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Super Rugby preview (Round 18)

  • 27 Jun 2013

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

2013 RECORD – VREDE: 67/103 (65%), JC: 68/103 (66%)

With a number of matches that will shape the future for certain teams, this round is set to be highly intriguing. The boys agree that the Cheetahs will continue their march to the play-offs with a victory over the Stormers at Newlands, but differ on the result at Kings Park. Vrede has gone with the Blues, while JC has backed the embattled Sharks to shatter the tourists' play-off ambitions and keep their own slim hopes alive. 


VREDE'S CALL: Expect the Chiefs to take a step closer to a home semi-final here, with their victory built on their dominance in the forwards. Few sides have been able to quell their momentum at the gainline, and I don't see the Canes being one of those. With their attacking momentum set, the Canes, who have leaked tries at an alarming rate for a side of their calibre, will endure another terrible evening. The fact that the Chiefs will struggle for synergy after the break will aid the visitors, but not enough to keep them in contention. Chiefs by 12

JC'S CALL: A bonus-point win would clinch the Kiwi conference for the Chiefs, and also put them in a powerful position to top the overall log. They should be favourites to best the Hurricanes in Hamilton, with their forwards providing the platform for their dangerous backs to strike. Watch out for the return of Tim Nanai-Williams in midfield. The Chiefs have the ability to play a tight game, which they should do in the initial stages against a Hurricanes side that thrives off turnover ball. In the latter stages, however, they should open up with men like Nanai-Williams coming in to play. Chiefs by 10

Chiefs 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Charlie Ngatai.

Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Faifili Levave/Blade Thompson, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Alapati Leiua.


VREDE'S CALL: I think the Crusaders' decision to bench a number of their All Blacks is wrong. The Highlanders have been poor this season, but won't roll over. The Crusaders could be jeopardising their play-off ambitions, although they should have enough quality to oust their hosts. The Saders have employed some questionable tactics this season, often running the ball from deep in their territory. However, the return of Dan Carter should resolve this problem, and his combination with Andy Ellis should ensure territorial dominance. From there the Saders will suffocate the Landers into errors and gradually build their lead before opening up in the final quarter. Crusaders by 12

JC'S CALL: The Crusaders have opted to bench Kieran Read for this clash, a questionable decision considering their play-off place is far from assured. They can't afford to take the Highlanders lightly, even if the men from Dunedin occupy last place on the overall log. This should be a forward-oriented contest initially, and the Crusaders halfbacks will have a game-shaping role to play in terms of playing for territory. Whether it's Dan Carter or Tom Taylor kicking for goal, the Crusaders will also look to accumulate points before unleashing their expansive backs. Crusaders by 7

Highlanders – TBC

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


VREDE'S CALL: The Sharks need a lot to go wrong for the teams above them on the log to sneak into the play-offs. I don't think it is realistic to expect that outcome, while the Blues, who are just shy of the wildcard place, will be highly motivated. I expect the Sharks' off-field problems, which culminated in the resignation of their long-serving coach John Plumtree this week, to reflect in their performance. I don't believe they'll be fully focused, and the Blues should capitalise. The battle in the forwards will shape the contest and the Blues have shown themselves to be highly adept in this facet of play. The Sharks' pack is laden with Springboks, but the likes of Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts are still in the process of finding their best form after injury lay-offs, while Pieter-Steph du Toit's power and industry will be missed. Their pack has failed to impress consistently and I believe the Blues will have the better of this contest. They also possess superior game breakers in their back division, who can expose the Sharks' new backline combinations. Blues by 5  

JC'S CALL: Both teams need to win big to boost their chances of play-off qualification. It will be interesting to see how the Sharks go about it, as an expansive approach has the potential to backfire badly. The Blues have been a much improved side under John Kirwan, and may opt to feed off Sharks errors rather than launch an all-out assault. They have the forwards to force turnovers, and the backs to capitalise on such opportunities. Locals will be asking whether the Sharks can finish the season strongly after the drama both on and off the pitch. My feeling is that they may not do enough to qualify for the play-offs, but could do the necessary to secure four points against this Blues team. Sharks by 5

Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Daniel Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandré Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22. Jaco van Tonder.

Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu; 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Kane Barrett/Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rene Ranger.


VREDE'S CALL: With Arno Botha and Pierre Spies out for the season, the Bulls will have to look elsewhere for gainline momentum, but they will still have too much in their arsenal for the Kings to deal with. The rookie franchise have defended bravely in the opening 60 minutes of their matches against the tournament's elite teams, but haven't been able to sustain their effort through 80 minutes. This will be the pattern once more and the Bulls will bank a critical bonus point in their victory. The Kings don't have the tactical kicking game to counter the Bulls and will be under pressure in their territory for much of this match. They'll fold as it wears on, ensuring a comfortable win for the Bulls. Bulls by 18

JC'S CALL: The Bulls may be missing some key players in the starting line-up, but they should be too strong for this Kings team at Loftus Versfeld. The pressure is on Bulls halfbacks Francois Hougaard and Louis Fouché to produce an accurate tactical kicking display, and both men will be hoping that their pack stifles that of the Kings and thus ensures good front-foot ball for the hosts. That will be the Kings' aim this Saturday: to spoil and disrupt, applying the pressure up front and testing that dubious halfback partnership. It may work initially but the Bulls do have some insurance in the form of Morné Steyn and several other Boks on the bench. Bulls by 10

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

Kings – 15 SP Marais, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss (c), 11 Michael Killian, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Darron Nell, 4 David Bulbring, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Grant Kemp, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Shane Gates.


VREDE'S CALL: Given that they're all but out of play-off contention, the Stormers have no pressure on them. The Cheetahs, however, find themselves in the wholly unfamiliar situation of contesting for a play-off spot. It remains to be seen how they deal with the pressure associated with that position, and whether they will revert to their destructive former selves under the territorial pressure the Stormers will exert. I hope they don't, and that they're patient in the tactical arm-wrestle. They have been thus far, and if they can avoid leaking needless points, they have the all-round game to unlock an excellent defensive unit. This is a defining match in their campaign and I think they'll show themselves to be serious play-off contenders. Cheetahs by 7

JC'S CALL: It's now or never for the Cheetahs. Including this fixture, they have just two games remaining in the league phase, and they have to make these matches count. Their coaches and players have spoken about playing 'finals rugby' at Newlands, and they have shown throughout the season that they are capable of switching between a conservative and attacking game plan. For all their flaws, the Stormers' remain one of the best defensive teams in the competition. If they are going to be beaten, it has to be up front and in a tactical-kicking battle. In recent years, the Cheetahs have enjoyed relative success against the Cape side when they've varied their attack, using chip kicks and grubbers as a means of fracturing that defence. A powerful forward platform will be necessary, but the onus is also on that Cheetahs halfback pairing to take the initiative and win an important game. Cheetahs by 6

Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Deon Fourie (c), 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Howard Mnisi.

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Photos: Richard Hugaard/Bruce Lim/BackpagePix/

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