Super Rugby preview – Round 16

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

Rejoice all ye, say the Sanzar spin doctors, for the Super Rugby competition has come again! Here at we’re finding it hard to get excited for the Super Rugby league phase after three weeks of Test action. The prospect of several dour derbies (two of them in Australia) hasn’t exactly got us reaching for the superlatives.

Some of the results will however, be crucial to the final finish. The Sharks will receive four points for a bye, while the Bulls should pick up five points against the Cheetahs and the depleted Stormers should do enough to win against the Lions. In short, this round will be a good one for the big three SA teams who are still in the running for the play-offs.

Elsewhere, the Highlanders campaign will sustain a fatal blow when they go down to the table-topping Chiefs. The Crusaders will strengthen their position with a victory over the Hurricanes and the Reds will stay in touch with a bonus-point victory against the Rebels.

VREDE: 68/99 (69%)
JC: 70/99 (71%)


VREDE’S CALL: I don’t believe the Highlanders have the forward power to stifle the Chiefs’ attacking play, either in general play on defence or at the set phases. The back division will have an excellent platform to launch from and gradually erode the hosts’ resistance. The Landers have a talented and dangerous backline, but their heavies lack the punch at the gainline to service them with the quality of ball they need. The Chiefs will roll on into their crunch clash with the Crusaders next week on the back of a win in Dunedin. Chiefs by 9
JC’S CALL: In a do-or-die match you’d want your best players on the park from minute one. Jamie Joseph, however, has opted to bench Andrew Hore and James Haskell, the two men capable of lifting the Highlanders’ efforts at the tackle and breakdown. Perhaps Joseph is counting on the Chiefs to fade in the second half, at which point he will introduce Hore, Haskell and Jimmy Cowan. But the Chiefs will have learned their lesson from previous lapses where they have thrown away half-time leads to lose a couple of games. They will be difficult to contain up front, and their 9-10-12 combination will ensure they earn full reward for that forward dominance. The Chiefs also have some firepower on the bench which should ensure they maintain their effort for the full 80. Chiefs by 7

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

Chiefs – 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 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 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Lelia Masaga.


VREDE’S CALL: Prior to the break, the Reds were showing signs that they were returning to something resembling their best form. Their pack was putting in good, efficient shifts and this allowed the halfback duo of Will Genia and Quade Cooper to orchestrate matters in the manner they did so successfully in the championship winning run. They’ll be too strong for the Rebels in all facets of play, particularly in the forward exchanges, and will build a comfortable win on dominance there. Reds by 10
JC’S CALL: The Reds need to win and they need to win big, but that should not compromise their drive for forward ascendancy. The Rebels are the great spoilers of Super Rugby, and if you go into a clash against this side expecting to collect five easy points, you could end up losing the match. The Reds will need to work hard at the breakdown to ensure Genia and Cooper receive clean ball for their backline. They will also need a platform to employ their territory-based game plan, the blueprint for success in 2011. Expect a game of pressure in the early stages before they collect the bonus point in the second stanza. Reds by 12

Rebels - 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Hugh Perrett, 6 Tom Chamberlain, 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 Tim Davidson, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Lachie Mitchell, 22 Julian Huxley.

Reds – 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Chris F’sautia, 22 Nick Frisby.


VREDE’S CALL: Both sides have suffered injuries to key players but I feel the Saders are more refined across the board. They will pin the Canes in their half through tactical kicking and ask them to make the play. The Canes have punished weaker, less organised defences from deep in their half, but this Saders side won’t be as charitable and will pressure them into errors, infringements or turnovers at the breakdown. Expect them to build a lead through the boot of Tom Taylor and to take most of the try-scoring opportunities they create through pressure defence. Crusaders by 9
JC’S CALL: The Hurricanes, and possibly the All Blacks selectors, are about to find out how important TJ Perenara is at the base of the scrum. The Hurricanes will not be as imposing without Perenara at No 9. It’s the type of game where they’ll need something special to fracture a well-drilled Crusaders defence. The Crusaders will use their defence and physicality as a weapon. In Richie McCaw and Matt Todd, they have two fetchers capable of making breakdown turnovers, and out wide they have the decision makers capable of translating those opportunities into points. Crusaders by 10

Crusaders – 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly/Ross Kennedy, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Patrick Osborne.

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Jack Lam/Karl Lowe, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reg Goodes.
Reserves: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Karl Lowe/Mark Reddish, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Jayden Hayward.


VREDE’S CALL: Jake White has forged his side into a highly efficient and effective unit, one that will take the points from Perth off the back of a destructive phase-based method. The Force have been in games where their opponents have become loose in their approach, but the Brumbies won’t offer them such opportunities, playing directly and earning the right to unleash their inexperienced but potent backline. Brumbies by 10
JC’S CALL: The Brumbies are at that point of the competition where they need to start gathering momentum for the play-offs. At this point they look likely winners of the Australian conference, but a loss to the Force will highlight their vulnerabilities as a young team. The breakdown fight will be crucial and you can bet your house on the Brumbies halfbacks kicking their team into good field positions before the more adventurous approach is favoured. Brumbies by 9

Force – 15 Alfie Mafi, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Josh Holmes, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Salesi Manu, 19 Phoenix Battye, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 David Harvey.

Brumbies – TBC


VREDE’S CALL: Injuries have depleted the Stormers’ loose forward options and the suspension of bruiser Rynhardt Elstadt is a significant blow, but they should still be better than the embattled Lions, who won’t have the physicality to dominate the gainline battle nor the kicking game – two essentials to beating the Stormers. They will seek to play expansively, which will favour the hosts, who will pounce on the Lions’ errors, kicking penalty goals and being fed with sufficient broken field opportunities to cross the whitewash a couple of times. Stormers by 12
JC’S CALL: If the Lions’ coaching situation was different, you’d have to say this would be the perfect opportunity to upset the Stormers. The Cape side has been hit hard by injuries and forced to field three rookies in their back row, two of whom are making their first Super Rugby starts. However, the turmoil at the Lions union and John Mitchell’s suspension must have affected the team. They have sustained injuries of their own, with props CJ van der Linde and Pat Cilliers ruled out. Playing at home, an inexperienced Stormers pack should lift their efforts sufficiently to edge the Lions in the set-piece and tackle disciplines. Peter Grant will be an important figure once again for the Stormers, and they will hope that the three-week break hasn’t disrupted his goal-kicking rhythm. If the Lions remain competitive the Stormers will have to fight for an ugly win. The Johannesburg side may not have the belief to win this clash but they will feel that they have a point to prove, and this should keep the scoreline respectable. Stormers by 6

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

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 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ van der Linde/Ruaan Dreyer, 18 Ruan Botha, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Ruan Combrinck


VREDE’S CALL: The Bulls are acutely aware of the importance of getting five points out of this contest and I believe they have the capacity to do so. Their tactical kicking game will earn them territory and the Cheetahs’ inability (or reluctance) to counter them in this regard will be their downfall. They’ll run back punts, but the Bulls are masters of shutting down such tactical rebuttals. Morné Steyn’s goal-kicking form is a concern, but it should be adequate to build their lead. Also the Bulls haven’t lacked for tries and they are certain to exploit the Cheetahs’ defensive vulnerabilities from general play or turnovers once they’ve driven into their territory. Bulls by 15
JC’S CALL: Heinrich Brüssow intends to hassle the Bulls at the breakdowns, but he will need the backing of his fellow forwards to have a game-winning impact. Other than Brüssow and Adriaan Strauss, the Cheetahs don’t have what it takes to win in this department. The Bulls will also be favourites to win the lineout battle, and when Morné Steyn receives that kind of platform he usually takes charge, kicking his team into commanding field positions. Naka Drotské hasn’t opted for the most adept halfback pairing as far as tactical kicking is concerned, which suggests that the Cheetahs will try to move the Bulls around the park. But if they fail to win the collisions, they will be in for a long and disappointing night. Bulls by 12

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandrè 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 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Francois Venter.

Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12, Andries Strauss, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 WP Nel, 18 George Earle, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Nico Scheepers.