Keo.co.za brings you the latest from New Zealand’s Super 14 franchises.
Blues wary of bottom-feeders
Shane Howarth believes the fact that the Cheetahs have nothing to lose makes them a dangerous outfit.
The Blues assistant coach said the Cheetahs have the ability to hurt the hosts in Albany, even though the Blues only lost narrowly to the tournament-favourite Sharks last week.
“It’s a dangerous game,” he told rugbyheaven.co.nz. “Everyone is writing the Cheetahs off. But we have had a good look at them and they are one of the African sides that like having a go.
“They are in that area where it doesn’t really bother them what they do. They can really have a crack now and that’s a dangerous, dangerous side to play.”
The Blues can climb the Super 14 ladder to finish the round in the top four if they secure a bonus-point victory, but as Howarth suggests, taking the Cheetahs lightly could prove costly.
“It’s not a coach’s cliché that if you are off by 10 percent in this competition you can get hurt by anyone,” he said. “Certainly that’s the attitude we are taking going into this match. We need to be right on top of our game to get over them. They had their moments against the Hurricanes last week.”
Rene Ranger returns to partner Joe Rokocoko on the wing while Anthony Tuitavake is back into the centres alongside Michael Hobbs.
Blues – Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger, Anthony Tuitavake, Michael Hobbs, Joe Rokocoko, Jimmy Gopperth, Taniela Moa, Jerome Kaino, Justin Collins, Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Kurtis Haiu, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (c), Tony Woodcock.
Subs: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Jay Williams, Onosa’i Auva’a, Chris Smylie, Jamie Helleur, Winston Stanley.
McCaw targets Sharks clash
Injured Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw hopes to be fit for next month’s match against the Sharks.
McCaw hurt his knee in Saturday’s loss to the Highlanders and will be out of action for six weeks. The Crusaders are also without Jared Payne, Leon MacDonald, Kade Poki, Casey Laulala and Sean Maitland for various periods while Corey Flynn is out for the season with a broken arm.
“It has been a bit of a struggle, I’ve never seen an injury list like this,” Blackadder said, “and it does compound the issues after losing those senior players from last year.
“But the positives are that these other guys get to have a go, it is a great chance for them to show what they can do.
“Nothing has rocked our self-belief or confidence.”
George Whitelock will replace McCaw at openside flank.
Mils set to front Highlanders
All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina is likely to face the Highlanders this Saturday.
The Chiefs stalwart has missed the last three matches because of a back injury but took part in Tuesday’s training session. He said he’s confident of passing a late fitness test to join a Chiefs side that has been unlucky thus far.
“We’re making little wee inroads into the mistakes we are making and it is those crucial little things we have to get right,” Muliaina said. “We’re playing a lot more rugby, but it would be nice to see those passes stick and the mistakes not come in the opposition 22 when we are right on attack.”
No 8 Sione Lauaki should also be back but the Chiefs may travel to Invercargill without Sitiveni Sivivatu who is battling a shoulder injury. Sosene Anesi has already been ruled out for the next six weeks also due to a shoulder ailment.
Coles handed temporary reprieve
Bad boy Dane Coles will see out the Super 14 but may be sentenced if he steps out of line again.
The Hurricanes hooker has admitted to abusing and manhandling police officers on 21 February. His attorney argued that the drunken incident was not worth a conviction, but the judge ruled Coles’s previous offences meant Coles wouldn’t be let off the hook completely.
He has been handed a reprieve but Judge Jan Kelly said he will have to return to court for sentencing if called upon in the next six months.
This thread will be updated throughout the day.