JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.
Shocker! Keo.co.za has suffered a horrendous start to the season with mediocre returns on the first two rounds of predictions. The Highlanders have caught us out twice with their defiant back-to-back performances, and perhaps we overestimated the Lions’ ability to rack up two wins on the trot. Lessons have been learned.
This week should see better results as far as our picks are concerned. JC has opted for all the home teams while Vrede believes the Chiefs could upset the Kiwi conference champs on Friday. The big South African derby in Durban will be won by the Sharks while the Bully Boys will continue their impressive start to the season with a victory against the Blues.
Unfortunately for Cheetahs fans, we could witness the beginning of another terrible tour as the Bloem Boys go down to Jake White’s Brumbies in Canberra.
KEO.CO.ZA SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 7/14 (50%)
JC: 8/14 (57%)
CRUSADERS vs CHIEFS, NAPIER, FRI 08:35
VREDE’S CALL: The all-round potency of the Chiefs’ pack has surprised me and has been the reason for their back division’s influence. The Crusaders were outmuscled by the Highlanders last week and another performance like that will see the same result. I don’t think they’ll be as poor as that but I still have strong reservations about the quality of their pack. The Chiefs haven’t beaten the Crusaders since 2008, but this time they will match them in the forwards and have a superior back division. Saders openside flank Matt Todd was excellent in his rookie season but has been largely nullified as a breakdown force due to his team’s lack of defensive punch at the gainline. Furthermore, in Tyler Bleyendaal the Saders have a talented flyhalf, but not one adept at building pressure through a field position game and one with indifferent form as a goal-kicker. These are the key boxes you have to tick in blunting the Chiefs. The Saders don’t do so. Chiefs by 5
JC’S CALL: Neither team has been consistent in the past two rounds, but the fact that the Crusaders are coming off a loss could be significant. They aren’t exactly at home, playing in Napier, but at least they won’t face the added challenge of fighting for a victory in the rain and cowbell clamour that typifies matches in Hamilton. Their forwards will be keen to prove a point, and coach Todd Blackadder has re-introduced a couple of World-Cup winning All Blacks to his front row. They’ll boss the scrums, and should be more aggressive at the collisions after last week’s lesson in Dunedin. A big question mark hangs over their defence after a porous showing against the Highlanders, and Blackadder will also need to implement a plan to negate the skill and strength of Sonny Bill Williams. It’s going to be another close Kiwi derby, and I think the Crusaders’ desperation for a win will be reflected in a superior and ultimately game-winning performance at the tackle. Crusaders by 5
Crusaders – 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Tom Marshall.
Chiefs - 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Shane Cleaver, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Jackson Willison.
FORCE vs HURRICANES, PERTH, FRI 13:05
VREDE’S CALL: The Canes were awful in Johannesburg last week but were gifted a victory through the Lions’ tactical naivety and handling errors. You’ve got to think they’re knackered after extensive travel in the last three weeks and with the return of Richard Brown to lend the Force some punch, as well as Cameron Shepherd’s recovery from injury, the hosts have the edge. David Pocock will be influential in stifling the Canes’ preferred high-tempo, expansive approach. The Canes simply don’t have a pragmatic weapon in their arsenal and will become increasingly loose. The Force must be defensively accurate and stay compact, things they have only managed in short spells previously. If they do, they’ll take the points. Force by 3
JC’S CALL: Beauden Barrett impressed with his option-taking and goal-kicking on the tour to South Africa, and will be a key man for the Hurricanes in this scrap. The Force will need to show a greater appreciation for possession if they’re to deny the Hurricanes turnover opportunities, which allowed the Hurricanes to remain competitive in matches against the Stormers and Lions. Mark Hammett has spoken about implementing more structure to the Canes’ game, but they may struggle in a tactical arm-wrestle. The Force must target that Hurricanes pack at the set pieces, and force the visitors to take chances from deep within their own half. The Force are not a flashy side by any stretch of the imagination, but when their forwards fire they are capable of strangling teams and eking out narrow wins. Expect them to win in this manner on Friday. Force by 5
Force - 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Patrick Dellit, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Kieran Longbottom.
Subs: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Alfie Mafi.
Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
BRUMBIES vs CHEETAHS, CANBERRA, SAT 06:35
VREDE’S CALL: There’s so much wrong with the Cheetahs at the moment that I can’t see them in the frame in this match. Their set piece is poor, their forwards have failed to front and their defence went all Powerlines FC against the Bulls. The Brumbies have the forwards to erode their resolve and the backs to ensure the Bloem boys stay winless. Brumbies by 10
JC’S CALL: It was interesting to read why Naka Drotske selected Ashley Johnson and George Earle for this clash. Drotske believes that the pair will add more power to the Cheetahs pack, but you have to ask why the same mentality wasn’t applied for physical clashes against the Lions and Bulls. Coenie Oosthuizen hasn’t played a match in 2012 and shouldn’t be expected to get it absolutely right in this game. The Brumbies by comparison look a more organised and settled unit, and would be expected to put this Cheetahs side away. While Jake White is big on structure, the power play will create opportunities for the Canberra side’s talented back division. The Cheetahs’ defence has been woeful, and again it’s been worrying to read about Drotske’s complete surprise. It’s going to be a long tour for the Cheetahs. Brumbies by 9
Brumbies - 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Pat McCabe, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Ita Vaea, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Ben Hand, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Scott Fardy, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Joseph Toman
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Davon Raubenheimer, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
HIGHLANDERS vs WARATAHS, DUNEDIN, SAT 08:35
VREDE’S CALL: The Highlanders earned a deserved victory over the Crusaders last week with an aggressive approach at the breakdown off the back of dominant tackle fights. It has been the bedrock of their success to date and will be again against the Waratahs. The Tahs are undoubtedly boosted by the return of Berrick Barnes, whose distribution and tactical intelligence has been central to their past successes. I still think the Tahs’ eight are vulnerable when confronted with a robust unit, such as the one the Landers boast, diluting the impact Barnes and co could make. The hosts will harass and scrap all game and have a backline capable of moments of brilliance. It won’t be pretty but the Highlanders won’t care. Highlanders by 5
JC’S CALL: You’d have to think that a man of Tom Carter’s particular talents would be well suited to a game of this nature. He lacks the ability to innovate or bring his outside backs into the contest, but he’s proved a successful means of crossing the gainline and fracturing opposition defences. Barnes should be in the Tahs side, but calling the shots from the flyhalf position. It could be that coach Michael Foley wants the extra tactical kicking option and that the Tahs will play a territorial game. On paper, they have a pack that should outmuscle most, but as the Crusaders found out last week, the Highlanders don’t care much for reputations. The new Forsyth Barr Stadium also looks to be an intimidating venue for visiting teams, and those vocal Dunedinites could inspire the Highlanders to another powerful yet purposeful forward performance. It’s going to be brutally physical and is probably the toughest one of the weekend to call, but I’m backing Jamie Joseph’s side to pull through. Highlanders by 5
Highlanders - 15 Colin Slade, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge,17 Bronson Murray, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 James Haskell ,20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Kurt Baker,22 Buxton Popoali’i.
Waratahs – 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (c), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Tevita Metuisela, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Tom Carter, 22 Brackin Karuaria-Henry.
REDS vs REBELS, BRISBANE, SAT 10:40
VREDE’S CALL: It doesn’t matter whether the Rebels include Kurtley Beale or Clark Kent in their backline, so poor are their forwards across all disciplines that the backline is seldom a threat. The Reds have settled into a pattern resembling the one that worked so well for them in 2011 – dominant and controlled forward play that established the platform for their backs to shine. The attacking variation is also there, with Will Genia and Mike Harris exhibiting their ability to drive the Reds into enemy territory with the boot. The Rebels won’t have answers to any questions the Reds will pose and must brace for another hiding. Reds by 15
JC’S CALL: Vrede’s right, the Rebels would have done better to buy the Incredible Hulk and The Thing as a means to boost their forward effort rather than multi-talented Wallabies backs who battle behind the advantage line. The Reds haven’t been as convincing as they were in 2011, and are missing a few regulars, but at home they will be too powerful for the Rabbles. Reds by 20
Reds - 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Jono Lance, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Van Humphries, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Rod Davies.
Rebels - 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Richard Kingi, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Julian Huxley.
SHARKS vs LIONS, DURBAN, SAT 17:05
VREDE’S CALL: The Lions refused to play the percentages against the Hurricanes last week and paid the ultimate price. Nothing coach John Mitchell has said in the week suggests they will look to be more balanced. The Sharks struggle when they are pushed back deep through accurate tactical kicking and then confronted with an organised defensive unit. The Lions won’t challenge them in this way. The return of Willem Alberts to the starting line-up offers the Sharks a gainline force and a competent lineout target. The Sharks will boss both these facets of play, as well as the scrums. Sharks by 7
JC’S CALL: Butch James will lend the Lions more grunt on attack and defence, but the Sharks have to be favourites to take the Lions at Kings Park. A lot will be expected of the wrecking ball Willem Alberts, but Marcell Coetzee could also have a big role to play in the battle at the gainline. I think this game will be tighter than most expect, as while the Lions have lost some key forwards the Sharks have also battled in this department in the past two matches. The decision-making of the Sharks halfbacks will also need to be better than it was last week, and Pat Lambie must be more accurate in front of goal as Elton Jantjies has shown himself capable of slotting pressure penalties from long distances. The Sharks also need to utilise the kicking strengths of Riaan Viljoen far more. If the Sharks can keep the Lions pinned in their own half, and if the Lions look to employ the same multi-phase strategy as last week, then the hosts will win this one comfortably. However, the Sharks will need to be more clinical if they are going to reap the rewards of this game plan. Sharks by 10
Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Paul Jordaan.
Lions – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies La Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (c), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Marius Coetzer, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Stephan Greef, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Andries Coetzee, 22 James Kamana.
BULLS vs BLUES, PRETORIA, SAT 19:10
VREDE’S CALL: With the Bulls on a hot streak and the Blues travelling to Loftus without Jerome Kaino and the elusive Rudi Wulf the odds are stacked against the Kiwi side. Ma’a Nonu starts in midfield and will test the 10-12 axis of Morne Steyn and Francois Venter’s defensive strength. But he will do so largely without a notable platform given the inferiority of his forwards. The Bulls will rule at the set phases as well as on attack and defence at the gainline. Steyn will drive them deep into their half and the Blues’ attacking instinct won’t allow them to respond conservatively. The Bulls’ defence has been outstanding thus far and expect them to isolate runners and force infringements. Steyn will build the lead and the Bulls will accelerate in the final quarter to register a comfortable win. Bulls by 15
JC’S CALL: The Blues have played some stupid rugby over the past two weeks. Aside from their tactical failings, they have also been hampered by poor leadership and unforced errors at the set piece. It bodes badly for a match against the Bulls, who have been excellent at the lineout despite the loss of several second-row Springboks. The Bulls have shown themselves to be disciplined and aggressive at the collisions, while the Blues have only fired in patches. They may look to unsettle the Bulls with their two fetchers, Daniel and Luke Braid, but as long as the Bulls win the physical fight at the collisions, the Braids will struggle to disrupt the Bulls’ attacking flow. There are some dangerous individual runners in that Blues back division, but they’ve shown nothing as a collective to suggest they can topple a structured side like the Bulls at a notoriously intimidating venue like Loftus. I don’t think the Bulls are as polished as they have been in previous seasons, but they should beat this disjointed Blues side comfortably. Bulls by 10
Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Blues - 15 Lachie Munro, 14 Sherwin Stowers, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c) 1, Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Bradley Mika, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 David Raikuna.