Keo.co.za analyses the key match-ups and picks the likely winners at the weekend.
Highlanders v Hurricanes, Dunedin, Friday 08:35
With their 39-19 demolition of the Chiefs last weekend, the Hurricanes showed exactly why they are rated as one of the tournament’s most dangerous sides. Their all round play was superb, and they extracted maximum value from the ELVs. Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth seemed to find some form, making two scything linebreaks and controlling the game brilliantly, while loose forwards Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo battered the Chiefs with powerful ball carries. Expect more of the same against a Highlanders side who are yet to register a win in the tournament. Even at home, they’ll struggle to contain the Canes who, if they find their groove, can be as dangerous as the Blues and Crusaders on attack and as devastating on defence.
Prediction: Canes by 15
Hurricanes - 15 Shannon Paku, 14 Ma’a Nonu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So’oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Subs: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Willie Ripia, 22 Tane Tu’ipulotu.
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, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Craig Newby (c), 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Isaac Ross, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Jason Macdonald (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: 16 David Hall, 17 Keith Cameron, 18 Hoani MacDonald, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Brett Mather.
Waratahs v Brumbies, Sydney, Friday 10:40
The Aussie derby should be an entertaining one, marked by an enterprising play from both sides. The packs will attempt to lay the foundation for a dangerous set of backs marshalled by two talented young flyhalves in Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) and Kurtley Beale (Tahs). The Tahs come into the match without exciting league convert winger, Timana Tahu (hamstring strain), and the Brumbies will surely target his replacement, 19-year-old Alfi Mafi. They’ll also want to keep close tabs on Lachie Turner, whose pace has embarrassed many quality players. With a back row of Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh, Rocky Elsom the Tahs will be a constant threat with ball in hand and at the breakdown. The Brumbies trio of Stephen Hoiles, George Smith, Mitchell Chapman are, however, equally skilled and their battle should be an intriguing one. The Brumbies have been forced to reshuffle their backline with the news that dependable fullback Julian Huxley has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mark Gerrard shifts to 15 allowing Peter Playford to get a start on the wing. Ultimately the Brumbies should have more all round skill, and will steal a vital win away from home.
Prediction: Brumbies by 10
Waratahs - 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Alfi Mafi, 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 Will Caldwell, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Al Baxter,18 Dean Mumm, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Rob Horne.
Brumbies - 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Peter Playford, 13 Sanualio Afeaki, 12 Tyrone Smith, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith (captain), 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Julian Salvi, 20 Joshua Holmes, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Tim Wright.
Bulls v Lions, Pretoria, Friday 19:05
The Gauteng derby represents a chance for these sides to recover from defeats over the weekend and get some momentum into what is fast becoming an embarrassing campaign. The Lions were brave against the Force last weekend and showed signs of improvement from their mauling against the Blues a fortnight ago. But results are all that count, and a result at Loftus will buoy the Lions enormously. Their breakdown work has been the best feature of their campaign, and the Bulls will have to be sharp in this facet of play. The Lions could be well advised to play wider, looking to stretch a lumbering Bulls pack, but will probably take the fight to the hosts with their forwards and attempt to dominate the set phases. This approach will see them falter against a side whose bread and butter is keeping it tight. With the return of Springboks Bryan Habana, Akona Ndungane and Bakkies Botha, the Bulls will be more dangerous proposition than they have been in the last fortnight. MornÃ© Steyn and Wynand Olivier will form a far more potent 12-13 combination than Olivier and the suspended JP Nel did, and if they’re able to create some space for Habana on the outside and bring promising fullback Zane Kirchner into the line, the Lions could be in for a whipping. The Bulls will rely heavily on strike runners like Danie Rossouw and Pedrie Wannenburg (amongst others) to punch holes in the Lions defensive line, and if the visitors fail to repel these men they’ll lose … but still not badly.
Prediction: Bulls by 7
Bulls - 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 MornÃ© Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick KuÃ¼n, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 James vd Walt, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Dean Greyling, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Stephan Dippenaar, 22 Dewald Potgieter.
Lions – 15 Louis Ludik ,14 Dusty Noble ,13 Jaco Pretorius ,12 Walter Venter, 11 Rayno Benjamin ,10 Louis Strydom ,9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Ernst Joubert, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar ,5 Willem Stoltz ,4 Gerhard Mostert ,3 Ross Geldenhuys ,2 Willie Wepener ,1 Heinke van der Merwe. Subs: 16 Ethienne Reynecke ,17 JC Janse van Rensburg ,18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Willem Alberts ,20 Chris Jonck, 21 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 22 Jannie Boshoff
Chiefs v Cheetahs, Hamilton, Saturday 08:35
The Chiefs have looked a dangerous unit in the last two weeks, and despite their heavy defeat to the Canes last weekend they’ll be confident of a victory over a Cheetahs side who’ve suffered two one point defeats before being manhandled by the Blues last weekend. The hosts’ primary threat comes from their back three of Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Sosene Anesi, while wrecking ball No 8 Sione Laukai will be ever present with ball in hand. The Cheetahs are without skipper Juan Smith, which will be a crucial blow to a team who relied so heavily on the momentum he generates with his powerful drives. The Cheetahs will look to ensure slow ball for flyhalf Stephen Donald to avoid being made to tackle hot stepping backs for the duration of the match. They’ll also look to the pressure the out-of-form Donald, who is prone to errors when the defensive line get up into his face. If they can control the tempo of this match and force the Chiefs to play the percentages a victory is on the cards. But that is unlikely to happen.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Sosene Anesi, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10, Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Laukai, 7 Tom Harding, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben May, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Simms Davison.
Subs: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 Ben Castle, 18 Hayden Hopgood, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Tanerau Latimer, 21 David Bason, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Cheetahs – Hennie Daniller; Eddie Fredericks, JW Jonker, Meyer Bosman, Jongi Nokwe; Conrad Barnard, Noel Oelschig; Duanne Vermeulen, Darron Nell, Heinrich Brussouw, Barend Pieterse, Rory Duncan (c), Kobus Calldo, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez.
Subs: Richard Strauss, Ronnie Uys, David de Villiers, Hendro Scholtz, Tobie Botes, Tewis de Bruyn, Hendrik Meyer.
Reds v Stormers, Brisbane, 11:05
The Stormers are desperate for a win following defeat in all three of their opening games, and a trip to Suncorp Stadium presents the perfect opportunity to get their tour Down Under off to a winning start. Reds coach Phil Mooney has made a host of changes and brought in two new men in the front row. The Stormers tight five struggled against the Crusaders, but should have the wood on this Reds unit allowing the likes of Luke Watson to flourish on the deck in what should be a crucial battle with David Croft. The Reds have the gamebreakers in Berrick Barnes and Chris Latham, but like the Stormers, their backline has failed to gel. This match should be edged by the visitors thanks to a strong effort by the forwards.
Prediction: Stormers by 3
Reds – 15 Chris Latham, 14 Brando Va’aulu, 13 Peter Hynes, 12 Morgan Turinui, 11 Clinton Schifcofske, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 David Croft, 6 John Roe (c), 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O’Donoghue, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Van Humphries, 19 AJ Gilbert, 20 Will Genia, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Charlie Fetoai.
Stormers – Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (c), Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie, Robbie Diack, Francois Louw, Luke Watson, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, JD Moller.
Subs: Deon Fourie, Brok Harris, Ross Skeate, Pieter Myburgh, Bolla Conradie, Gio Aplon, Dylan des Fountain.
Sharks v Blues, Absa Stadium, Durban, 19:10
The Cheetahs provided some resistance in Bloemfontein but still struggled to prevent a 50-point paddling by the Blues. The Sharks have been rusty in the initial stages and are some pace off matching the Blues. To compete with them out wide would be folly, and Johann Muller’s charges will look to slow the game down and dominate through the forwards. The Sharks defence will be better than that of the Cheetahs, but they will need to knock Nick Williams and Jerome Kaino back when the big men charge round the fringes. Isaia Toeava requires looking after, but the same could be said for the whole Blues backline. The Sharks aren’t a bad side, but at this stage they’re not in the same league as the Blues.
Prediction: Blues by 7.
Sharks - TBC
Blues – 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Lee, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Justin Collins, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Troy Flavell, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Onosaâ€™I Tololima-Auvaâ€™a, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Rudi Wulf, 22 George Pisi.
Western Force v Crusaders, Sunday Perth, 10:00
The Crusaders have been untouchable and will batter a brave but limited Force in Perth. The hosts will rely heavily on flyhalf Matt Giteau to be the catalyst for a misfiring backline, but the Saders should have very little trouble dealing with whatever they bring to the fight. Patient and clinical on attack and brilliantly organised on defence, the Saders will simply be too classy for the Perth unit.
Prediction: Crusaders by 20
Western Force – Cameron Shepherd, Scott Staniforth, Ryan Cross, Lachlan Mackay, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Chris O’Young, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Tamaiti Horua, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Tom Hockings, AJ Whalley, Tai McIsaac, Gareth Hardy. Res: Luke Holmes, Troy Takiari , Sam Wykes, Matt Hodgson, James Stannard, Scott Daruda, Josh Tatupu
Crusaders – Leon MacDonald, Scott Hamilton, Casey Laulala, Stephen Brett, Caleb Ralph, Daniel Carter, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuialii, Richard McCaw (capt), Kieran Read, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Res: Tii Paulo, Wyatt Crockett, Reuben Thorne, Nasi Manu, Kahn Fotualii, Tim Bateman, Sean Maitland.
Â© 2008 AAP
Force - TBA
Crusaders - TBA
By Ryan Vrede