Super Rugby preview – Round 6

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

Let it rain. Let the insults, ridicule and denouncement of keo.co.za’s predictions rain upon us like a bombardment of Morné Steyn up-and-unders followed by a barrage of early tackles in the air.

As the stats below will confirm, we’ve delivered a mediocre showing in the first five weeks of the 2012 Super Rugby tournament. But as a famous former Bok once said, ‘The tournament are not won in March, you follow?’ There’s still a long way to go, and we plan to make up for lost ground.

Having said that, JC has shown himself to be something of a glutton for punishment, picking the Sharks to tame Jake White’s Brumbies. Or is he a mad genius? Roll on Saturday for an answer…

Where Vrede and JC are in agreement is that the Crusaders will beat the Lions at the Coke Can and the Stormers will overpower the Bully Boys in Cape Town. The latter match promises to be one of the clashes of the competition.

KEO.CO.ZA SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 20/34 (59%)
JC: 19/34 (56%)
Round 5
VREDE: 5/7
JC: 4/7
Round 4
VREDE: 3/6
JC: 3/6
Round 3
VREDE: 5/7
JC: 4/7
Round 2
VREDE: 4/7
JC: 4/7
Round 1
VREDE: 3/7
JC: 4/7

HIGHLANDERS vs REBELS, INVERCARGILL, FRIDAY 08:35

VREDE’S CALL: The Highlanders will feel the loss of Colin Slade, who had started to hit his stride at flyhalf before breaking his leg. But I don’t think it will be terminal to their cause. Their pack is superior to the Rebels’ across all facets of play and they will give the back division a consistent platform. The Rebels thrived in a open game last week but the Landers won’t allow them that space and time. Highlanders by 8
JC’S CALL: It’s at times like these that I wished I worked for SuperSport. You want a prediction? Maybe I can just manufacture a fake laugh and say it’s too close to call. Cut to commercial! Seriously, the Rebels can be competitive, and I place far more stock in James O’Connor as a flyhalf option than Danny Cipriani. However, the Highlanders still boast a formidable pack despite their recent losses. They must be favourites at home, even though home this Friday will be a stadium in the wet and windy Invercargill. Don’t expect an inspiring showing. Highlanders by 5

Highlanders - 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Haskell, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Ma’afu Fia, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Doug Tietjens, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Phil Burleigh, 22 Buxton Popoali’i.

Rebels – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Lachlan Mitchell, 12 Lloyd Johansson, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Michael Lipman, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Julian Huxley.

HURRICANES vs CHEETAHS, WELLINGTON, SATURDAY 06:30

VREDE’S CALL: The Cheetahs lack that little bit of quality to convert good performances into victories and I don’t think they’ll make that step in Wellington. The Canes have exhibited a measure of pragmatism that has amplified their threat. They play a good field position game but still possess the punch in the backline to be a threat. They won’t be loose against the Cheetahs, who will grow in their desperation after being suffocated. It’ll be close for 60 minutes, but the Canes will pull away in the final quarter. Hurricanes by 8
JC’S CALL: The Cheetahs will have noted the Hurricanes’ high penalty count at the ruck, and know that if they apply the pressure in this area they should earn the rewards. Are the Cheetahs an 80-minute team? That is the real question. The Hurricanes, who are supposed to be rebuilding this year, have produced some gutsy performances in the first five weeks, and the young Beauden Barrett looks to be a flyhalf who steps up to the plate when the situation demands it. It will be a tough scrap up front, but the Hurricanes should have enough to beat an improved but ultimately still inadequate Cheetahs outfit. Hurricanes by 5

Hurricanes - 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tristan Moran.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Jack Lam, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 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 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman.

CHIEFS vs WARATAHS, HAMILTON, SATURDAY 08:35

VREDE’S CALL: The Waratahs profited from some defensive lapses by the Sharks last weekend but the Chiefs won’t be as generous. The Chiefs’ superior physicality will trouble the Tahs, who at times looked decidedly impotent. The Chiefs will also target Rob Horne’s channel in midfield. Horne has missed more tackles than anyone in the competition and he will have to contend with the tournament’s best midfield pair in Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui, who will thrive on their pack’s dominance. Chiefs by 12
JC’S CALL: Back in Cowbell Country, the Chiefs will consolidate their position at the top of the Kiwi conference with a win over the Waratahs. The visitors’ midfield pairing of Tom Carter and Rob Horne will demand a high level of aggression and accuracy from the Chiefs’ defence, but as Vrede suggests, the key to stifling the Waratahs is subduing their pack. Keeping powerful carriers like Carter and Wycliff Palu honest starts with disrupting the Waratahs’ set piece, and winning the collisions and breakdowns. The Chiefs have been dominant at the point of contact, and another rabid breakdown showing will provide the necessary platform for their halfbacks to dictate the flow of the game. Chiefs by 6

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 (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Waratahs – 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Jono Jenkins, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.

BRUMBIES vs SHARKS, CANBERRA, SATURDAY 10:40

VREDE’S CALL: The Brumbies have been excellent to date when measured against the losses of senior players and change of coach that destabilised the side. There has been an intense focus on defence and they have developed a greater appreciation for a field position game. Still they possess a sharp attacking edge, particularly from broken field opportunities created from dominant hits and clinical breakdown work, Michael Hooper prominent in this regard. They’ll be too good for a Sharks side that lacks the forward power to trouble them. Their power in this regard is primarily diluted by a lack of second row thrust. It affects them in set and general play, where the Brumbies will boss affairs to set up a victory based on abrasive forward play. Brumbies by 9
JC’S CALL: The Sharks are going to have to go above and beyond to win this one. By that I mean that they will need to lift their levels beyond that of satisfactory, which was what they produced against the Waratahs last week. It’s not enough that they win all their lineouts, they need to challenge the opposition at this set piece and thus disrupt their momentum. They need to make more of their visits into opposition territory, and show some composure with ball in hand (ie don’t lose the ball in contact or force the pass). They should have closed last week’s game out, but poor defence also cost them during the dying stages. They have been steadily building their game, and this is the fixture where it might just click. John Plumtree has also stacked his bench with forwards – a good ploy considering the mindset of the Brumbies. I’m backing the Sharks, spearheaded by the irrepressible Bismarck du Plessis, to win the battle at the breakdown and thus the game. Sharks by 5

Brumbies - 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ruadhri Murphy.
Subs: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Scott Fardy, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Nic White, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Joe Tomane.

Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Freddie Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Louis Ludik.

FORCE vs REDS, PERTH, SATURDAY 12:40

VREDE’S CALL: Injuries seriously undermined the Reds’ challenge against the Bulls and will do so again in Perth. The Reds still possess the pack to achieve parity with the Force, but their back division has been seriously depleted and they also lack a reliable goal-kicker. If the Force’s heavies don’t get blown away, which I don’t think they will, they’ll have enough quality to steal a vital win. Force by 7
JC’S CALL: The Force are one of those teams that you don’t want to bet on, but you don’t really want to bet against. They’re playing at home against a depleted Reds side that has just had their proverbial asses handed to them by the Bulls, and are coming off a testing tour to South Africa. So you’d expect the Force to win. Right? I’m trying to convince myself here. I have a feeling that there could be something of a Reds backlash in Perth this Saturday, although I’m not sure if it will be enough to earn Ewen McKenzie’s men a win. Force by 3

Force - 15 David Harvey, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Nick Cummins, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Ben Seymour, 21 Rory Sidey, 22 Kyle Godwin.

Reds – 15 Rod Davies, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Joel Rapana, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Dallan Murphy, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Eddie Quirk, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Nathan Eyres-Brown.

LIONS vs CRUSADERS, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY 17:05

VREDE’S CALL: The Lions don’t have the balance in their approach to beat sides of the Saders’ calibre. Their refusal to earn the right to play the expansive brand they prefer will be their downfall. The Saders will absorb the pressure comfortably, then isolate runners and punish their hosts from turnover ball or from penalties they force for ruck infringements. On attack, Andy Ellis and Dan Carter are masters of controlling field position and with a superior pack, they will be able to dictate the flow and tempo of the game. Crusaders by 10
JC’S CALL: The Crusaders will target the Lions’ set piece which is missing several first-choice players due to injuries. It won’t matter if they receive a late boost with the inclusion of a backline star, if their pack is taking a pounding their backline will struggle to make an impact. I can’t see the Crusaders playing expansively, especially after their indifferent start to the season. They will look to take control through the forwards and their All Blacks halfbacks will kick them into good positions before bringing the dangerous backs into play. A competitive showing by the Lions will keep the scoreline respectable, but if they lose focus they could finish on the wrong side of a hiding. Crusaders by 12

Lions – 15 James Kamana, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Andries Coetzee, 10 Butch James, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (c), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Marius Coetzer, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Stephan Greeff, 19 Cobus Grobbleaar, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Mapoe.

Crusaders - 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Ryan Crotty, 22 Tom Marshall.

STORMERS vs BULLS, CAPE TOWN, SATURDAY 19:10

VREDE’S CALL: They’ll be clad in pink but there will be nothing soft about the Bulls at Newlands. Through their physicality, they will test the Stormers’ defence in a manner no side has managed to date. If they get the upper hand here the Stormers’ unbeaten run will end. Offered space and time, Morné Steyn will be able to dictate affairs with his boot in general play and from penalties forced by ruck infringements. The Bulls have also shown their ability to score tries when they get into the right positions. But I don’t think they will trouble the Stormers’ granitic defence in the way that is required and neither do I believe the Stormers will be lured into cavalier attacks from deep. They’ll grind out a victory off the back of penalties and perhaps a try. It won’t be pretty, but the Cape boys won’t care. Stormers by 8
JC’s CALL: Put simply, the Stormers need to out-bash the Bulls. If they can out-muscle the Bully Boys at the set piece and maintain the pressure at the breakdown, that pressure will be transferred onto the Bulls halfbacks. As gifted as he is, Francois Hougaard’s running threat is diminished when the platform is not provided. As prodigious as he is, Morné Steyn battles for kicking accuracy when his pack is not on the front foot. And yes, there will be bombs. Whether Steyn has the time to set himself to launch those inevitable garryowens with the necessary accuracy, and assuming the Bulls chasers are diligent in following said mortars, is another story. The Stormers’ key men in terms of the kicking game will be Dewaldt Duvenage and Joe Pietersen, with the pop-gun boot of Peter Grant featuring in a secondary capacity. Behind the pack that has the upper hand, Duvenage and Pietersen must translate pressure into field position. And in front of goal, Pietersen can’t afford to be as inconsistent as he’s been in recent games, because the Bulls won’t provide the Stormers with many kickable opportunities. I expect the Stormers pack to do its job, but I’m not holding my breath for their backs to penetrate a solid Bulls defence. Pietersen’s role as points scorer is thus crucial to the Stormers’ success in their most important match to date. Stormers by 6

Stormers - 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.