Super Rugby preview – Round 15

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

It’s finally here, the north-south derby everybody has been waiting for. Unfortunately for the Stormers, they will head into this clash without half of their first-choice team. Both JC and Vrede are expecting the Bully Boys to take full advantage, and record a comfortable victory. It could be a result that decides the South African conference.

Meanwhile, the Sharks should pick up a bonus-point victory in Johannesburg and the Cheetahs will bank four points thanks to a bye. The big call by the keo.co.za pundits is for the Hurricanes to tame the Waratahs in Sydney. The Waratahs have been terrible in 2012, and a young Hurricanes side should punish them for another misfiring performance.

KEO.CO.ZA SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 64/93 (69%)
JC: 66/93 (71%)

CRUSADERS vs HIGHLANDERS, CHRISTCHURCH, FRIDAY 09:35

VREDE’S CALL: The Crusaders, in typical fashion, are getting stronger as their campaign progresses and the synergy they showed in their demolition of the Blues a fortnight ago was an ominous sign for future opponents. Dan Carter is steadily finding his groove, as is Richie McCaw, and both will be influential in Christchurch. The Highlanders will be boosted by the return of Nasi Manu, who has been a constant source of go-forward, but their approach, which rests heavily on keeping possession through multiple phases, lacks the variation to trouble the Saders. The hosts will pin them in their territory and pressure them into errors through accurate defence, from where Carter will kick penalties or they’ll exploit broken field opportunities generated from turnovers. They won’t be troubled at the set phases either, making for a comfortable win. Crusaders by 10
JC’S CALL: The win against the Blues was important to the Highlanders’ play-off prospects, but the result of this fixture could put a dent in those hopes. The Crusaders have welcomed back Kieran Read and Richie McCaw has moved to his preferred position of No 7. As a collective, the Crusaders forwards will need to be at their combative best if they’re going to outmuscle the rugged Highlanders, who pride themselves on their prowess at the collisions. The Crusaders midfield hasn’t been the same since Sonny Bill Williams defected to the Chiefs, but on the back of a superior forward effort, they should be too strong for the Highlanders. Crusaders by 7

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

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Haskell, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Kade Poki.

REBELS vs BRUMBIES, MELBOURNE, FRIDAY 11:40

VREDE’S CALL: The Rebels sizzled for a fortnight before the Canes doused their fire last weekend and the Brumbies will give them a further reality check on Friday. Don’t expect Jake White’s side to be clinical given the number of changes they’ve made. But their attacking and defensive structures are excellent, certainly too good for the Rebels, and they’ll win off the back of dominance in every facet of play. Brumbies by 10
JC’S CALL: The Rebels are back in Melbourne, but they head into this game without the game-breaking talents of Kurtley Beale. They have the potential to trouble opposition teams at the breakdowns and collisions, but I don’t expect they will best the Brumbies in these facets, and without Beale or James O’Connor they don’t have the individual brilliance to breach that Brumbies defence. Expect another ‘South African’ performance by the Brumbies as they break the Rebels down through a powerful forward showing, a strong kicking game and a determined defensive effort. Brumbies by 12

Rebels – 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Hugh Perrett, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Al Campbell, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Tim Davidson, 21 Richard Kingi, 22 Nic Stirzaker

Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Jesse Mogg, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Leon Power, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ruaidhri Murphy.
Subs: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Henry Speight, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

BLUES vs CHIEFS, AUCKLAND, SATURDAY 09:35

VREDE’S CALL: Even without a couple of key forwards, the Chiefs will still be too strong for the Blues in all the forward disciplines, achieving a convincing win through the dominance of their heavies. Their back division’s potency needs no elaboration, and with the Blues unable to stifle their momentum at the gainline, and at best achieving parity at the set phases, Sonny Bill and co will thrive, cutting the Blues to pieces throughout the contest. Chiefs by 15
JC’S CALL: ‘Lam brings back big guns’ the headline exclaimed, but the form of these misfiring first-choice players has been a problem. The decision to back some untried combinations backfired in the last game, and picking a new team again this week will do nothing for the Blues’ synergy. So what can we expect? The Chiefs got back to their winning ways with a victory against the Bulls, and will want to build on that. The first half will belong to the forwards and in the second 40 Dave Rennie may empty his dangerous bench in order to secure a bonus point. Chiefs by 13

Blues – 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Lachie Munro, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Luke Braid (c), 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 David Raikuna.

Chiefs – 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Maritino Nemani, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Lelia Masaga

WARATAHS vs HURRICANES, SYDNEY, SATURDAY 11:40

VREDE’S CALL: The Canes will have to rein in their approach somewhat against the Tahs, who are certainly more competent on defence than the Rebels (the Canes’ most recent opponents). Don’t expect them to veer too far from their expansive strategy. They will have to establish a platform to play in that manner though, and they have the strike runners to do so. The Tahs looked toothless on their South African tour, and provided the Canes don’t get too loose, or get sloppy on defence (as they are prone to do) the Sydney side shouldn’t pose too many questions the Canes won’t have a rebuttal for. Canes by 8
JC’S CALL: The Waratahs should have learned an important lesson from last week: You can’t play an expansive game against a team that has a stronger attack than your own. They played into the Cheetahs’ hands last week by employing this looser style, and then conspired to throw away a handy lead. Whether they have learned from this lesson or not will be evident on Saturday. I have my doubts. The selection of Sarel Pretorius gives their game plan away, as the South African’s strengths are suited to a running game. Defence and an overly conservative game is not his forte. His passing game is also a weakness which means the Waratahs will lack a good link between forwards and backs. They may also be reluctant to kick too much given the Hurricanes’ dangerous back three. Meanwhile, Pretorius and the Waratahs’ loose forwards will have their hands full trying to contain TJ Perenara. Get ready for more Tahs torture. Hurricanes by 6

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

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 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 Reg Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Jayden Hayward

LIONS vs SHARKS, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY 17:05

VREDE’S CALL: My colleague Simon Borchardt wrote accurately last week that in losing to the Force the Lions not only hit rock bottom but actually started digging. Now with news that Jaco Taute has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign they may soon strike oil. I refuse to waste my time with elaborate analysis on this (mis) match. The Sharks will boss every facet of the game, their brutality at the tackle point on attack ensuring they get the bonus-point victory that keeps them in with an outside chance of the conference title, while their ascendancy at the collisions on defence will make for another miserable evening for Mitchell’s mob. Sharks by 15
JC’S CALL: For the Sharks to pick up a bonus-point win, they simply need to stay motivated. They were dominant in last week’s match against the Stormers and probably would have scored a fourth try if they hadn’t dropped their intensity in the second stanza. The Lions will be outmatched and outgunned, but underestimating them in Joburg would be foolish. The Sharks need to ensure the game doesn’t degenerate into a loose scrap, as this will allow the Lions to remain competitive. This must be the Lions’ objective, to spoil and hassle in an attempt to unsettle what looks to be a much-improved Sharks unit. However, given this is the Sharks’ last game for four weeks (they have a bye at the end of June when Super Rugby resumes) they should be going all out to secure maximum points. Sharks by 20

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Butch James, 11 Anthonie Volminck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Ruan Combrinck.

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

BULLS vs STORMERS, PRETORIA, SATURDAY 19:10

VREDE’S CALL: I think an extensive injury list will be the undoing of the Stormers. Six frontline players are missing, the bulk of them Boks, and the Bulls’ imposing record when they’ve returned from tour is an indicator that the men from Pretoria will rise to the challenge, I fear the Stormers’ bid to win the conference will suffer another blow. If the Bulls manage to pin them in their own territory through good tactical kicking it will be a long evening for the Cape side. The Sharks excelled in this department last week and forced the Stormers into rushed kick returns and, later, cavalier attacks from deep. The Bulls won’t be averse to punting the ball into touch either. They lead the tournament in lineout steals and with Andries Bekker out, the Stormers are extremely vulnerable in this area. I think the Bulls will circumvent the Stormers’ primary strength – their punishing defence – by asking them to make the play and feeding off their errors. Expect the Bulls’ tries to come from broken field, with Morné Steyn’s boot a valuable source of points as well. I just don’t think the Stormers will get into scoring positions often enough for them to challenge for what would be an upset victory. Bulls by 9
JC’S CALL: With their pack retreating and their back three peppered with high balls, it promises to be an uncomfortable evening for the Stormers. Every north-south derby is intensely physical, but with the Bulls having the edge at the collisions and in the kicking game, the Stormers may need to do a lot of damage control at the back. Gio Aplon showcased his try-scoring ability when he was moved to the wing last week, but the Stormers know that losing fullback Joe Pietersen was a massive blow. Pietersen has the kicking game to counter that of the Bulls as well as the positional play and aerial skills to cope with an aerial assault. Apart from Aplon, the Stormers’ wingers will also be targeted, although Bryan Habana turned in a brave showing under the high ball last week. What amplifies the Bulls kicking game is their kick chase, as Bjorn Basson has become a specialist in winning the ball back for his team. These tactics will be employed after the Bulls outmuscle the Stormers at the set pieces and dominate the gainline battle. Peter Grant’s goal-kicking boot won’t be enough to spare Stormers’ blushes on this occasion. Bulls by 10

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter.

Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Deon Carstens.
Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Burton Francis.