Super 14 preview: Round seven

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

Round six witnessed some incredible upsets and while Aussie fans may be crying, South Africans are certainly smiling. The 14-man Bulls hammered the Hurricanes and the Lions mauled the inconsistent Brumbies. The Sharks reaffirmed their top-four status by flaying the Force and in Sydney the incumbent champs sounded a warning with an unlikely victory over the Waratahs. And don’t forget the try-fest in Hamilton. It was a defensive shambles but an attacking gem.

Round seven sees four elementary calls with Vrede and JC butting heads over the results in Auckland and Christchurch. Vrede’s backing both home teams to do the business while JC expects the Tahs and Stormers to dismantle the undercooked hosts.

VREDE: 74% (29/39)
JC: 59% (23/39)

Round six:
VREDE: 3/6
JC: 3/6
Round five
VREDE: 4/6
JC: 3/6
Round four
VREDE: 5/6
JC: 5/6
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 Blues were absolutely murdered by the Chiefs while the Waratahs lost their second successive match, so picking a winner from these two is pretty tough. The Blues have shown a vulnerability against opposition who are rigidly structured (like the Tahs) but if they can shore up their defence and resist the urge to play expansively from the outset they should win. The Tahs haven’t won at Eden Park in seven attempts and despite boasting a Wallaby-laden side, won’t break that drought. Blues by 7
JC’s call: My 2009 prediction record prescribes a conservative approach while the Waratahs’ losing streak suggests a change in tact, but I can’t bring myself to pick the Blues. The team has battled as a unit, and important figures like scrumhalf Taniela Moa have been at the heart of their lack of synergy. The backline has struggled to settle and this week sees another chop and change. Although Isaia Toeava is back where he belongs at 13, it all depends on the distribution of Moa and Jimmy Gopperth as well as the efficiency of a disjointed pack. The Waratahs have the beef up front and the solidity out wide to frustrate the Blues. They should beat them easily, but because of their own battle for momentum, it’ll be a tight affair. Tahs by 3

Blues - 15 Paul Williams, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Onosai’i Auva’a, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tevita Mailau.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Rene Ranger.

Waratahs – 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Chris Thomson, 19 Luke Doherty, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Kurtley Beale, 22 Timana Tahu.


Vrede’s call: The Bulls were outstanding against the Canes and if they execute that simple game plan in Palmerston North they’ll bag two tour wins in as many matches. They’ll dominate the scrums and lineouts, robbing the Landers of those attacking platforms. All that remains is to ensure they don’t feed the Highlanders with broken-field ball through poor tactical kicking and turnover ball. Sounds simple and it will be for a rampant Blou Masjien. Bulls by 12
JC’s call: The Bulls clicked in Wellington, but no victory against the Highlanders is ever guaranteed. The Mullet Men make you scrap and the Bulls will need to replicate the physicality of last week. Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn will drive the Landers back into their own half with some raking punts, but the Bulls also have the firepower to make the Kiwis hurt in midfield. It’ll be a boring first 40, but if the Bulls do it right, they could end this fixture with a bang. Bulls by 10

Highlanders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Daniel Bowden, 11 Kendrick Lynn, 10 Matthew Berquist, 9 Jimmy Cowan (c), 8 George Naoupu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Clint Newland, 2 David Hall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Steven Setephano, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Johnny Leota, 22 Fetu’u Vainikolo.

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Danie Rossouw, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gürthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jacques Burger, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Jacobus Nel.


Vrede’s call: The beautiful letdowns have had a week in which to reflect on a poor start to the season and plot the way forward. Sadly for the Stormers’ faithful the battering they gave the Lions will have fuelled coach Rassie Erasmus’s belief that they can run teams off their feet without paying too much attention to establishing a good platform. The Crusaders, despite being a shadow of the team that won the 2008 title, will absorb the pressure and punish the mistakes which have become an all too familiar feature of the Stormers’ play. The scrums and lineouts should be an even contest, but the Stormers will have the edge at the breakdown where their loose trio and hooker Schalk Brits could trouble the Crusaders. If the Stormers stifle the Saders’ flow on attack and get clean ball going forward they could cause an upset. But I don’t think they will. Crusaders by 7
JC’s call: This is a massively important encounter for the Stormers as they begin their most difficult tour to date. It’s going to be an arm-wrestle, with both teams reluctant to spread the ball in the early stages. The respective halfback combinations will be vital, and although Stephen Brett may shade Willem de Waal in the attacking department, the veteran is superior with the boot. With Peter Grant and Percy Montgomery in tow, the Stormers will feel confident about winning this battle. With ball in hand, De Waal will be under scrutiny as the Stormers won’t get many opportunities to breach a well-drilled Saders defence. It’ll be close, but the Stormers have the big names for the big occasion, and thanks to their recent lashing of the Lions, they should have the momentum and confidence too. Stormers by 5

Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tim Bateman/Ryan Crotty, 11 Colin Slade, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Nasi Manu, 6 Kieran Read (c), 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Dan Perrin, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Crotty/Hamish Gard, 22 Kade Poki.

Stormers – 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Gcobani Bobo, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Peter Grant, 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 AJ Venter, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 JD Moller, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 21 Dylan des Fountain, 22 Conrad Jantjes.


Vrede’s call: I had goosebumps watching the Chiefs smash the Blues and suspect the Reds could be on the receiving end of a similar clout. The Blues chose to counter-punch through an expansive game which simply played into the Chiefs’ hands. The Reds, wary of their inferiority in the forwards, will attempt to do the same and don’t expect the outcome to be different. They just don’t have the forwards to play the structured game that troubles the Chiefs. The Chiefs will concede a couple of tries, it’s just their way, but will score enough to ensure that they’re never under pressure. Chiefs by 12
JC’s call: The Reds are due a roasting and if the Chiefs finish in the same manner as last week the bonus point should be a formality. They have the ability to play loose or tight, and it is the latter approach that must be favoured in Brisbane. The Sharks came unstuck two weeks ago while the Stormers nearly stumbled in round two, and although the Reds aren’t title contenders they are still dangerous in broken play. The Chiefs have the momentum, the class and the might to rout the Reds this weekend. Chiefs by 15

Reds – 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Blair Connor, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Jack Kennedy, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Poutasi Luafutu, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Charlie Fetoai.

Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben May, 2 Hikawera Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 James McGougan, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.


Vrede’s call: The Brumbies were beaten by the second-worst South African franchise last week and will be klapped by the Republic’s best this weekend. Their primary threats are openside flank George Smith, centre Stirling Mortlock and fullback Mark Gerrard. However, as the Lions proved last week, their influence is nullified if the forwards are getting smashed and the primary kickers aren’t on song. The Sharks will pound them at scrum time and dominate collisions, paving the way for a five-point haul. Sharks by 15
JC’s call: The Brumbies blew hot in their win over the Waratahs and cold in their capitulation to the Lions, but even their best won’t be enough to upset the Sharks in Durban. They lack a decent decision-maker at 10 and their best backline player, Gerrard, is wasted at 15. The Sharks’ pack has been prominent and should affect a systematic demolition of the Brumbies this Saturday. Sharks by 10

Sharks - 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Keegan Daniel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 John Smit, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Skholiwe Ndlovu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu.

Brumbies – 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joshua Holmes, 8 Julian Salvi, 7 George Smith (c), 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Salesi Maafu, 18 Shawn Mackay, 19 Peter Kimlin, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Alfi Mafi, 22 Matt Toomua.


Vrede’s call: Jislaaik, Loffie’s boys surprised a few with their against-all-odds win over the Brumbies last week, hey? Well, normal service will resume against the Hurricanes on Saturday. The Canes are one of the better touring sides, having won nine from 14 matches in South Africa since 2003. The altitude will be a factor but they possess enough class across the park to sneak a win. Loffie’s pussycats will be brave and competitive for the first 60 minutes but capitulate thereafter. Canes by 7
JC’s call: Last Saturday was not the beginning of a turnaround, I’m afraid. The Lions’ pack won’t be able to replicate the Bulls’ physical assault that was so significant in the Canes’ surrender in Wellington. The Hurricanes’ defence is also one up on the Brumbies, with the experienced combination of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith unlikely to slip many tackles in midfield. Piri Weepu had a ‘mare last Friday, but has been a good pick at pivot for the Canes. If the visitors can achieve any sort of platform, their potent back division will run riot. Canes by 10

Lions – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Ashwin Willemse, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Henno Mentz, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Todd Clever, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (c), 5 Jannes Labuschagne, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Lawrence Sephaka, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Hans van Dyk, 17 Gert Muller, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Earl Rose, 22 Shandre Frolick.

Hurricanes – 15 Tamati Ellison, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Rodney So’oialo (c), 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Dane Coles, 1 John Schwalger.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Api Naikatini, 20 Willie Ripia, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 Cory Jane.

By Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede