S15 Preview: Round Three, Part Two
It is truly derby day - with all four of Saturday's games between teams in the same conference. Jan de Koning reports.
It is truly derby day - with all four of Saturday's games between teams in the same conference.
However, there is so much more at stake than just domestic bragging rights.
It is a day that will answer many questions - Are the Chiefs title contenders again? Was last week a one-off fluke by the Highlanders? Are the Waratahs just pretenders again? Have the reds found the mojo that saw them win the title three years ago? Will the South African influence my the Perth team a real Force? Are the Brumbies on the slide without Jake White? Are the Bulls about to experience a rare season of horrors? Can the Lions' unbeaten return to Super Rugby continue?
It all starts in Hamilton, when the Chiefs host the Highlanders - both fresh from opening round victories.
Then the Waratahs will hope to show they are genuine title contenders when they host the Reds in Sydney.
We move on to Perth where the Western Force will look to upstage the Brumbies.
And finally we arrive in Pretoria, where the Bulls, with two consecutive defeats, will hope to put their campaign back on track against a Lions team fresh from two victories.
In Part Two of our preview Jan de Koning looks at Saturday's action!
Chiefs v Highlanders
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
The Chiefs required a last-minute intercept try and an 80-metre sprint for the five-pointer to get past the Crusaders.
The Highlanders will be in a less charitable mood on Saturday, as they look to prove their 'no-name brand' team is not a one-hit wonder.
The manner of last week's first-half destruction of the Blues would have filled the Highlanders with confidence, but they have not been helped with the loss of their most experienced forward, Brad Thorn, with a rib injury.
Despite the loss coach Jamie Joseph felt there were enough positives to take out of last week's win to ensure they get the consistency that can make them genuine contenders.
The Dunedin-based outfit will likely again base their game on resolute defence.
The Chiefs are in a very different frame of mind, with coach Dave Rennie speaking about the problem areas that needed work - the set-pieces, particularly the line-outs.
"We need more ball and it's not just winning ball but the quality of ball we win," Rennie said, adding: "If we can do that we can apply more pressure on the opposition."
The quality of their ball retention and execution of their structures also needed work, but the defence had been outstanding.
"We're a pretty grounded bunch and we know the Highlanders are playing with a lot of spirit as well so they'll be a handful at the weekend.
"I thought they were really combative at the weekend and playing very similar to us in regard to getting a lot of forwards carrying in tight off nine, while they were very good post-tackle, getting guys in and slowing the ball down so we'll really have to be real sharp in that area," Rennie added.
The Highlanders coach, Joseph, said the Chiefs have set the benchmark in Super Rugby in recent years, but added that his side was looking forward to taking on the Chiefs.
''I have not focused too much on them, because they are such a good side," Joseph said, adding: "We just have to look at our own side and prepare the best we can and do the job we want to.
''Last week they played the Crusaders, a team loaded with All Blacks and they beat them. So it doesn't matter who plays for them.
''They are the pinnacle really. When they can get a team to beat the Crusaders last week suggests they are more than well organised.
"They have real commitment, real ability and any team that knocks them over has to be on their game.
''They have set the benchmark and we are trying to emulate some of the stuff that they do.''
2013: Chiefs won 19-7, Hamilton
2013: Chiefs won 41-27, Dunedin
2012: Chiefs won 27-21, Dunedin
2012: Highlanders won 23-19, Hamilton
2011: Chiefs won 20-7, Hamilton
2011: Highlanders won 23-13, Dunedin
Prediction: The Chiefs are at home, which is already an advantage. Having overcome last week's first-game jitters, they also have a better understanding of which areas they are going to be tested in. The Highlanders were full of energy, but also looked vulnerable when the Blues started running at them in the second half. The Chiefs have the ability to make teams pay where such weaknesses are exposed and the home team should win by about 10 points.
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson, (New Zealand) Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Reds
(ANZ Stadium, Sydney - Kick-off: 19.40; 08.40 GMT)
This is Australia's oldest and most fierce derby, with the prestigious Templeton Cup adding spice to an already delectable contest.
The trophy is named after legendary Queensland coach and administrator Bob Templeton (1932-1999) and was introduced in 2000 as a mark of respect to the service Templeton gave to the game.
The first game between the two states date back to 12 August 1882 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Of course there is also the not so insignificant fact of the Super Rugby points that are up for grabs.
Their detractors will tell you the Tahs are all hype, but on their home ground they will have an ideal opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.
While they had little trouble disposing of the erratic Western Force last week, the Reds will give them a far more searching test.
The Waratahs will be led by Michael Hooper for the first time after losing captain Dave Dennis to a knee injury.
The reds were expected to be unchanged, but in a late change Anthony Fainga'a replaced the injured Mike Harris (ankle).
Reds coach Richard Graham said the Templeton Cup ensures his players have all the motivation they needed to notch their second win of the season.
"There's massive history between these two teams and our players love the rivalry," Graham said.
"We've won the Templeton Cup in our last five encounters and that is something that the playing group is hugely proud of. They also understand what it means to Queensland and the players who have gone before them."
This weekend's match sees the potential for Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper to break the existing points-scoring record for a Reds player in Super Rugby.
The record is currently held by Elton Flatley, who scored 629 points in 86 Super Rugby appearances. Cooper currently sits on 620 points scored in 89 Super Rugby appearances.
This is not to be confused with the overall points-scoring record for Queensland prior to the inception of Super Rugby, which is held by Michael Lynagh on 1,166 points.
2013: Reds won 14-12, Sydney
2013: Reds won 25-17, Brisbane
2012: Reds won 32-16, Brisbane
2012: Reds won 25-21, Sydney
2011: Reds won 19-15, Brisbane
2011: Waratahs won 30-6, Sydney
Prediction: The bookmakers have happily installed the Waratahs as favourites, because they are at home. It is probably not a bad bet, but the Reds have a solid look about them and there's the Will Genia-Quade Cooper factor. In my book that makes the Reds favourites to win by about five points.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements - from: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Pat McCutcheon, 25 Jonno Lance.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Western Force v Brumbies
(NIB Stadium, Perth - Kick-off: 19.00; 11.00 GMT)
Both teams are smarting after last week's defeats, with the Western Force hoping to bounce back in their first home match of the season.
Hugh McMeniman and Chris Alcock have been promoted into the starting line-up, while Jayden Hayward will returns to the matchday squad on the bench.
The Brumbies will be looking to respond following last weekend's loss to the Reds, with Robbie Coleman named on the wing replacing the injured Joe Tomane (ankle), while outside Tevita Kuridrani comes into the starting line-up.
Former Force skipper David Pocock will make his return to Perth for the first time since leaving the Force at the end of the 2012 Super Rugby season.
The Brumbies hold a one-match advantage in the two sides' encounters in Perth, while the Force won the last clash between the sides - a 21-15 victory last year.
While the Force looked below par against the Waratahs last week, the Brumbies were not much better in a game where little went right in attack for the ACT outfit.
The Force leaked six tries against the Waratahs in an uncharacteristically poor defensive display.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said the Force was always a difficult team to beat, particularly when facing it in the west.
"Over the last two or three years some of the toughest battles we've faced have been against the Force, particularly when we are playing them here in Perth," Mowen said.
"There was no better example of that than the last round of last year when they managed to knock us off quite convincingly.
"After a disappointing start to the season last week, we know what areas need to improve. If we can achieve those changes then there's no reason we can't come home with our first win of 2014."
Since 2011, the ledger is almost even between the two sides with the Brumbies winning three matches, the Force two and one draw.
2013: Force won 21-15, Perth
2013: Brumbies won 41-7, Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 28-17, Perth
2012: Brumbies won 19-17, Canberra
2011: Force and Brumbies drew 13-13, Perth
2011: Force won 27-19, Canberra
Prediction: There is no doubt the Brumbies will arrive in Perth as strong favourites, even with the Western Force having home ground advantage. The derby factor will mean it could be a closely contested affair, but the Brumbies should win by about 10 points.
Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Chris Alcock, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Sias Ebersohn, 23 Jayden Hayward.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben Mowen (captain), 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephan Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Leon Power, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lionel Cronje.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Bulls v Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
The Lions, the surprise package of the competition, will be looking to build on the solid platform laid in the opening weeks.
However, Lions captain Warren Whiteley was well aware that they will be up against a desperate Bulls side stung by their back-to-back defeats.
"There is definitely confidence within the side," Whiteley told a media briefing, adding: "Each week our process stays the same whether we win or lose."
The Bulls coaching staff produced a couple of left-field selections in the hope of getting their campaign back on track.
Apart from the selection of veteran lock Victor Matfield in the starting line-up, there is the recall of 29-year-old flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter - who will make his first Bulls appearance in almost four years. Grant Hattingh at No.8 also raised eyebrows.
However, the man of the moment is flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who moved to the Lions after he found he was surplus to requirements in Pretoria a couple of seasons ago.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann was liberal with the plaudits.
"He is playing with lots of confidence and his balance is right, he knows when to kick and when to run," the Lions coach said.
"He is also in good form with his kicking boot. We hope that form continues for the next 15 to 16 weeks [of Super Rugby]."
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the Lions deserve all the credit that comes their way.
"They are an example to other teams, with the commitment they show," the Bulls mentor said.
"There are certain aspects of their game that make them very dangerous. They are a team in form, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
Ludeke said the Bulls have been in this situation (back-to-back defeats) before and it is vital for them to bounce back this weekend.
"We must produce a quality performance and our processes must work for us," he said, adding: "The result will take care of itself.
"We have aspects that make us a special team and the last two weeks we have not been able to get that into the game, get our own game going.
"That is why the weekend is so important for us to get a good performance."
2012: Bulls won 37-20, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 32-18, Johannesburg
2011: Bulls won 30-23, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 24-20, Johannesburg
2010: Bulls won 51-11, Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 16-9, Johannesburg
Prediction: It is interesting to see that bookmakers have installed the Bulls as favourites - the margin a converted try. That may be a bit generous, as the Lions are capable of tearing a team apart. While the game is being played at fortress Loftus, the Lions are on an impressive run and should edge this one - by five points or less.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jacobus Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)