Rokocoko with too much ball in space. It will be a tough match, but the Blues should break loose in the final quarter.
PREDICTION: Blues to win by 7.
Lions - Louis Ludik; Dusty Noble, Jaco Pretorius, Doppies la Grange, Rayno Benjamin; Louis Strydom, Jano Vermaak; Willem Alberts, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobbelaar (c), Gerhard Mostert, Anton van Zyl, Ross Geldenhuys, Willie Wepener, Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: Gavin Williamson, Gert Andries van der Merwe, Alten Hulme, Joe van Niekerk, Chris Jonck, Earl Rose, Jaco van Schalkwyk.
Blues - Isa Nacewa; Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Benson Stanley, Joe Rokocoko; Nick Evans, Danny Lee; Nick Williams, Justin Collins, Jerome Kaino, Troy Flavell Â©, Kurtis Haiu, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Subs: Tom McCartney, Nick White, Bryn Evans, Onosaâ€™i Tololima-Auvaâ€™a, Taniela Moa, Ben Atiga, Rudi Wulf.
By Jon Cardinelli