JON CARDINELLI looks ahead to the Super Rugby matches on Saturday, including the games involving the Bulls, Lions and Stormers.
CHIEFS vs WARATAHS (Hamilton, Saturday, 9:35am)
The Chiefs return to New Zealand in good spirits. While they went down to the Sharks in Durban last week, a young and depleted side still managed to salvage a losing bonus point. Overall, the Chiefs accumulated five log points on their two-game South African tour.
The Waratahs beat the Highlanders last week to end a 40-game losing streak for Australian teams against New Zealand opposition.
Winning back-to-back matches against Kiwi opponents would be some statement. That said, the Waratahs haven’t beaten the Chiefs in New Zealand since 2014.
A win would strengthen the Chiefs’ bid for a playoff berth. With All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie returning to the side this week, one would expect them to bank four log points against a Waratahs side that has failed to impress in 2018.
Stats and facts
o The Waratahs have won six of their last eight games against the Chiefs, though they will be looking to avoid successive defeats to them for the first time since a three-game drought from 2006 to 2008.
o The Chiefs have won 11 of their last 12 games against teams from Australia, including each of their last seven on the bounce.
o The Tahs have won just one of their last 10 games played outside Australia (drawn one, lost eight), picking up just two losing bonus points in that time.
o The Waratahs have conceded just 55 points in the final quarter of games this season; only the Hurricanes (31) and Crusaders (34) have conceded fewer in that period.
o Damian McKenzie has made 15 break passes this season, the second most of any player in the competition behind Elton Jantjies (17).
Chiefs – 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai (c), 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Mitch Karpik, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
REDS vs HIGHLANDERS (Brisbane, Saturday, 11:45am)
The Highlanders have a point to prove after going down to the Waratahs last week. While that match was affected by the red card for wing Tevita Nabura, Aaron Mauger’s charges will know that they let an opportunity to climb the New Zealand conference ladder slip.
Another loss would be a blow to their playoff cause. If they meet the Reds’ challenge at the set pieces and collisions, they should do enough to come away with a win.
The Reds were competitive in their recent loss to the Hurricanes. They managed to put four tries past a defence that usually doesn’t concede many.
A few of the other teams vying for a playoff place will be cheering on the Reds. It would certainly help the likes of the Jaguares, Chiefs and several South African teams if the Highlanders went down in Brisbane this Saturday.
Stats and facts
o The Reds have won five of their last seven games against the Highlanders, but just one of their last three; they haven’t lost back-to-back games against the Dunedin franchise since 2004/2005.
o The Reds have won four of their last five games on home turf; however, their only loss in that time came in the only one of the five against New Zealand opposition (Chiefs).
o The Highlanders have won seven of their last nine games in Australia; they had won just one of 15 games in the country prior to that run.
o The Queensland side have made just six offloads per game this season, fewer than any other team in the competition and four per game fewer than the Highlanders.
o Three of the top four busiest tacklers in 2018 Super Rugby ply their trade for the Highlanders this season; Luke Whitelock (161), Thomas Franklin (149) and Dillon Hunt (149) are matched only by the Lions’ Franco Mostert (152) thus far.
Reds – 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Liam Wright, 22 Moses Sorovi, 23 Aidan Toua.
Highlanders – 15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 James Lentjes, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Richard Buckman.
BULLS vs BRUMBIES (Pretoria, Saturday, 3:05pm)
The Bulls were nothing short of pathetic in their recent game against the Jaguares. Afterwards, coach John Mitchell questioned the commitment of his charges. The upshot is that we could see a backlash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Brumbies are coming off a 42-24 loss to the Lions at Ellis Park. The hosts weren’t at their best in that fixture, and were helped by a Brumbies side that lacked accuracy and discipline.
Will the Brumbies change tack this week, or will we see their forwards persisting with the ploy to spoil and slow the opposition down? The Bulls should be mindful of these tactics. The work done by the back row at the breakdown will be key to the hosts’ success.
The Bulls can’t afford to lose another game. Victory at home is non-negotiable, and one might say that a try-scoring bonus point is needed in a game against a Brumbies side ranked fourth in the Australian conference.
Stats and facts
o The Brumbies have won four of their last five games against the Bulls, including each of their last two; the last time they won more was a five-game streak from 1999 to 2003.
o The Bulls have won four of their last six games on home turf as well as picking up one losing bonus point in that time.
o The Brumbies have won the second game of each of their last two multi-game tours of South Africa in Super Rugby, while the last time they lost multiple games in a single tour of the country was in 2014.
o The Bulls boast the best lineout success rate (91%) of any team in the competition this season, winning a league-high 14 lineouts per game.
o David Pocock has won 2.4 turnovers per game this season; no other player in the competition has won more than 1.6.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Matthys Basson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 André Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Andrew Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano (co-c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 Sam Carter (co-c), 4 Blake Enever, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Nick Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andrew Smith.
STORMERS vs LIONS (Cape Town, Saturday, 5:15pm)
The Lions have a great opportunity to head into the June break with a commanding lead at the top of the South African conference. At this stage, they are seven log points ahead of the second-best side in the division, the Jaguares. They remain on track for a home playoff.
The Stormers are currently last in the conference, and deservedly so. The Cape side hit rock bottom last week when they recorded an inaugural loss to the Sunwolves in Hong Kong.
Robbie Fleck’s side will need to win their three remaining fixtures and hope a few of the other results go their way. While they have done well at home this season, one cannot see them stopping the Lions.
The Lions’ success has been down to the power and accuracy of their set pieces. The Stormers are missing Eben Etzebeth and JD Schickerling, and will be hard-pressed to live with the Lions at the lineouts and mauls.
Neither team has performed particularly well in the defensive department this season. The Lions, however, are the top-ranked attacking side and are better equipped to exploit the Stormers’ defensive frailties – of which there are many.
Stats and facts
o The Lions have won their last three games on the bounce against the Stormers by an average margin of 14 points; they had previously earned just one win in 13 games against the Cape Town outfit (drawn one, lost 11).
o A 15-9 loss to the Chiefs in round 13 snapped a five-game winning run at home for the Stormers, who will now be looking to avoid consecutive home defeats for the first time since losing three in succession in 2011.
o Seven of the last nine South African derbies have been won by the home team, including each of the last three.
o The Lions have made 1.5 lineout steals per game this season, more than any other franchise in the competition.
o Damian de Allende has made 147 carries this campaign, the second most of any player, while also having beaten the third most defenders (48) of any player.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 EW Viljoen, 23 Craig Barry.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Madosh Tambwe, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images