Super 14 preview: Round four

Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.

Round three was a shocker for Super 14 predictors. The bumbling Blues upset the Stormers, the Crusaders came unstuck against the revitalised Hurricanes while the Brumbies bungled a home fixture against the fallible Force. The Cheetahs? Well if they can’t beat the rubble Reds, there’s not much hope for them.

This weekend sees five easy calls with the only close game in Auckland. Both JC and Vrede are backing the Sharks to do the business. By the end of the round, the Sharks and Bulls will retain their places in the top four.

VREDE: 81% (17/21)
JC: 57 % (12/21)

Round three
VREDE: 4/7
JC: 3/7
Round two
VREDE: 7/7
JC: 7/7
Round one
VREDE: 6/7
JC: 2/7


Vrede’s call: The Chiefs made an exponential improvement against the Sharks last week only to be denied by outstanding defence in the last 10 minutes. The Force were impressive at times in their victory over the Brumbies, but victory in Hamilton will be a step too far for John Mitchell’s side. They’ll be second best up front and this will mean they’ll defend for the majority of the contest and be pressured on attack. If they kick poorly the Chiefs will rip them to shreds on the counterattack. However, the Chiefs have shown a vulnerability against teams who are patient enough to build through the phases and if the Force achieve this they could come away with the points. That said, I’m going with the Chiefs here but it won’t be by a country mile. Chiefs by 7-10
JC’s call: The Chiefs will miss Sione Lauaki, but their pack still has the grit and mongrel to best this Aussie mob, providing of course they slow them down at the tackle point. Both teams excel in broken play but the Chiefs will prosper if they play a more structured game. They have to close down Matt Giteau, while on attack a good platform should allow Sitiveni Sivivatu, Lelia Masaga and Richard Kahui to flourish. This is a big game for Stephen Donald, an All Black up against his Wallaby opposite number. His performance will influence the outcome, and the strength of his pack should hand him an edge. Chiefs by 7

Chiefs - Sosene Anesi, Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui, Callum Bruce, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Liam Messam (c), Serge Lilo, Tanerau Latimer, Kevin O’Neill, Craig Clarke, James McGougan, Aled de Malmanche, Ben May.
Subs: Hika Elliot, Joe Savage, Toby Lynn, Colin Bourke, Toby Morland, Mike Delany, Jackson Willison.

Force – Drew Mitchell, Nick Cummins, Ryan Cross, Junior Pelesasa, Cameron Shepherd, Matt Giteau, Josh Valentine, Matt Hodgson, David Pocock, Tamaiti Horua, Nathan Sharpe (c), Tom Hockings, Ben Castle, Tai McIsaac, Pek Cowan.
Subs: Luke Holmes, AJ Whalley, David Pusey, Richard Stanford, Chris O’Young, James O’Connor, Haig Sare.


Vrede’s call: I backed the rubble Reds last week when JC’s desire to become mayor of Bloemfontein clouded his judgement (I told you so mate). There has been some quality banter between the sides in the lead-up to this match. Firstly, the overhyped Reds pivot Quade Cooper said the Tahs play a “simple, boring style”. Lote Tuqiri, never one to miss an opportunity to shoot his mouth off, countered with the pearler, “I know I would rather be entertaining the crowd come Super 14 semi-final time than entertaining friends at an end-of-season barbecue.” Classic. Now go to the naughty corner Quade. The Tahs will maul the Reds in all facets and coach Phil Mooney will again lament missed opportunities. You’re not missing good opportunities mate, you’re missing a good side. Tahs by 15
JC’s call: The Aussies are billing this as a great derby, but it should be a one-sided rout. The Reds’ touch rugby approach will be bulldozed by the Waratahs’ characteristic defence, and watch for Cooper’s first dancing side-step (you know, the ridiculous leap that has more air-time than Jordan) as it’s duly smashed by ‘Cliffie Palu. The Tahs have too much class in the back row with Phil Waugh set to dominate the tackle, and the hosts’ tight five should also manhandle the Reds. Anything less than a bonus-point win for the Tahs should be considered a failure. Tahs by 12

Waratahs – Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh (c), Ben Mowen, Will Caldwell, Dean Mumm, Al Baxter, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Subs: Adam Freier, Dan Palmer, Chris Thomson, Dave Dennis, Brett Sheehan, Daniel Halangahu, Timana Tahu.

Reds – Mark McLinden, Digby Ioane, Charlie Fetoai, Berrick Barnes (c), Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Leroy Houston, Daniel Braid, Scott Higginbotham, Hugh McMeniman, Van Humphries, Dayna Edwards, Sean Hardman, Greg Holmes.
Subs: Saia Faingaa, Laurie Weeks, Adam Byrnes, Poutasi Luafutu, Will Genia, Anthony Faingaa, Blair Connor.


Vrede’s call: Are you backing the Cheetahs here too, JC? I dare you. The Cheetahs are getting caned in New Plymouth. Don’t underestimate the confidence the Canes gained from their win in Christchurch. They can’t be matched by a limited Cheetahs side sans captain Juan Smith and featuring 10 changes. Expect the Canes to run the Cheetahs ragged and bag the bonus point. Canes by 20
JC’s call: I don’t think I’d call this one in the Cheetahs’ favour for all the brandy in Bloemfontein. Without Smith and Brussow, and with a tight five that is more hype than substance, you’d expect the Cheetahs forwards to come short. With a strong platform, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith will pulverise the Cheetahs defence in midfield. Piri Weepu is also looking a better bet at 10 for the Canes, and expect him to dominate proceedings in a high-scoring rout. Canes by 20 plus

Hurricanes – Tamati Ellison, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson, Rodney So’oialo, Scott Waldrom, Karl Lowe, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Tim Fairbrother, Dane Coles, Neemia Tialata.
Subs: Andrew Hore/Ged Robinson, John Schwalger, Api Naikatini, Faifili Levave, Willie Ripia, Jason Kawau, David Smith.

Cheetahs - Hennie Daniller, Bjorn Basson, Piet van Zyl, Hanno Coetzee, Jongi Nokwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Sarel Pretorius, Hendro Scholtz (c), Wayne van Heerden, Heinrich Brussow, David de Villiers, Flip van der Merwe, Bees Roux, Richardt Strauss, Wian du Preez
Subs: Adriaan Strauss, Jean Botha, Francois Uys, Kabamba Floors, Tewis de Bruyn, Meyer Bosman, Danwell Demas.


Vrede’s call: The Blues are hardly the impressive unit they’ve been over the last couple of seasons but remain dangerous, particularly at home. They will be buoyed by the win at Newlands but tired after a couple of weeks in the Republic. The Sharks boast a formidable starting line-up but lack depth on their bench beyond the reserve front rowers. Expect this one to be fairly direct with neither side wanting to make a mistake. I suspect a moment of individual brilliance will separate the sides and that moment is likely to come from a Sharks player with Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn my picks to conjure something magical and match winning. Sharks by 5
JC’s call: The Blues boast several gamebreakers but have been an unrealised threat thus far. The Sharks have the defensive might to cancel their attacking intention, but the forward exchanges are going to be crucial. Jannie du Plessis is up against Tony Woodcock at scrum-time, while Johann Muller will battle Ali Williams at the line-outs. The Sharks will edge the overall battle at the breakdown, as besides Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel they possess the irrepressible Bismarck du Plessis. The Blues have the potential to win this at home, but the synergy and belief in this Sharks outfit should see the South Africans through. Sharks by 7

Blues - Isaia Toeava, Paul Williams, Anthony Tuitavake, Jamie Helleur, Joe Rokocoko, Jimmy Gopperth, Taniela Moa, Chris Lowrey, Onosa’i Auva’a, Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Kurtis Haiu, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (c), Tony Woodcock.
Subs: Tom McCartney, Charlie Faumuina, Jay Williams, Josh Blackie, Chris Smylie, Michael Hobbs, Winston Stanley.

Sharks – Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockett, Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (C), Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: John Smit, Deon Carstens, Alistair Hargreaves, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Ross Cronje, Riaan Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu.


Vrede’s call: The Crusaders showed significant vulnerabilities against the Canes but they’ll have enough class to beat this bunch, even though the Highlanders will be boosted by the return of Jimmy Cowan. They Saders are superior in every facet of play. They’ll keep it close early on, pounding the hapless Highlanders, then open it up in the final quarter. Crusaders by 15
JC’s call: Richie McCaw had a nightmare return last week, but you’d expect him to run amok against a rudderless unit like the Highlanders. The Crusaders have the power up front to lay the platform, but much will depend on their young backline to finish. Colin Slade and Kahn Fotuali’i need to improve on their performance against the Canes, but the Saders’ forward dominance and relentless defence should secure the victory either way. It could be closer than most believe, but it’d be a catastrophe for the Crusaders to fall at Dunedin. Crusaders by 7

Highlanders – Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Jason Shoemark, Jayden Hayward, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Daniel Bowden, Jimmy Cowan (c), George Naoupu, Alando Soakai, Adam Thomson, Hayden Triggs, Josh Bekhuis, Clint Newland, David Hall, Chris King.
Subs: Jason Rutledge, Anthony Perenise, Tom Donnelly, Steven Setephano, Sean Romans, Mathew Berquist, Kendrick Lynn.

Crusaders – Stephen Brett, Jared Payne, Adam Whitelock, Tim Bateman, Blair Cook, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis/Kahn Fotuali’i, Thomas Waldrom, Richie McCaw (c), Kieran Read, Ross Filipo, Brad Thorn, Ben Franks/Bronson Murray, Jason Macdonald, Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: Dan Perrin, Bronson Murray/Owen Franks, Isaac Ross, George Whitelock, Kahn Fotuali’i/Tyson Keats, Ryan Crotty, Hamish Gard.


Vrede’s call: Watching the Bulls run through their drills at Loftus, you wonder just how the Cape Showpony Club can perform the miracle of beating them this Saturday. The Stormers were dreadful against the Blues and afterwards I had to endure a plethora of less than intelligent questions from some journalists (not you JC) and Rassie Erasmus publicly rebuking himself for the defeat. It brought a tear to my eye. Or maybe I was feeling emotional after watching the beautiful letdowns stuff it up in front of their faithful fans. Again. The Bulls will kick better (look out for Nick Koster being exposed under the high ball), defend better (watch the team in white slip more tackles than a Romanian fourth division team), excel at the breakdown (even though they have a hooker who plays like an openside flank) and attack more purposefully (the Stormers will find some way to cock up sure scoring opportunities). Eish, for a boytjie from Cape Town this is hard to say, but here goes: Die blou masjien gaan kook. Bulls by 10-15
JC’s call: The Bulls scrum will target Wicus Blaauw’s side, and Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha will rule the lineout. Luke Watson is another who’ll receive a warm welcome by the Bully Boys, and depending on Schalk Burger’s inclusion, the hosts will have an overwhelming run of things at the tackle. The Stormers’ only hope is for a more open game, and much will depend on how Generaal de Waal kicks at Loftus. On their home paddock, you’d have to back Bulls halfbacks to win the battle of the boot, with Fourie du Preez especially prominent with those box kicks on Koster’s wing. It would be the upset of upsets for the Stormers to win on this occasion, and unfortunately for the Cape franchise they lack the galvanising spark required for such feats. Bulls by 10

Bulls – Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Gerhard van den Heever, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez (c), Pierre Spies, Pedrie Wannenburg, Deon Stegmann, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: Derick Kuün, Rayno Gerber, Victor Matfield, Jacques Burger, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Jaco Pretorius.

Stormers – Percy Montgomery, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (c), Nick Koster, Willem de Waal, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, AJ Venter, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: Deon Fourie, Schalk Ferreira, Adriaan Fondse, Francois Louw, Dewaldt Duvenhage, Peter Grant, Sireli Naqelevuki.

By Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede