JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.
23-13. The Bulls were surprised, South Africa was surprised, and everybody at the Keo.co.za office (except the man himself) was surprised. The Stormers march on undefeated, and the Bully Boys are at a crossroads.
Vrede’s smack-talk from earlier rounds has subsided, and last week’s miserable three from seven prediction has seen him humbled even further. JC also had his worst round to date, incorrectly calling the Sharks to win in Hamilton, the Waratahs to prevail in Sydney and the Bulls to maintain the status quo at Loftus.
Round 6 should see the Stormers building on the win against the Bulls while Frans Ludeke’s charges will be too strong for the Lions. The Cheetahs will struggle in Brisbane, while the Sharks will push the Crusaders close, but ultimately fall short in a historic match-up in London.
KEO.CO.ZA SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 19/33 (58%)
JC: 24/33 (73%)
REBELS vs HURRICANES, MELBOURNE, FRI 10:40
VREDE’S CALL: Outside of their Kaplan-inspired victory over the Brumbies, the Rebels have looked every bit the newcomers. They were systematically dismantled in Brisbane, and will be again on their home patch. The Hurricanes haven’t shown play-off potential, but they’ll be too good across all facets of play to lose to this sorry bunch. Provided they stay disciplined, their ball protection in contact is good and they don’t let the Rebels dictate the tempo of their attack by stifling them at the breakdown, they’ll take five points from their Melbourne visit. Canes by 10
JC’S CALL: Rebels coach Rod Macqueen has made some odd selections, as while Richard Kingi has Sevens experience, his skill set in Fifteens limits him to the role of scrumhalf. The Canes have taken confidence from their win over the Chiefs, and will target this match as a great opportunity to build some momentum. Expect Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith to keep the Rebels defenders busy, and the Canes’ outside backs to round off some great tries. Canes by 15
Rebels – 15 Richard Kingi, 14 Luke Rooney, 13 Lachlan Mitchell, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Subs : 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 JP du Plessis, 21 Peter Betham, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.
Hurricanes – 15 Cory Jane, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Andre Taylor, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Jayden Hayward.
REDS vs CHEETAHS, BRISBANE, SAT 06:40
VREDE’S CALL: The Reds, on the back of an excellent performance from their pack and a commanding showing from Quade Cooper, demolished the Rebels last week. Certainly their opposition were hardly an accurate measurement of where they stand, but the variation and composure they exhibited on attack suggests they are maturing. Their loose trio was immense, and more strong carries from Leroy Houston and Scott Higginbotham will provide the platform the backs need to test the Cheetahs. Beau Robinson has emerged as one of the best openside flanks in the tournament and will be a force at the breakdowns. The Bloemfontein-based side’s victory over the Waratahs last week was an aberration. I’ve never seen a team of such quality bottle it that badly in the tournament’s history. The Cheetahs defended well, but it was hardly an arduous task given the Tahs’ attacking impotence. The Reds will be far more precise on attack and defence, and will be acutely aware of the importance of nullifying Heinrich Brüssow. Expect normal service to resume. Reds by 12
JC’S CALL: Last week, the Waratahs supplied a blueprint for how not to play against the Cheetahs. Ewen McKenzie is a bit savvier than Chris Hickey, and has already had a word or two with the matchday referee Keith Brown. I doubt Brüssow will be as influential in this fixture, because the Reds forwards will take the fight to what is a limited Cheetahs pack. Ryan’s right in saying the Sydney game was an aberration, although you have to credit the Cheetahs for finishing the Tahs off. This week, they will face a side that’s more clinical on attack. Reds by 15
Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Luke Morahan.
Cheetahs – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14, Phillip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Phillip van der Walt, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Martin Muller, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Fabian Juries.
CHIEFS vs BLUES, HAMILTON, SAT 08:35
VREDE’S CALL: I’ve enjoyed watching the Blues this year because they’ve amplified their attacking threat by including a touch of pragmatism. This has ensured that they are not nearly as susceptible to turnover tries (the forte of the Chiefs) as they were previously, and have also finished more of the chances they’ve created. An improved defensive structure makes them formidable opponents. The Chiefs matched the Sharks in the forwards last week and earned the right to play wide. But I’ve never seen them put together back-to-back performances like that. They will revert to an expansive game, which will cost them victory against an increasingly organised side. Provided the Blues are vigilant at ruck time and don’t kick poorly, thereby affording Tim Nanai-Williams, Lelia Masaga and Sitiveni Sivivatu attacking opportunities from broken field, they’ll bank five points. Blues by 10
JC’S CALL: I don’t think the Chiefs will miss Stephen Donald, with Mike Delany offering them better options on defence and attack. The Chiefs pack stood up to the Sharks’ assault last week, but are faced with a different sort of abrasiveness this Saturday. The Blues will show an appreciation for possession, but will bring their massive backs into the game at every opportunity. Tana Umaga was one of the best defenders in his day and Richard Kahui has produced some fine showings, but if their forwards are under pressure, they will eventually relent as Rene Ranger and Isaia Toeava are handed multiple cracks at the gain line. It will be a tight derby, but the Blues will extend their winning streak. Blues by 5
Chiefs – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Scott Waldrom, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Save Tokula
Blues – 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 2 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Teofilo Paulo, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Benson Stanley/Sherwin Stowers.
BRUMBIES vs WARATAHS, CANBERRA, SAT 10:40
VREDE’S CALL: The Tahs will feel like they’ve played their one stinker for the season and should rebound strongly. The Brumbies have an impressive home record (77% – the second best in the tournament) but have suffered three successive defeats and shown no sign of a turnaround. Their multi-phase game has not been successful because of their inability to break the gain line consistently. They’ve also lost Pat McCabe, the only back who has impressed, to injury and come into the match with a reshuffled back division. This all points to more woe. The Tahs have worked hard at eliminating the fundamental errors that cost them victory against the Cheetahs and should be exponentially better in Canberra. They’ll be too strong in the forwards and possess too much skill in the backs for the Brumbies to compound their troubles. Tahs by 7
JC’S CALL: I thought the Brumbies were on to something when they announced this week that Matt Toomua would come in at flyhalf, and that Matt Giteau would slide to centre. But no, the Brumbies brains trust has opted to retain Giteau at 10, and this should continue to limit the potency of their backs. The Tahs have plenty to play for after being booed off their home pitch last week, and the pressure is on them to take their early opportunities. It will be a classic scrap between two sides who don’t want to lose rather than a contest between two super powers in their pomp. How the mighty have fallen. Tear. Tahs by 5
Brumbies – 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Colby Faingaa, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Ben Alexander
Subs: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Salesi Ma’afu, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Pat Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Robbie Coleman.
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
STORMERS vs FORCE, CAPE TOWN, SAT 15:00
VREDE’S CALL: After delivering their most impressive physical performance in years against the Bulls, the Stormers face a different challenge in the Force. The Perth franchise will look to circumvent the shortcomings in their pack and attack the Cape side in the wide channels. It’s an approach that has failed previously and will fail again against the tournament’s best defenders. The Stormers must not get drawn into mimicking that approach, and I don’t think they will. They must pound up through the phases with the heavies, ensuring that they remedy their inability to get across the advantage line. The continued absence of Force flanker David Pocock should ensure a regularly clean and quick recycle, easing their attacking task. The Stormers’ backline is yet to exhibit the attacking form they showed last season, but this match represents an opportunity for that to happen. Synergy between forwards and backs is essential, and the Stormers should move closer to achieving that synergy at Newlands. Stormers by 10
JC’S CALL: I get the feeling that this game is a potential banana skin, more so than any of the Stormers’ first three matches. The Force are well organised, boasting a formidable back row and an excellent defensive system. The Stormers need to replicate the physicality that proved the undoing of the Bulls, and need to improve on their lineout accuracy. Nathan Sharpe will be out to disrupt the Stormers’ set-piece, while Matt Hodgson and Richard Brown are renowned for their breakdown trickery. If the Stormers don’t win the early arm-wrestle for momentum, they will have James O’Connor and a whole host of underrated backline players to deal with. But the Stormers are aware of the Force’s structural strengths, and while their attack won’t fire at full potential, they should do enough to secure their fifth consecutive win. Stormers by 7
Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Force – 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Alfie Mafi, 13 Nick Cummins, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 David Smith, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Tevita Metuisela, 20 James Stannard, 21 Matt Brandon, 22 Pat Dellit.
BULLS vs LIONS, PRETORIA, SAT 17:05
VREDE’S CALL: The Bulls will be battered and bruised from the bullying they suffered at the hands of the Stormers, but they can take solace in the fact that the Lions won’t be as direct as that. Their challenge will be repelling them out wide, something they barely managed to do when the sides met at Ellis Park. The Bulls will have to improve their stopping power at the collisions and cease to concede metres in the tackle. This will be more easily achieved against the Lions than it was against the Stormers, but the senior Springboks need to lead the way. Likewise, the defending champions must be stronger in the attacking collisions and generate the go-forward they have failed to thus far. For a side that prides themselves on their ability to score tries, nine in four matches is not a return they will be pleased with. But there’s nothing like a match against the lame Lions to lift the spirits. Bulls by 12
JC’S CALL: After being hammered by the Force, there will be no respite for Mitch’s Mongrels. The Bulls have an opportunity to end their two-game losing streak, and to show their adoring public that they haven’t lost their aggressive edge (nothing emasculates a macho Bull more than a loss to the Stormers, pride and reputation are at stake). They won’t take any risks until they’ve built up a substantial lead, and if the Lions’ fighting spirit is doused early, the hosts could rack up some big numbers. With all this pressure, however, there will be some mistakes, and while the Bulls will win comfortably I don’t think they’ll win by a cricket score. Bulls by 12
Bulls – 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 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 (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Derick Kuün, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Francois Brummer.
Lions – 15 Michael Killian, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe (c), 4 David Bulbring, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Joshua Strauss, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andre Pretorius, 22 Jaco Taute.
CRUSADERS vs SHARKS, LONDON, SUN 18:00
VREDE’S CALL: The Crusaders have been the most complete side in the tournament to date, and while the Sharks will push them close at Twickenham, I doubt they’ll return with a victory. That assertion is based on the fact that they’ve consistently struggled to control the ball through enough phases to trouble a team of the Crusaders’ calibre. This has forced them to scramble in defence when they’ve conceded turnovers, and while they’ve managed to do so with a fair degree of success, they haven’t faced opponents as ruthless as the Christchurch outfit. A Sharks victory will rest heavily on their ability to stop Sonny Bills Williams offloading in the tackle. The midfielder leads the tournament in offloads and it’s no surprise that his outside backs have excelled. Cutting down his space and time is key, and to do this they must pressure the Saders’ set piece, and deliver a powerful defensive effort at the collisions and breakdown. If they achieve this they’ll force the Crusaders to change their game plan, and that’s when they’ll have a chance. That said, I don’t think they can sustain the defensive effort that it will take to topple the seven-time champions. Crusaders by 10
JC’S CALL: The Sharks have played down the loss of Pat Lambie, and while it’s true that Jacques-Louis Potgieter is not a bad replacement, he’s not the type of match-winner needed for a clash of this magnitude. If the Crusaders can dominate the Sharks forwards at best and achieve parity at worst, they have the decision makers at 9 and 10, as well as the finishers from 11 to 15, to make that advantage tell. The Sharks’ only hope is to dominate the collisions and create so much pressure at the set-piece that Andy Ellis and Dan Carter are forced to make errors. Unfortunately for the Sharks, the Crusaders pack are riding some terrific momentum and even without Richie McCaw are still capable of establishing a solid forward platform. Crusaders by 7
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan 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 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 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 John Smit (c).
Subs: 16 Eugene van Staden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Gehard Mostert, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 JP Pietersen.