Super Rugby preview (Round 4, Part 2)

CRAIG LEWIS looks ahead to the final four matches in round four of the competition.

WARATAHS vs BRUMBIES (Saturday, 10:45)

The Waratahs return home after a disappointing tour to South Africa, where they suffered heavy losses to both the Lions and Sharks, conceding nearly 100 points across the two games as their defence and discipline let them down.

It’s been an equally indifferent start to the season for the Brumbies, who find themselves at the top of the Australian conference, despite the fact they’ve won just a solitary game this season.

A decisive factor in this contest could revolve around whether Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley passes a late fitness test to take up his place at pivot for the Tahs, which would serve to reinforce their position as marginal favourites at home.

On another note, the two teams will be playing for the Dan Vickerman Cup in honour of the former Wallabies, Brumbies and Waratahs lock who died last month.

Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley/Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 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 Ned Hanigan, 21 Michael Wells, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 Bryce Hegarty/David Horwitz.

Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nigel Ah Wong, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Lolo Fakaosilea, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leulua’Iali’i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Ben Hyne, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Andrew Smith.

LIONS vs REDS (Saturday, 17:15)

It’s been difficult to know quite what to make of the Lions so far this season. Last year, they set the standard from a South African perspective, but the Johannesburg-based side has yet to ignite the competition in a similar way so far in 2017.

Although there were glimpses of the Lions rediscovering their attacking mojo against the Waratahs in round two, a weakened team then travelled to Argentina last weekend and suffered a rather predictable defeat against the Jaguares.

However, coach Johan Ackermann has now restored the team to full strength, with Boks such as Malcolm Marx, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies and Rohan Janse van Rensburg returning to the starting lineup, and the Lions should prove to be far too strong for a Reds side that has travelled from Brisbane and will have had limited time to acclimatise to the altitude.

As it is, the Lions are a different beast at home, having won each of their last seven games at home, while scoring an average of 47 points per game across that stretch.

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe/Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith/Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Harold Vorster.

Reds – TBC

SUPERBRU: SA Rugby magazine team's picks

SHARKS vs KINGS (Saturday, 19:30)

The Sharks made another big statement last weekend when they produced a powerful first-half performance that effectively sealed an impressive win over the Waratahs.

During the pre-season, coach Robert du Preez told SA Rugby magazine that he was intent on ensuring that the Sharks established a better balance between defence and attack this year, and there were certainly signs of that against the Waratahs.

However, the Sharks have suffered a significant injury blow with the loss of captain Pat Lambie, and the performance of unheralded youngster Benhard Janse van Rensburg could go some way to determining the extent of their victory over the Kings.

Although the Kings have shown glimpses of their competitive spirit this season, they’re unlikely to match the Sharks up front, and that should pave the way for the hosts’ young backline to run up a considerable score.

Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April.

Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Andisa Ntsila, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Justin Forwood, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Johann Tromp.

JAGUARES vs CHEETAHS (Saturday, 21:40)

The Cheetahs could do the Sharks and Lions a big favour by picking up a win over the Jaguares, who look like they could be contenders to top the Africa 2 conference.

More than that, the Cheetahs have an opportunity of their own to move to the summit of the Africa 1 conference on a weekend where the Stormers have their bye.

Interestingly, coach Franco Smith has made eight changes to his side – including starting Niel Marais at flyhalf – after the Cheetahs battled to put the Sunwolves away last weekend.

Once again, the challenge for the Cheetahs will be to match the tempo and physicality of the Jaguares on their home turf, with the Free State side having lost their last seven games away from Bloemfontein.

Jaguares – TBC

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Michael van Spuy, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ruan van Rensburg, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Henco Venter, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Armandt Koster,  Tom Botha, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Danie Mienie.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 William Small-Smith/Boom Prinsloo, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Fred Zeilinga.

PREVIEW: Super Rugby (Round 4, Part 1)

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis