CRAIG LEWIS looks ahead to the first four matches in round nine of the competition.
HURRICANES vs BRUMBIES (Friday 09:35)
The Hurricanes keep on ticking along. Last weekend’s hard-fought win over the Blues was their sixth of the season and ensures that they remain very much in the running in the ultra-competitive New Zealand conference.
By contrast, the Brumbies will be smarting over last weekend’s shock loss to the Rebels, but they remain comfortably placed at the summit of the underwhelming Aussie conference.
Interestingly, the Brumbies have won five of the last six meetings between the sides, but pay more attention to the fact that the Canes have won four of the last six games when hosting the Brumbies, and all of their last nine home matches.
In notable team news, Canes scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will make his Super Rugby debut in place of TJ Perenara, while Cory Jane returns on the wing. For the Brumbies, James Dargaville comes on to the wing, while Josh Mann-Rea is back in the No 2 jersey.
Although the Brumbies might put up a competitive fight in the first half, expect the Hurricanes to run away with the result in the end.
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Otere Black, 23 Ben Lam.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
WARATAHS vs KINGS (Friday 11:45)
The Kings have been commendably competitive this season, but the fact remains that they have lost six games out of seven, with the struggling Reds having added to their woes last weekend.
The Port Elizabeth-based side have now spent three weeks on the road in Australia, and it’s going to be a big ask to get up for another challenging clash against a well-rested Waratahs side coming off a bye.
The Kings have made four changes and one positional switch for this clash, with Wandile Mjekevu returning on the wing, while the Waratahs’ Rob Horne has recovered from injury and will start at outside centre, with Israel Folau shifting to fullback.
Once again, the Kings have nothing to lose, but the Waratahs should have little trouble in clinching a much-needed win.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David McDuling, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Angus Taavao, 18 David Lolohea, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Harry Jones.
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Ruaan Lerm/Martin Bezuidenhout, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Stokkies Hanekom, 23 Pieter-Steyn de Wet.
LIONS vs JAGUARES (Friday 19:00)
Last weekend, the Lions provided emphatic evidence that they are the most complete side in South Africa, with their impressive win over the Stormers at Newlands sending them six points clear at the top of the Africa 2 conference.
The Johannesburg-based side have suffered a blow after influential centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg picked up a serious knee injury, but his place will be taken by last weekend’s Man of the Match, Harold Vorster.
Interestingly, Johan Ackermann has reshuffled the entire front row for this clash, and the battle at scrumtime should be a particularly intriguing one, with the Lions sure to have taken note that the Jaguares have recorded the lowest scrum success (74%) this season.
Meanwhile, the Lions have won their last nine home games, scoring at least 34 points in each of those matches, while the Jaguares have won only two of their 12 away games.
The big challenge for the Lions will be to ensure they once again replicate last weekend’s physical and committed performance, which would result in another comfortable victory.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Malcom Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Jaques Nel, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Jaguares – 15 Ramiro Moyano, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Emiliano Boffelli.
HIGHLANDERS vs SUNWOLVES (Saturday 07:15)
The Highlanders headed into last weekend’s bye week on a three-match winning streak, and should be relishing the opportunity to rack up a bonus-point over the struggling Sunwolves in Dunedin.
Taking nothing for granted, coach Tony Brown has named a strong team for this clash, with powerful Waisake Naholo boosting the side as he returns from injury, while Malakai Fekitoa and Matt Faddes form a dynamic midfield combination.
This will be the first meeting between these sides, with the Sunwolves having yet to win away from home in Super Rugby. That will not change on Saturday.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate 17, Aki Seiuli 18, Siosuia Halanukonuka 19, Tom Franklin 20, Gareth Evans 21, Josh Renton 22, Teihorangi Walden 23, Sio Tomkinson.
Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 William Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Yuhimaru Mimura, 6 Edward Quirk (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Hayden Cripss, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
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