Super Rugby preview: Round 3

JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.

We’ve heard that 1.5% of Super Bru punters backed the Rebels to upset the Brumbies, and that many more are expecting the men from Melbourne to down the Chiefs in Hamilton. While this game may influence the Fantasy Leagues, it should have little bearing on the respective logs. The games to watch in this respect are in Nelson, Canberra and Perth, as all three promise to be tight contests.

The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers should continue their unbeaten runs, while the Lions have a great opportunity to break their 16-match losing streak. While it won’t be a clash of two Super Rugby heavyweights in Johannesburg, it will be significant for the Lions’ revival.

VREDE: 9/13 (69%)
JC: 9/13 (69%)
Round 2
VREDE: 4/6
JC: 4/6
Round 1
VREDE: 5/7
JC: 5/7


VREDE’S CALL: Calling the Crusaders to lose at home would ordinarily be ill-advised, but Nelson isn’t home in the strictest sense. They haven’t played in a fortnight after looking decidedly ordinary in their opener, and they’re up against the form team of the tournament. I don’t believe the emotion of the occasion will be decisive for the Crusaders. Emotion alone has never won a rugby match, it has always been accompanied by sound tactics, defensive solidity and precision on attack. The Waratahs have exhibited those traits in bags, and will take four points. Sonny Bill Williams hasn’t played for months, and while he’ll be a handful he won’t be unstoppable. Without Richie McCaw the Crusaders lack the ability to slow the recycle sufficiently enough to nullify the Tahs’ outside backs, and this combined with their solidity at the set phases will ensure plenty of opportunities for the Sydney-siders’ potent back three. The Waratahs’ tryline is yet to be breached, and that defensive excellence will be the platform on which they build this victory. Tahs by 7
JC’S CALL: The Waratahs have some powerful ball-carriers and excellent finishers, but I don’t think you can underestimate the Crusaders in these departments. The set-piece honours will be shared, but it is at the collisions that the seven-time champs will prevail. Their are doubts whether Tahs captain Phil Waugh is fully fit after the injury scare earlier in the week when he was initially sidelined for three months. There are also doubts over Daniel Halangahu, in for the injured Berrick Barnes, and his ability to unleash the Tahs’ backline. The Crusaders will be better for the break and will have worked on their accuracy. The emotion of the occasion will be a factor, and Sonny Bill Williams’ impact in midfield can’t be discounted. It was an area of weakness in the Crusaders’ first game against the Blues, but I expect Williams and Robbie Fruean will provide plenty of go-forward on this occasion. Crusaders by 7

Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Adam Whitelock, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett .
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tom Marshall.

Waratahs -15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Ryan Cross, 22 Afa Pakalani.


VREDE’S CALL: The Blues were dreadfully impotent against the Sharks, but that’s because they were afforded precious few opportunities, particularly from broken field. I’m not sure the Lions can, or indeed want to, employ a similarly pragmatic approach, but they have to if they hope to win. If they can stay focused on rumbling through phases, ensuring that their tactical kicks are accurate, and remain defensively solid they’ll register their first victory. They’ll be pushed hard in the closing stages because the Blues have a vastly superior bench, which means that the platform must be laid in the first 60 minutes. Here’s hoping Mitchell’s mongrels finally put together a complete performance. I think they will. Lions by 5
JC’S CALL: A lack of composure cost the Lions a win over the Stormers. They had several chances to build on their lead in the first half, but the wayward kicking of Elton Jantjies saw those opportunities go begging. This Saturday, they’ll have another opportunity, as Blues coach Pat Lam has opted to bench his All Blacks starts. They must take it. Lam will expect the Blues to fire in the second half and expose the Lions’ brittle composure, and in that sense, the decision to save Keven Mealamu, Daniel Braid, Stephen Brett and Rene Ranger for the last 40 minutes has some value. The Lions need to inflict as much damage as possible in the first half and then keep the pressure on the Blues in the second. I have my doubts that they can keep the free-running Aucklanders contained for long, and I also think that this Blues outfit has sufficient quality to force the Lions, and Jantjies in particular, to make costly errors. Blues by 7

Lions - 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (c), 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patrick Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Dries van Schalkwyk, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Burton Francis, 22 James Kamana.

Blues – 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Rene Ranger.


VREDE’S CALL: The Chiefs’ regression in the last two years has been startling. From making the 2009 final to an awful display in 2010, they are currently rooted to the foot of the 2011 table after two defeats. They’re nearly impossible to predict, but I think they’ll expose the Rebels’ defensive failings (they’ve conceded 11 tries in two matches) to bank the win. Don’t expect this to be a classic. It’ll be marked by tactical naivety, fundamental errors and poor skills, but the Chiefs’ cavalier style should ensure it is mildly entertaining. The Rebels profited from a forward pass for Stirling Mortlock’s late try against the Brumbies last week, then were gifted the penalty that secured them victory. They won’t enjoy such luck again, and while they’ll achieve parity in the set phases, they won’t have the patience through the phases and punch at the breakdown to stifle the Chiefs. P.S: Watch out for the riveting sub-plot – Mortlock v Umaga for the ‘Holding back the Years Trophy’. Chiefs by 7
JC’S CALL:Tough one to pick. Will it be a burgeoning outfit or the one in decline? I agree with Ryan in that it won’t be a classic, and after last week’s shocker against the Highlanders you’d expect the Chiefs to be less adventurous. Brendon Leonard, Stephen Donald and Tana Umaga are back, and while the counterattack is always a reality with the Chiefs, we should expect better ball control amongst their forwards. The Rebels will be competitive but I’m giving it to the Chiefs at home. Chiefs by 10

Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard; 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Scott Waldrom, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Sona Taumalolo, 17 Hila Elliot, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Steven Setephano, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams.

Rebels – 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Julian Huxley, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessman, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Tom Chamberlin, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Peter Betham.


VREDE’S CALL: The Brumbies undermined their own cause against the Rebels by squandering a string of scoring opportunities, then fell away badly on defence in the closing stages. Coach Andy Friend paid for the defeat with his job after what reports suggest was a player revolt, and those players will now have heaped the pressure on themselves to prove that the show of force was the right course of action. Their phase-based game (no team has set up more rucks) will trouble the Reds, who have never been comfortable against sides that allow them minimal turnover opportunities. The Brumbies will surely target Quade Cooper’s channel (the Reds have inadvertently conceded that he is a weak defender by deploying Peter Hynes there at times), and in so doing generate the momentum they need to get their back division rolling. They’ll be competitive enough at ruck time to force the Reds to either persist with their preferred expansive attack or change their approach. Brumbies by 5
JC’S CALL: The Brumbies are missing the calming influence of Rocky Elsom and Stirling Mortlock, and Matt Giteau is yet to prove his worth as a captain. All the pressure is on the Canberra boys in this fixture, and while the Reds are yet to click, they will enjoy the tag of underdogs. Beau Robinson will add another dimension to their back row, which includes big ground-gainers in Scott Higginbotham and Leroy Houston. Robinson’s ability to stifle the Brumbies at ruck time will be important, as it will stunt the hosts’ momentum. On the flipside, the Reds will need to be more accurate and less frantic on attack, and will need to exhibit a tougher attitude at the collisions. Both sides haven’t been great, but I think the Reds are in a better space. If they can upset the Brumbies at the breakdown, they have the backline to capitalise. Reds by 7

Brumbies – 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Colby Faingaa, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Salesi Ma’afu, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Christian Lealiifano.

Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Ed Quirk, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Luke Morahan.


VREDE’S CALL: This is a tough one to call. The Sharks haven’t been tested yet, winning comfortably against the Cheetahs and negotiating a lame Blues side. The Force’s performance against the Reds in the opening round was very impressive. They look a better attacking force with James O’Connor at flyhalf. His tussle with Pat Lambie will be interesting to watch and decisive to the outcome. Their influence, and indeed those outside of them, will be determined by the work of the heavies, and it’s here that the Sharks have an edge. The forwards will be tasked with making fetcher David Pocock a non-factor. If they manage this their attacking task becomes much easier. From there they’ve shown the tactical adaptability to hurt the Force in a number of ways. A crucial win on the road methinks. Sharks by 5
JC’S CALL: In a match where two fine defensive sides go head-to-head, the best attacking team will prosper. The Force are a well coached unit and their forwards outplayed the Reds two weeks ago, but they’ll battle to replicate that effort against the Sharks. The Durban outfit are spoiled for quality and experience, and the pack’s controlled aggression should be the key to a gritty win. Pocock will try to stifle the Sharks’ momentum and he has some dangerous accomplices in Matt Hodgson and Richard Brown, but I don’t think the Force will be able to live with the Sharks at the collisions, and providing Pat Lambie and Charl McLeod continue to make the right decisions, the Force backline will be under pressure. Sharks by 7

Force – 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 David Smith, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Ben McCalman, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Tevita Metuisela, 20 James Stannard, 21 Alfie Mafi, 22 Rory Sidey.

Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 John Smit, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.


VREDE’S CALL: The Stormers were ordinary in their opener, but then which team, other than the Tahs, wasn’t? They’ll improve this week, especially with Peter Grant reinstated at flyhalf. Grant’s influence in the final quarter against the Lions was patent, and his backline will reap the benefits of his penchant for taking on the gain line. I say this based on the belief that his forwards will be superior in all facets of play, with Francois Louw leading the breakdown assault and ensuring the Cheetahs attacks will be laboured and consistently fronted by a set defensive line. The Stormers will banish the memory of an indifferent first hit out by bagging five points at Newlands. Stormers by 12
JC’S CALL: The Cheetahs struggle to beat the big teams at the best of times, but are infinitely less intimidating without Juan Smith in tow. Naka Drotske has been forced to select a quicker but smaller loose trio which will struggle in a tighter contest. The Stormers need to control possession and show more accuracy than they did on attack last week. It was a workmanlike performance that finally earned them their first try (in the 75th minute against the Lions) and they need more of those good basics against the Cheetahs. They have the personnel to beat the Cheetahs comfortably, and the question of how much will be down to their discipline and accuracy, particularly at the breakdown. Once they’ve established a platform, men like Grant and Jean de Villiers will come into play, while Juan de Jongh should thrive against a Cheetahs defensive line on the back foot. Stormers by 10

Stormers – 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Subs: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Paul Bosch.

Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Naas Olivier (c), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Waltie Vermeulen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Rayno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Riaan Viljoen.


VREDE’S CALL: This game will serve as the Highlanders’ reality check. The Bulls haven’t lost at Loftus since April 2008 and that record won’t be threatened by a team who are inferior across all facets of play. The Bulls haven’t started well, with narrow victories against the Lions and Cheetahs, but they will kick into second gear and likely shift through five on Saturday. The Highlanders’ forwards will struggle to impose themselves on attack, significantly diluting the backline threat. Expect the Bulls to be fairly pragmatic early on – pounding up through their forwards and launching high kicks – then opening up in the final quarter and securing a bonus point. Bulls by 15
JC’S CALL: The Highlanders’ fire and bluster will last all of 20 minutes before they are outclassed by the more decorated and experienced pack. If the Bulls can make the most of their early opportunities, they could inflict a world of hurt on the visiting Kiwis. They have the set-piece and the breakdown bullies to lay the platform, and the decision-makers at 9 and 10 to maximise this advantage, so anything less than a bonus-point win would be a surprise. Bulls by 20

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Derick Kuün, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Siale Piutau, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Kade Poki, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 Telusa Veainu.

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