Keo.co.za analyses the key match-ups and picks the winners at the weekend.
Kempo, the quintessential cult hero, is currently bushwhacking through the Amazon (or paddling across the Pacific on a lilo – I can’t remember which) but has sworn to make his round 13 calls as soon as he finds an internet connection.
HURRICANES vs FORCE, WELLINGTON, FRIDAY 09:35
JC’s call: They’re two unpredictable teams capable of beating any side in the competition, but it’s hard to see the Canes losing at home. The jury is still out on the use of Willie Ripia at flyhalf, and if Piri Weepu eats any more pies the Canes could consider themselves well covered at prop. Aside from the soft spot at halfback, the Canes possess a potent midfield and equally electric back three. The loose trio, led by Chris Masoe, will make their mark thanks to a thriving tight-five. Force flyhalf Matt Giteau is the obvious dangerman, but coach John Mitchell needs a team effort if any upset is to be achieved.
Hurricanes by 9.
Kempo’s call: JC, Kempo was skirmishing to find a front row!
The Force do have that unpredictability about them, and Nathan Sharpe is an outstanding leader. Matt Giteau is maybe worth a mention but Drew Mitchell will be more of a problem for the Canes. Disagree that flyhalf is a problem, for if it was Piri Weepu, who played last year’s NPC at flyhalf, he would just slot into the role. Besides, whats left of the backline is just short of world class. The Canes loose trio will win this one though, and with the bonus point.
Hurricanes by 12 or more.
Hurricanes - Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Zac Guildford, Willie Ripia, Piri Weepu, Rodney So’oialo, Scott Waldrom, Jerry Collins, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tim Fairbrother.
Subs: Hikawera Elliot, John Schwalger, Craig Clarke, Jerry Collins/Thomas Waldrom, Alby Mathewson, Jimmy Gopperth, Shannon Paku.
Force – Cameron Shepherd, Dane Haylett-Petty, Josh Tatupu, James O’Connor, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, James Stannard, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Matt Hodgson, Nathan Sharpe (capt), David Pusey, Troy Takiari, Tai McIsaac, Gareth Hardy.
Subs: Luke Holmes, Kieran Longbottom, Sitaleki Timani, Sam Wykes, Chris O’Young, Scott Daruda, Haig Sare.
BULLS vs BRUMBIES, PRETORIA, FRIDAY 19:10
JC’s call:The Bulls may have failed as defending champions, but are destined to finish this season on a high. Fourie du Preez’s tactical game will be instrumental in this victory with both Bulls halfbacks out-kicking their Aussie counterparts. The Bulls have the advantage up front, and the powerful Brumbies midfield will be significantly underdone given Stirling Mortlock’s stomach ailment earlier in the week.
Bulls by 7.
Kempo’s call: The Blou gals will blow these turkeys away! Stomach bug my ass. They were in Cape Town, the Mother City of all hangovers, so it’s more likely to be alcohol poisoning than any dodgy food. The ailment will have its effect, and the Bulle will convince them that these guys only became convicts after the Boer war!
Bulls by 14.
Bulls - Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez (c), Pierre Spies, Wikus van Heerden, Deon Stegmann, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: Bandise Maku, Rayno Gerber, Jaco Engels, Danie Rossouw, Francois Hougaard, Burton Francis, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Brumbies – 15. Mark Gerrard, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Stirling Mortlock, 12. Tyrone Smith, 11. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Josh Holmes, 8. Stephen Hoiles, 7. George Smith, 6. Mitchell Chapman, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Alister Campbell, 3. Guy Shepherdson, 2. John Ulugia, 1. Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16. Saia Faingaa, 17. Ben Alexander, 18. Peter Kimlin, 19. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 20. Julian Salvi, 21. Patrick Phibbs, 22. Matt Toomua.
HIGHLANDERS vs BLUES, DUNEDIN, SATURDAY 09:35
JC’s call:The Blues have won only two of their six games in Dunedin, but head into this match needing five log points. Nick Evans’s switch with Isa Nacewa has proved inspired in recent games, and scrumhalf Taniela Moa has also proved more effective on attack. The abrasive back row of the Blues should win the battle at the breakdown, while an All Blacks front row should hand the Landers contingent a free lesson. The South Islanders are no easy beats, but a desperate Blues team finding some late form should put them away comfortably.
Blues by 12.
Kempo’s call: That Highlanders side is better than one thinks. They have just travelled, but they are at the House of Pain! N v S derby’s in NZ are a bit like the Sharks-Stormers games of old. Expect a bit of rough and rumble, but I agree that the front five will be found wanting. The loose forward battle will be tight, and Nick Evans might just be the difference at the end of the day.
Blues by 5.
Highlanders - 15 Paul Williams, 14 Glen Horton, 13 Aaron Bancroft, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Craig Newby (captain), 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Jason MacDonald, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 David Hall, 17 Chris King, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Steven Setephano, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Daniel Bowden, 22 Niva Ta’auso.
Blues - 15 Nick Evans, 14 David Smith, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Taniela Moa; 8 Nick Williams, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Troy Flavell (c)/Kurtis Haiu, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock/Nick White.
Subs: 16 White/Tom McCartney, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Haiu/Bryn Evans, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Danny Lee, 21 Isaia Toeava, 22 Ben Atiga.
REDS vs CRUSADERS, BRISBANE, SATURDAY 11:40
JC’s call:The mismatch of the weekend. The Reds welcome back Chris Latham, but as a unit they just don’t have the class to compete with the Crusaders. Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes have produced some good touches on attack, but they will be a soft target for the direct Saders inside backs and hard-running loosies. The Saders have the best pack in the competition, and their demolition of the Reds eight will set the platform for a comfortable win.
Crusaders by 20.
Kempo’s call: Just read the Crusaders team sheet, and you’ll find they’re resting players – it’s not that rotation crap coaches throw around. I agree with you JC, it will be a try-fest, although that’s if the snow doesn’t freeze the pitch. Chris Latham is class, the rest simply don’t cut it. The Reds will be dominated in the tight and loose exchanges, so it will be a comfy Crusade!
Crusaders by 20 or more.
Reds – Chris Latham, Clinton Schifcofske, Morgan Turinui, Berrick Barnes, Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Leroy Houston, David Croft, Poutasi Luafutu, James Horwill (c), Van Humphries, Dayna Edwards, Stephen Moore, Ben Coutts.Subs: Sean Hardman, Ben Daley, Ed O’Donoghue, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Charlie Fetoai, Digby Ioane.
Crusaders -15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i; 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ti’i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crocket.
Subs: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 George Whitelock, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Daniel Carter, 22 Caleb Ralph.
SHARKS vs CHEETAHS, DURBAN, SATURDAY 15:00
JC’s call:The Cheetahs are better than their log position suggests, but their second half failings could cost them yet another narrow win. The Cheetahs have the forwards to meet the Sharks challenge up front, and it will be interesting to see how two potentially potent backlines match up. The key to victory is at halfback. Falie Oelschig and Conrad Barnard have struggled with their consistency when it comes to decision-making. The combination of Rory Kockott and Ruan Pienaar is still new, but if they settle early on Saturday the Cheetahs could be trouble.
Sharks by 7.
Kempo’s call: Which Super 14 have you been watching, JC? If they were better than their log points suggest, are you backing the Lions to lift the trophy next year? Falie Oelshig has been a lone stand in an average backline with no direction. Jongi Nokwe would have had Bok ambitions, until these last two weeks. The loose trio of the Cheetahs is outstanding, and Juan Smith a dominant force. The Kockott and Pienaar combo is a weak link, and the Cheetahs loose trio will make things difficult for a Sharks side who’ve failed to show the magic of last year.
Sharks by 3 to 5.
Sharks – TBC
Cheetahs - 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Conrad Barnard, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Duanne Vermeulen , 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Bevin Fortuin, 22 Hendrik Meyer.
LIONS vs CHIEFS, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY 17:05
JC’s call:The Chiefs have too much firepower for the Lions and should pick up the bonus-point win. The hosts have Jaque Fourie back at centre, but one man won’t be enough to stop the Hamilton side running in four tries. The visitors will be boosted by the return of lock Jono Gibbs and big men like Sione Lauaki will test the competitive Lions loose trio. The Chiefs will relish a tight encounter and if the game opens up, Lelia Masaga and company will be in business.
Chiefs by 15.
Kempo’s call: The Lions have one problem! Thanks to Earl Rose they take the field 20 points in arrears every match, and have to spend the rest of the day playing catch up. That and the typical ‘moer hulle’ attitude of a juvenile pack will see the Chiefs having a whale of a time this Saturday. Too fast, too slick, and I back the Chiefs to comfortably win the physical fight too.
Chiefs by 15 or more.
Lions – Earl Rose, Louis Ludik, Jaque Fourie, Walter Venter, Rayno Benjamin, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Jano Vermaak, Willem Alberts, Joe van Niekerk, Cobus Grobbelaar (c), Gerhard Mostert, Dewald Senekal, JC van Rensburg, Willie Wepener, Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: Ethienne Reynecke, Ross Geldenhuys, Franco van der Merwe, Wilhelm Koch, Chris Jonck, Jannie Boshoff, Dusty Noble.
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Dwayen Sweeney, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitivini Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jamie Nutbrown, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Aled De Malmanche, 17 Simon Lemalu, 18 Jono Gibbes, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 David Bason, 21 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 22 Sosene Anesi.
STORMERS vs WARATAHS, CAPE TOWN, SATURDAY 19:10
JC’s call:The pick of this weekend’s games. The loss of Schalk Burger is huge, and the Stormers loose trio of Luke Watson, Francois Louw and Robbie Diack will have their hands full with a Wallabies back row. This is why the performance of the tight five is so crucial. The Tahs have a world-class line-out jumper in Dan Vickerman, but the Stormers Andries Bekker is no slouch. The Stormers scrum was a problem against the Brumbies, but the Waratahs have lost Matt Dunning following the defeat to the Bulls. The Stormers are blessed with some experienced backs with five Springboks and a Fijian international in the run-on side. This could prove the difference at Newlands, but only if the Stormers pack provides Peter Grant and company with front-foot ball.
Stormers by 5.
Kempo’s call: It will be a humdinger. The back rows should match up, although there are not too many players in the world who match up to Phil Waugh. I back Andries Bekker to have the better of his fellow countryman Dan Vickerman. The Stormers front row is worry, but for what they lack in scrumming prowess they more than make up for it in the tight-loose. It’s a tight one, and one where experience will win the day. Conditioning will be a factor, and one hopes this is not that game too far for the Stormers. It will be a three-point swing either way, and my SA bias goes with the Stormers.
Stormers by 3.
Stormers - Conrad Jantjes, Wylie Human, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (c), Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Enrico Januarie, Robbie Diack, Francois Louw, Luke Watson, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Schalk Brits, Brian Mujati.
Subs: Deon Fourie, Schalk Ferreira, Ross Skeate, Pieter Myburgh, Bolla Conradie, Tony Brown, Dylan des Fountain.
Waratahs (likely) - B Robinson, T Polota-Nau, A Baxter, D Mumm, D Vickerman, R Elsom, P Waugh, W Palu, L Burgess, K Beale, M Carraro, T Carter, R Horne, L Turner, L Tuqiri.
Subs: A Freier, S Kepu, W Caldwell, D Lyons, S Norton-Knight, B Sheehan.