JON CARDINELLI looks ahead to round 16 of the Super Rugby tournament.
REDS vs BRUMBIES (Friday, 11:45)
Who would back the Reds in this dead-rubber derby? According to Opta, the Brumbies have won their last five games against the Reds by an average margin of 26 points, including their last two games where they've scored exactly 43 points on each occasion. The Reds haven’t won a home game against Australian opposition since round 14, 2015 (five losses since).
Few teams have fared worse on attack in 2017. The Reds have averaged 22.2 points (rank 14) and 400m (rank 16) made per match.
The Reds are unlikely to trouble one of the best defences in the tournament. The Brumbies boast the highest tackle-completion (87%). They've conceded only 28 tries this season, and are second only to the Lions (26) in this category.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Adam Korczyk, 7 George Smith, 6 Rob Simmons, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Sef Fa'agase.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Markus Vanzati, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Chris Kuridrani.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Aidan Toua, 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 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Nigel Ah Wong, 23 Andrew Smith.
FORCE vs REBELS (Friday, 13:55)
The Rebels have won eight of their last 10 games against the Force, including each of the last two. They may also be encouraged by the fact that the Force haven't claimed back-to-back wins against Aussie opposition since round 18, 2014.
However, the Rebels have failed to win in each of their last six away games, with their five losses in that period coming by an average margin of 40 points.
The Force should not want for motivation ahead of this derby. They already enjoy a nine-point log lead over the Rebels, but will be looking to show all and sundry why they are more deserving of a place in a 15-team Super Rugby tournament.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jono Lance, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Rebels – 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Fereti Sa’aga, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks.
WARATAHS vs JAGUARES (Saturday, 11:45)
It doesn't get any easier for the Jaguares. The Argentinians have gone from bad to worse over the course of the 2017 season. They will now finish the conference stage with a testing two-game tour of Australia. Failure to win at least one of those matches may see the Jaguares finishing last in the Africa 2 conference.
The match in Sydney will mark the first meeting between the Waratahs and Jaguares in Super Rugby. The Argentinians have won just one match against Australian opposition this season.
Not that the Waratahs have been that flash in 2017. Daryl Gibson's side have lost their last 10 games in a row against teams from outside Australia, their longest losing streak to foreign sides. The Waratahs have proved to be one of the weakest defensive sides in the tournament, with a tackle-completion of 80% (rank 17).
Once again, the discipline of the Jaguares will be under scrutiny. The Argentines are ranked 17th in the tournament for penalties conceded (10.5 per match).
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 David McDuling, 20 Ryan McCauley, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerome de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Benjamin Macome, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Santiago Cordero.
BULLS vs KINGS (Saturday, 17:15)
There will be a lot of pride at stake in this clash. Both teams should be looking to win their remaining matches and avoid the South African wooden spoon. The Kings will be aiming for a first Super Rugby win against the Bulls, while the Bulls should be desperate to end a three-game losing streak at Loftus Versfeld.
History favours the Bulls, who have won all three previous meetings between these sides. The Bulls have scored a combined 120 points in those matches and have conceded just 24.
Nollis Marais' charges have battled in 2017, though, winning just four of their 13 matches. They may take some confidence out of the 30-17 win against the Sharks in Durban last week.
The Kings have been relatively impressive this season, scoring inaugural victories over the Waratahs (in Sydney), Sharks and Jaguares (in Buenos Aires). They've never had a better chance to beat the Bulls, or to finish higher than the Pretoria-based franchise in the South African group standings. The Kings currently enjoy a four-point lead over the Kings, with two matches remaining in the conference stage.
That said, the Bulls have looked a different side since returning from the June break. Their Springboks – Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel in particular – have carried their form in the recent Test series against France through to this final phase of the Super Rugby conference stage. The Bulls forwards appear to be playing with more power and accuracy, and the backs are kicking with the aim to regain possession.
The Bulls will need to look after the ball this Saturday. The Kings – through the likes of openside flanker Chris Cloete – tend to force a lot of turnovers. They also tend to convert those counter-attacking opportunities into points.
Defence and discipline has proved an issue for this Kings side, though. The Bulls should be looking to win the collisions, as well as the territorial battle. They should be aiming to pressure the visitors until they infringe.
Expect to see an arm-wrestle at Loftus this Saturday, with a resurgent Bulls side coming out on top.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Burger Odendaal.
Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Yaw Penxe
STORMERS vs SUNWOLVES (Saturday, 19:30)
The Stormers have lost just one game at home in 2017 (a 29-16 defeat to the Lions). While they were far from impressive in their recent outing against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, they should expect to down the struggling Sunwolves at Newlands.
The Stormers are undefeated in their three previous encounters with the Japanese franchise (won two, drawn one). The last time these two sides met in Cape Town, the Stormers smashed the Sunwolves 46-19.
The Sunwolves are coming off an embarrassing 94-7 loss to the Lions. To say that their defence has let them down this season would be an understatement. The Sunwolves have missed 30 tackles per match (more than any other team) and have conceded a total of 85 tries.
Not that their attack has been much better. For all the hype of the Sunwolves playing 'positive rugby', they've averaged 2.4 tries (rank 15) and 19.4 points (rank 16) per match.
The Stormers have blown hot and cold over the course of the conference stage. However, they should be looking to build some momentum ahead of the playoffs.
The Cape side must view this clash against the Sunwolves as an opportunity to produce a clinical performance. The return of several Springboks to the starting lineup should help their cause.
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Juarno Augustus, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 JD Schickerling, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Bjorn Basson.
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Ryohei Yamanaka, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Teruya Goto, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willem Britz (c), 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Takeshi Hino, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Subs:16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Koo Jiwon, 19 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 20 Shokei Kin, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Jumpei Ogura.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images