Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.
The Highlanders tossed up the only surprise of round four with an uninspiring 6-0 win over the Crusaders. Round five has proved a bit tougher to call with the Aussie derby in Canberra and the Kiwi clash in Invercargill sure to be closely contested affairs. The Sharks will do the business in Brisbane while the Stormers will secure a win before heading Down Under.
Following a poor performance in Perth, a shocker at Suncorp Stadium and a nightmare in New Plymouth, there is only agony in store for the Cheetahs in Albany.
KEO.CO.ZA SUPER 14 SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 81% (22/27)
JC: 63 % (17/27)
BLUES vs CHEETAHS, ALBANY, FRIDAY 08:35
Vrede’s call: Ah, the round starts off with an easy prediction in favour of the Blues. The Cheetahs have been diabolical on tour and they won’t pick up a victory in Albany. Paul Williams and flanker Josh Blackie are the latest additions to a lengthy Blues injury list but with the inclusion of All Blacks lock Ali Williams and exciting winger Rene Ranger they still possess enough class across all facets to down the Cheetahs. They have, however, been atrocious on defence (they have the tournament’s worst record) and the Cheetahs will look to exploit this weakness. The trouble for the visitors will be keeping the Blues from breaching theirs. Blues by 10
JC’s call: The Blues sit at fifth on the competition log but haven’t looked like serious play-off contenders. They boast the big names but are far from a complete unit. That said, they have enough to paddle the Cheetahs at home, with the Blues’ tight five set to boss the visitors in the scrums and at the breakdown. David de Villiers will contest strongly at the lineout, and if the other jumpers can provide support the Cheetahs will threaten from their own ball. They’ve opted for the more attacking flyhalf option in Jacques-Louis Potgieter which indicates a running approach, and depending on the success of Meyer Bosman and Corne Uys in midfield their backline could trouble the hosts. Sadly, one feels the Blues will bounce back from whatever deficit or early upset the Cheetahs manage to inflict, as they are not a side known for their 80-minute performances. It won’t be a complete rout, but the Blues will rack up the points in the final quarter. Blues by 15
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.
Cheetahs - Hennie Daniller, Danwel Demas, Corne Uys, Meyer Bosman, Jongi Nokwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Tewis de Bruyn, Hendro Scholtz (c), Wayne van Heerden, Heinrich Brussow, David de Villiers, Nico Breedt, Bees Roux, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez.
Subs: Richardt Strauss, Kobus Calldo, Francois Uys, Kabamba Floors, Sarel Pretorius, Piet van Zyl, Fabian Juries.
BRUMBIES vs WARATAHS, CANBERRA, FRIDAY 10:40
Vrede’s call: Man this is a tough call but I’m backing the Brumbies to halt the Tahs’ four-game winning streak. The match is likely to be won and lost in the forwards as they will determine the attacking platform for two talented and dangerous backlines. This Wallaby-laden clash features a number of head-to-heads which could prove decisive to the outcome, none more so than the breakdown battle between the Brumbies’ George Smith and the Tahs’ Phil Waugh. A single try scored from turnover ball could be the difference in what is expected to be a closely fought affair. Brumbies by 5
JC’s call: The Brumbies were lucky to win a few early games, and up against a structured Waratahs side they may finally get their just deserts. Smith is certain to be a menace at the tackle but the power of the Tahs tight-five will allow the visiting loose trio to gain the ascendancy. This will in turn allow the Waratahs backs to flourish, be it through an accurate kicking game or an expansive attack. Waratahs by 5
Brumbies - Mark Gerrard, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stirling Mortlock, Tyrone Smith, Francis Fainifo, Christian Lealiifano, Joshua Holmes, Stephen Hoiles (c), George Smith, Peter Kimlin, Mark Chisholm, Ben Hand, Guy Shepherdson, Stephen Moore, Nic Henderson.
Subs: Huia Edmonds, Ben Alexander, Sitaleki Timani/Shawn Mackay, Julian Salvi, Patrick Phibbs, Matt Toomua, Clyde Rathbone.
Waratahs – Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Timana Tahu, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh (c), Dean Mumm, Will Caldwell, Chris Thomson, Dan Palmer, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Subs: Adam Freier, Jeremy Tilse, Luke Doherty, Ben Mowen, Brett Sheehan, Daniel Halangahu, Tom Carter.
CRUSADERS vs FORCE, CHRISTCHURCH, SATURDAY 06:30
Vrede’s call: I never thought the day would come when I’d predict a defeat for the Crusaders in Christchurch. Their match 22 has a vulnerable look about it and while the Force are hardly world-beaters themselves, they’ll be confident of inflicting a fourth-straight defeat on the defending champions. The Crusaders have done little to shatter the perception that they lose an edge when their talismanic captain Richie McCaw is not playing. Expect Force openside David Pocock to boss the breakdown and in so doing give his side the edge. The Force usually wouldn’t be given a chance of maintaining parity with the Crusaders, but their forwards should give flyhalf Matt Giteau the platform he requires to conjure his spells. Force by 5
JC’s call: The mighty have fallen to an unexpected depth – the latest injury to McCaw curtailing their modest chances significantly. Leon MacDonald returns to boost the backline and Stephen Brett will give his side more direction at flyhalf, but the Crusaders will struggle without Andy Ellis at the base. The Force have been average and suffered defeat in Hamilton last week, but have a golden opportunity to topple the current champs at home. The Saders will scrap for all they’re worth in the forward exchanges, but should ultimately be outdone by a stronger Force backline. Force by 5
Crusaders – Leon MacDonald, Adam Whitelock, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Colin Slade, Stephen Brett, Kahn Fotuali’i, Thomas Waldrom, George Whitelock, Kieran Read (c), Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Bronson Murray, Jason Macdonald, Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: Dan Perrin, Owen Franks, Ross Filipo, Nasi Manu, Tyson Keats, Hamish Gard, Blair Cook.
Force – Drew Mitchell, Nick Cummins, Ryan Cross, James O’Connor, Cameron Shepherd, Matt Giteau, Josh Valentine, Tamaiti Horua, David Pocock, Richard Stanford, Nathan Sharpe (c), David Pusey, Ben Castle, Tai McIsaac, Pek Cowan.
Subs: Luke Holmes, AJ Whalley, Tom Hockings, Matt Hodgson, Chris O’Young, Junior Pelesasa, Haig Sare.
HIGHLANDERS vs CHIEFS, INVERCARGILL, SATURDAY 08:35
Vrede’s call: The Highlanders sneaked home against the Crusaders in what must have been one of the worst Super Rugby games in history, but their joy will be short-lived, with the Chiefs my pick to take five points in Dunedin. They were very impressive in their emphatic victory over the Force, showing intelligence and patience in their approach – a hybrid of phase play in the first three quarters and attack through the wide channels thereafter. If they replicate that approach against the Highlanders, they should secure their second bonus-point victory in as many weeks. However, if they revert to the expansive game they open themselves to being hit on the counterattack where the Highlanders have done well all season. Chiefs by 10
JC’s call: I smell another clanger – last week it was in Dunedin and this week we’ll see a repeat in Invercargill. This Kiwi derby should bring out the best and worst of both packs, both of whom are renowned for their physicality. While the Highlanders boast mongrel, the Chiefs look technically superior and have too much class in their back division to be repelled by an average Landers defence. Be it through a set-move or in broken play, the Chiefs backs will have the telling say. Chiefs by 7
Highlanders - Israel Dagg/Ben Smith, Ben Smith/Kendrick Lynn, Jason Shoemark, Johnny Leota, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Daniel Bowden, Jimmy Cowan (C), Steven Setephano, Tim Boys, Adam Thomson, Hayden Triggs, Josh Bekhuis, Clint Newland, David Hall, Chris King.
Subs – Jason Rutledge, Anthony Perenise, Tom Donnelly, George Naoupu, Sean Romans, Matthew Berquist, Kendrick Lynn/Jayden Hayward.
Chiefs - Mils Muliaina (c), Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui, Jackson Willison, James Wilson, Stephen Donald, Toby Morland, Liam Messam, Serge Lilo, Tanerau Latimer, Kevin O’Neill, Craig Clarke, Ben May, Aled de Malmanche, Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: Hika Elliot, James McGougan, Mark Burman, Sione Lauaki/Colin Bourke, Brendon Leonard, Mike Delany, Dwayne Sweeney.
REDS vs SHARKS, BRISBANE, SATURDAY 11:05
Vrede’s call: Nothing points to a loss for the Sharks barring the statistics. Still, after their comprehensive win against the Blues it seems silly to suggest they could stumble against the rubble Reds. They have 14 Springboks in their squad (11 in their starting line-up) and are superior in all facets. Only complacency or fatigue can rob them of five points and I suspect neither will be an issue with the Durban boys marching on to claim five from five. The Reds’ primary threat lies in a backline marshalled by Wallabies Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes, a pair that are vital to the expansive style adopted by the Reds this year. However, nullifying their pack will dilute their potency and if the Sharks manage this there are no other identifiable threats. Sharks by 10
JC’s call: It’s a form of sugar-coating to describe the Reds as ‘just not good enough’, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. Cooper and Barnes hold the key to an upset and their space needs to be limited. You’d bank on the Sharks defence repelling their intentions, and only a lack of concentration will cause that dam wall to leak. On attack, they should help themselves to the four-try bonus with Rory Kockott and Ruan Pienaar at the creative core. With finishers like JP Pietersen, Stefan Terblanche and Adi Jacobs in tow, it’d be criminal for the would-be champs to walk away with anything less than five log points. Sharks by 15
Reds – Mark McLinden, Blair Connor, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes (c), Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas; Leroy Houston, Daniel Braid, Scott Higginbotham, Hugh McMeniman, Adam Byrnes, Laurie Weeks, Sean Hardman, Ben Daley.
Subs: Saia Faingaa, Jack Kennedy, Ezra Taylor, Poutasi Luafutu, Will Genia, Anthony Faingaa, Rod Davies.
Sharks – Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (C), Steven Sykes, John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: Deon Carstens, Jannie du Plessis, Albert van den Berg, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Ross Cronje, Riaan Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu.
STORMERS vs LIONS, CAPE TOWN, SATURDAY 17:00
Vrede’s call: The beautiful letdowns were true to form last week but they’ll pull it back against a Lions side in year four of a three-year plan. But it won’t be pretty. The South African derbies have been predominantly forward-orientated and this one will be no different. The fact that kicking machine Willem de Waal has been preferred to Peter Grant suggests the Stormers will look to play in Lions territory. Expect Andre Pretorius to fulfill a similar role for the Lions. The powder-puff Stormers pack will hold their own against the over-hyped Lions bunch, which will give a misfiring backline another opportunity to realise coach Rassie Erasmus’ romantic vision of what his team should play like. The breakdown scrap between Cobus Grobbelaar and Luke Watson will be interesting, with the victor edging his side ahead in the contest. It’ll be ugly but the Stormers will take an ugly win right about now. Stormers by 5
JC’s call: The return of Schalk Burger cannot be underestimated, especially for a breakdown battle of this magnitude. Together with Duane Vermeulen and Watson, Burger will fancy his chances against the Lions’ loosies even though the tight-fives should cancel each other out. The Stormers should win the lineout while the Lions may edge the scrums thanks to Heinke van der Merwe, but the boys in blue have shown more intensity and accuracy at the collision. The use of centres Jean de Villiers and Gcobani Bobo will also be crucial, as Willem de Waal needs to avoid being too predictable with his option taking. Whatever you say in the dissection of this derby, it boils down to the fact that if the Stormers can’t beat the Lions at Newlands, they really don’t stand a chance of making the play-offs. They haven’t been great, but they’re still good enough to cull these kittens. Stormers by 7
Stormers - Percy Montgomery, Nick Koster, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (c), Sireli Naqelevuki, Willem de Waal, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: Deon Fourie, JD Moller, AJ Venter, Francois Louw, Dewaldt Duvenhage, Peter Grant, Tonderai Chavhanga.
Lions – Louis Ludik, Ashwin Willemse, Jaque Fourie, Barry Goodes, Henno Mentz, Andre Pretorius, Jano Vermaak, Willem Alberts, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobbelaar (c), Jannes Labuschagne, Anton van Zyl, Lawrence Sephaka, Willie Wepener, Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: Hans van Dyk, Gert Muller, Gerhard Mostert, Todd Clever, Chris Jonck, Earl Rose, Shandre Frolick.
By Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede