CRAIG LEWIS looks ahead to the Super Rugby matches on Saturday, including the big north-south derby at Newlands.
SUNWOLVES vs HURRICANES, TOKYO, SATURDAY 06:15
This encounter will provide the first look at the defending champions this season, and the Hurricanes really should have little trouble in overcoming the Sunwolves, who are heading into only their second Super Rugby campaign.
The Hurricanes have opted to name All Blacks stars Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles on the bench as they make a gradual re-entry to action after carrying a heavy workload last year, but the Canes still boast a fearsome starting lineup.
Look out for Beauden’s supremely talented younger brother, Jordie, who starts at fullback, while stand-in flyhalf Otere Black will want to impress as the Canes set their sights on a strong start to their title defence.
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hikaru Tamura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Shokei Kin, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Shota Emi.
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Otere Black, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ben May, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Vince Aso.
CRUSADERS vs BRUMBIES, CHRISTCHURCH, SATURDAY 08:35
Israel Dagg, who is set to feature in his 100th Super Rugby game on Saturday, will add some much-needed experience to a backline that includes four Crusaders debutants. However, there are also a number of new faces in the Brumbies' match 23, with as many as seven players set to make their debut for the Canberra-based side.
It’s up front where both sides boast plenty of experience and firepower, though, and this forward battle is likely to be where the game is won or lost.
Although the Crusaders are renowned for making slow starts to the competition, they have won each of their last six games against the Brumbies, and should emerge victorious once again.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ereatari Enari, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 David Havili.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 De Wat Roos, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Isaac Thompson.
WARATAHS vs FORCE, SYDNEY, SATURDAY 10:45
This Waratahs side should be far too strong for the Force, with inspirational captain Michael Hooper leading a powerful pack, while experienced Wallabies such as Nick Phipps, Rob Horne and Israel Folau slot into the backline. However, the Tahs did suffer a late blow when influential flyhalf Bernard Foley was ruled out with concussion.
By contrast, the Force’s match-day 23 features a host of newcomers, with as many as six players set to make their Super Rugby debut, and eight in line to make a first appearance for the Force.
The Perth-based team will have an element of unpredictability on their side, and while the scoreline isn’t likely to be as lopsided as last year’s 36-point win to the Waratahs, it’s the home side that will be heavy favourites to clinch a comfortable win.
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
CHEETAHS vs LIONS, BLOEMFONTEIN, SATURDAY 15:05
There is no doubt that this is set to be one of the not-to-be-missed matches in the opening round of the competition.
Not much more can be written about the emphatic manner in which the Lions powered to last year’s Super Rugby final, and while they boast a similarly settled squad, they will know that they have a target on their back.
You can rest assured that astute Cheetahs coach Franco Smith would have done plenty of analysis into the strengths of the Lions as he looks to mastermind an ambush in Bloemfontein. In light of that, it will be interesting to see if the Lions have added a few extra strings to their bow to avoid becoming predictable.
Indeed, it was the Cheetahs’ ability to add some defensive resolve to their characteristic attack that enabled them to charge to the Currie Cup title last year, and their challenge will once again be to transfer this form into Super Rugby.
The Lions have won each of their last five games against the Cheetahs, winning by an average margin of 16 points across that period, but this could well be a far more closely-fought affair.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ox Nche, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Jaco van der Walt.
KINGS vs JAGUARES, PORT ELIZABETH, SATURDAY 17:15
It will be fascinating to see what the Kings can offer in their second successive season of Super Rugby. The Port Elizabeth-based side are a far more settled bunch, after last year’s tumultuous lead-up to the competition left them fighting a quite literal losing battle.
In the end, the Kings lost 13 games out of 15, but one of their wins did come against the Jaguares when they met in Port Elizabeth.
That was one of 11 defeats suffered by the Jaguares in 2016 as they endured a disappointing debut season themselves. They should be much-improved this year now that they’ve got their first taste of the pace of Super Rugby.
Expect the Kings to put up a brave fight, but don’t expect them to emerge victorious against a Jaguares side that can call upon a host of Argentine internationals.
Kings – 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Ruan Lerm, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Mzwanele Zito, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Chris Heiberg, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole 'Coyi' Banda, 23 Luzuko Vulindlu.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Orlando, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Felipe Arregui, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Cristian Bartoloni, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
STORMERS vs BULLS, CAPE TOWN, SATURDAY 19:30
From a South African perspective, this is certainly the big game of the weekend. It’s an almost impossible task to confidently pick a winner in this traditional north-south derby that is likely to be decided by the smallest of margins.
What should make it particularly intriguing, is that both coaches have spoken of their desire to play a high-tempo game complemented with attacking intent, but that is likely to take a back seat in this opening fixture that is often decided among the forwards and through accurate goal-kicking.
Interestingly, this will be the fourth time in the past five seasons that these two teams have opened their campaigns against each other, but the last time the Bulls won such a fixture was back in 2013.
The Stormers and Bulls have new captains in Siya Kolisi and Handré Pollard respectively, with the latter particularly set to draw plenty of attention as he returns to Super Rugby action for the first time in over a year.
Based on home-ground advantage, the Stormers will be regarded as marginal favourites, but this is a game that could go either way.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malberbe, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Rob du Preez.
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Handre Pollard (c), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Nick de Jager, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Trevor Nyakane , 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlelle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images