Super 14 previews: Round 12

Jon Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend. And the Bones, relegated to a shared thread, throws more in hope than with conviction.

The Cheetahs have looked a different entity on their home track, their recent wins over the Sharks and Crusaders responsible for their giant-killer status. No doubt the Bloem boys would have received two cases of premium brandewyn on Monday – one from the Bulls and one from the Sharks – in acknowledgment of their effort to help the top South African sides qualify for the play-offs.

Brandewyn went to Bloem, and inevitably another two cases were waiting at Cape Town International when the Stormers returned from tour after their win over the Highlanders. Both the Stormers and Cheetahs can help the Sharks and Bulls again this weekend with victories over the Chiefs and Force. Expect more joy in Bloemfontein, and more tears in Cape Town.

The Lions will also fail to provide support with the Crusaders set to strike back at Ellis Park. The Sharks will be too strong for the Mullet Men while the Bully Boys will do what they do best against the Force at fortress Loftus.

VREDE: 71% (50/70)
JC: 60% (42/70)
THE BONES: 60% (42/70)

Round 11
VREDE: 4/6
JC: 3/6
Round 10
VREDE: 3/7
JC: 4/7
Round nine
VREDE: 5/6
JC: 4/6
Round eight
VREDE: 5/6
JC: 4/6
Round seven
VREDE: 4/6
JC: 4/6
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: A belter lays in wait in Wellington and I suspect it will be the Canes celebrating after the final whistle. The fact that semi-final places are at stake for both sides will sadly result in a conservative approach, and in this regard the team that makes fewer errors should emerge victorious. There is nothing to choose between the tight fives and backline that both boast formidable players. The difference is confidence, and the Blues, who were awful in defeat to the Reds last week, come into this match low on it. They’ll lift their game this week, but it won’t be enough. The Canes will take a step closer to securing a home semi-final, while the Blues will watch their play-off chances fade. Canes by 7
JC’s call: The Canes were in full cry against the Brumbies and although the Blues may provide sterner resistance, the result should be the same. Alby Mathewson and Willie Ripia are keeping Piri Weepu on the bench for a reason, as they have been at the heart of the Canes’ most recent success. The Canes have all the talent and pace in the world out wide, and with this pair firing, expect the fact to be exploited. Complacency is the only danger on this occasion, as although the Blues will compete well at the set-pieces, the breakdown superiority of the Canes will enable the hosts to fire both on attack and the counterattack. The Blues’ play-off ambitions will take a debilitating knock with this loss. Canes by 10
THE BONES: Canes 10 plus
Hurricanes – 15 Tamati Ellison, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Rodney So’oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush,3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Api Naikatini, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 Robert Fruean.

Blues – 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Kurtis Haiu, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Jay Williams, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18, Dean Budd, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Grayson Hart, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Paul Williams.


Vrede’s call: Despite the big boss destroying my credibility by writing in his weekly newsletter that I backed the Lions against the Force (I did, in fact, call the Force to win by 10), I’ll soldier on. In fact, this week I was almost tempted to destroy my own credibility and back Loffie’s laughable lot to put one over a McCaw-less Crusaders. Captain Fantastic makes the world of difference to the defending champs and his absence gives the Lions a fighting chance of victory. But they’re rubbish and won’t be good enough to capitalise on this. The Cheetahs showed last week that the percentage game works against the defending champions. They gradually wore them down through phase play and kicked well enough to minimise their exposure to counter-attacking surges from deep. The Lions were too busy getting a refresher course on Loffie’s three-year plan to bother analysing the video of that match and will attempt to play expansively. No surprises here, they’ll lose again. Crusaders by 7
JC’s call: The Saders receive a formidable boost with Leon MacDonald, Andy Ellis and Kieran Read on the park from the outset, an advantage they didn’t have last week. They’ll miss McCaw, even though he was outclassed by Heinrich Brussow and Juan Smith last week, but given the Lions are still without Baywatch Grobbelaar, the visitors needn’t worry. Jaque Fourie will look to expose the inexperienced Crusaders midfield, but unless the fickle Lions fire instead of fade, the Bok No 13 will once again struggle for support. The Saders have looked shaky on their South African tour, but they’ll revive their semi-final hopes with a victory in Jozi. Crusaders by 12
THE BONES: Crusaders 1-10

Lions 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jaque Fourie (c), 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Ernst Joubert, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Jannes Labuschagne, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Lawrence Sephaka, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Hans van Dyk, 17 Gert Muller, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Earl Rose, 22 Michael Killian.

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


Vrede’s call: The Cheetahs salvaged what promised to be another dismal round for me last week and I’m backing them again against Captain Charisma and his blue army. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give the Cheetahs a hope in hell, but looking at how the Tahs tinkered with their starting line-up in what seems a desperate attempt to score more tries (they’ve scored the second least in the tournament), I think they’re playing into the Cheetahs’ hands. If they’d done their homework they would have known that a looser game will suit the Cheetahs. Bloem will be rocking again on Saturday evening in celebration of a second successive win for their boys. Cheetahs by 5
JC’s call: My apologies Vrede for ridiculing your call last week. The Cheetahs do appear to be coming to the Super 14 party and although it’s too early to save their own skins, they could help the Sharks and Bulls should they end the tournament with a flourish. The lineouts remain their strength and the scrum has improved, but at the breakdown they’ve been unrelenting. Their defence is more than respectable, it’s downright commendable and with Naas Olivier – Naas Olivier! – dominating territory with his accurate boot they seem to have struck a great balance. The Tahs have struggled for synergy and will only win if one of their individuals snatch an upset. Hopefully a loss here will be enough to knock them out of play-off contention, because for the love of Webb Ellis they bore me to tears. Cheetahs by 7
THE BONES: Tahs 1-10

Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Corné Uys/Piet van Zyl, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Hendro Scholtz, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Wayne van Heerden, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 WP Nel, 18 Nico Breedt, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Piet van Zyl/JW Jonker, 22 Fabian Juries.

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


Vrede’s call: These rubble Reds are ruining my average. They comprehensively klapped the Blues on their home track, making me think that they may just turn it on again in Brisbane, especially since the Brumbies have decided to play musical chairs in the backline and maintained faith in 12-year-old flyhalf Matt Toomua. But I just can’t see the Reds producing another performance like that. The Brumbies will be desperate to keep their slim hopes of a semi-final place alive and will be bolstered by the return of Mark Gerrard, who’ll improve their tactical game exponentially. The decisive facet of play will be the breakdown, where it’s hard not to see George Smith dominating in the absence of Reds fetcher Daniel Braid. Brumbies by 5
JC’s call: Somebody needs to sit Cinderella down and tell her she doesn’t belong at this ball, and maybe, just maybe she’ll come to next year’s event with a better attitude. The Reds, the self-proclaimed Cinderella side of Super Rugby, have only prospered in a loose game this year and when they’ve won it’s been as much a reflection on poor defence as it has on opportunistic attack. The Brumbies are a better side than their beating in Wellington will suggest, and their defensive strength and breakdown savvy should eliminate any Reds threat. Brumbies by 7
THE BONES: Brumbies 1-10

Reds (revised) – 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Brando Va’aulu, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill, 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.
Subs: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Jack Kennedy, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Charlie Fetoai, 22 Anthony Faingaa.

Brumbies – 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Stirling Mortlock, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Stephen Hoiles (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Nic Henderson, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Henry Vanderglas, 20 Joshua Holmes, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Francis Fainifo.


Vrede’s call: The return of Ruan Pienaar and a week’s break will have buoyed the Sharks and they won’t struggle to down the Highlanders at King’s Park. Pienaar’s return means Frans Steyn shifts back to inside centre, where he impressed before Pienaar’s injury forced him to fill the void at flyhalf. Their Springbok-laden pack will dominate the forward exchanges and lay a solid attacking platform for the back division, Despite being without Adi Jacobs, the backline boasts too much class for the Landers. Sharks by 15
JC’s call: The Mullet Men are big on confrontation and are sure to be up for an almighty forward scrap in the opening quarter. Fortunately for the Sharks they possess the physicality to meet this challenge head on with players like Jean Deysel set to make their mark. They have the guile in the back row and inside-back attacking core, as well as the firepower out wide. However, they’d do well to keep it tight against a team like the Highlanders, as although the visitors are up for a fight, they can only sustain a scrap for so long. If the Sharks pummel their pack in the first 60 and then cut loose in the final quarter they’ll win well. Sharks by 10
THE BONES: Sharks 10-plus

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

Highlanders1 Jamie Mackintosh , 2 David Hall, 3 Clint Newland, 4 Hayden Triggs, 5 Tom Donnelly, 6 Adam Thomson, 7 Alando Soakai, 8 George Naoupu/Steven Setephano, 9 Jimmy Cowan (C), 10 Mathew Berquist, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 12 Daniel Bowden, 13 Jason Shoemark, 14 Ben Smith, 15 Israel Dagg
Subs: 16. Jason Rutledge , 17. Anthony Perenise, 18. Josh Bekhuis , 19. Steven Setephano/Tim Boys, 20. Sean Romans, 21. Johnny Leota/Jayden Hayward, 22. Kendrick Lynn.


Vrede’s call: Don’t expect the Bulls to stray from the conservative formula that has worked for them this season. They’ll look to dominate the collision points and kick in behind the Force’s back three, then seek to pressure them into making errors in their own half. Victor Matfield will rule the air and a Bulls scrum will be too strong for the Force. Matt Giteau will have to be nullified, as he has the ability to single-handedly turn a match, but if they can blunt his potency and that of openside flank David Pocock, they should take five points from this one. Bulls by 10
JC’s call: The Force pack shouldn’t be underestimated, with Nathan Sharpe a formidable jumper at lineout time. The Bulls should still win the forward battle, but only if they remain hungry. This could be a season-defining match with fixtures against the Cheetahs and Sharks to come, and while a win over the Chiefs was great for the momentum, the momentum needs to be maintained. With a leadership core of Matfield and Fourie du Preez, you’d expect them to keep focus and with Morne Steyn in reliable kicking form, the domination should continue. Bulls by 7
THE BONES: Bulls 10 plus

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner; 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana; 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez; 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 JP Nel.

Force – 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan
Subs: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Gareth Hardy, 19 Tom Hockings, 20 Tamaiti Horua, 21 Josh Tatupu, 22 Haig Sare.


Vrede’s call: Lets see – no Jean de Villiers, two flankers playing lock, a Fijian winger who sees the world in slow motion (no reference intended to his earlier dope smoking incidents although I’m not completely ruling that out as the reason behind his lethargy) and a flyhalf who continues to get run-on starts in a tournament he shouldn’t be allowed near. That, my friends, is the sorry Stormers. They may be back at Newlands after a miserable tour of Australasia but the torture will continue. Don’t believe the talk of a turnaround after their win in Dunedin. The Highlanders are brave but weak and the win served to do nothing more than create a false expectation. The Chiefs were battered by a well organised side last week and still finished within six points in defeat. I suspect that’ll be their victory margin this week. They punish Willem de Waal’s wayward kicks and trouble the Stormers at the set phases and breakdown, paving the way to victory. Chiefs by 6
JC’s call: De Waal is too inconsistent a tactical kicker to be included for this perceived strength alone. It’s true that Rassie Erasmus doesn’t have many inside centre options with De Villiers and Gcobani Bobo injured, which is unfortunate for Peter Grant in a season meant to provide him with a springboard towards Bok selection. The makeshift backline will be exposed, despite the intentions of multi-talented scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage. The Chiefs, smarting from a loss to the Bulls, will throw everything they have at a Stormers pack that have battled for accuracy more than anything. They’ll miss Andries Bekker at the lineout, and with Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam roaming the tackle point they’ll be in for a long night. And don’t forget the Sione Lauaki factor, as if he doesn’t make good yardage with ball in hand he’s bound to lay a few Stormers players to rest with another errant tackle attempt. Chiefs by 7
THE BONES: Chiefs 1-10

Stormers – 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Dylan des Fountain, 12 Peter Grant, 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 AJ Venter, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Morgan Newman, 22 Tiger Bax.

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

By Jon Cardinelli, Ryan Vrede and THE BONES