The SA Rugby magazine team predict what they expect to see come out of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and Tri-Nations matches.
Craig Lewis (editor) predicts the Pumas will surprise the All Blacks early on in Sydney.
After last weekend’s shock defeat by the Wallabies, New Zealand coach Ian Foster has picked virtually the strongest lineup available, restoring Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga to the halfback axis among a host of changes.
Many would expect this All Blacks side to dominate from the first to the last minute against an Argentina team that hasn’t played since last year’s World Cup, but I just have a sneaky suspicion that the Pumas will rock up with a point to prove.
It’s felt like Argentina’s Jaguares were largely an afterthought as New Zealand Rugby powered ahead with plans for a revised ‘Super Rugby’ future, and it remains to be seen what will become of domestic rugby in Argentina.
On Saturday, though, Los Pumas have an opportunity to make a real statement about their enduring qualities as a team. I’d expect the All Blacks to run away with a comfortable win in the second half, but I’ll also be looking forward to a highly combative and competitive showing that could surprise a few onlookers in the opening stanza.
Dylan Jack (staff writer) predicts the Stormers will continue their attacking form against Cheetahs.
The Stormers started the Super Rugby Unlocked season sluggishly, needing to come from behind in their wins over the Lions and Pumas, before being put to the sword by Jake White’s Vodacom Bulls side.
However, last weekend’s bonus-point victory in 30-degree conditions in Kimberley would have given John Dobson’s charges plenty of confidence, both on defence and on attack.
Playing at home for the first time in four weeks, the Stormers are likely to find a very different challenge against the Cheetahs, who are coming off a disappointing loss to the Sharks last weekend and will be keen to bounce back.
Herschel Jantjies’ return from compassionate leave to go with the return to the starting lineup of Ruhan Nel, Salmaan Moerat, Frans Malherbe and Scarra Ntubeni are a massive boost.
Given that the Cheetahs still may be a bit rusty and are still adapting after losing a couple of players to transfers and injuries, this is a good opportunity for the Stormers to close the gap on the Bulls at the top of the table.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) predicts Ireland will pile more misery on Wales.
Ireland will still be reeling after squandering an opportunity to add to their Six Nations title tally, especially having made a promising start to the competition earlier in the year. But their misfortune is nothing compared to what Wales are going through at the moment.
Post-Warren Gatland Wales are in disarray. The appointment of Wayne Pivac as head coach held so much promise for the Welsh, but so far in this new era, the national side have lost five out of their six Tests with the only victory coming against the lowly Italy.
And as a direct result of the growing public unease and thus mounting pressure on the Pivac and his coaching staff, defence coach Byron Hayward was the first casualty as he was sacked – leaving Wales without a defence coach just five days out from the start of the competition.
A move that will surely deflate what little confidence and morale a team on a 1-5 run has left and a move Ireland will happily exploit.
Both sides have named full-strength lineups and with every Celtic nations clash from now to next year doubling down as an audition for places in the British & Irish Lions squad, this will undoubtedly be a spicy encounter. And, one I think Ireland will win handsomely.
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