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Super Rugby | Christchurch
06:35 (GMT) | 21-03-2015
  • 81
Join us again for more live Super Rugby coverage later when the Bulls take on the Force at Loftus.
  • 80
Mahoje goes off in what looks like a serious injury before the game restarts. The Crusaders go on one last attack but Whitelock loses it forward on half way. The Cheetahs now have possession in the own half before they lose it forward. The Crusaders go wide to Ellis who puts in a chip kick and it goes into touch in the Cheetahs 22 for FULL-TIME: Crusaders 57-14 Cheetahs
  • 79
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 57-14
  • 79
The Crusaders now pick up a loose pass and Carter is in for his second TRY!
  • 78
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 50-14
  • 76
From the line-out in the Cheetahs' 22, the Crusaders opt for a driving maul and they make their way to the tryline before Todd breaks off. It goes wide to Carter in the midfield who passes to David Kaetau Havili who loses it forward. From the scrum Le Roux sends a chip kick but the Crusaders get it back
  • 76
The home team now has possession just outside the Cheetahs 22 before some great passing by Moody and Sam Whitelock sets up the TRY! for David Kaetau Havili!
  • 74
Meyer now takes a quick tap from a penalty as the Cheetahs run it back towards halfway. Willie le Roux sends a no look pass and the Crusaders get the ball back and kick down field. They will now have an attacking line-out in the Cheetahs 22.
  • 71
Carter misses the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 43-14
  • 70
From an attacking scrum five metres from the Cheetahs tryline, Luke Whitelock takes it up before Taufua crashes over for his second TRY!
  • 69
After a few resets, The Cheetahs finally get the ball, but they are under pressure. But they get another scrum as they cannot use. The Crusaders scrum is looking dominant
  • 69
This time the Crusaders win the penalty with Oosthuizen under serious pressure and he gets YELLOW CARDED!
  • 66
The Crusaders win a penalty and the Crusaders opt for a five- metre attacking line-out deep in the Cheetahs 22. They give away a free-kick after committing an obstruction and the Cheetahs have a scrum five out from their own tryline
  • 64
From the scrum the Crusaders go to the short side but they are tackled into touch and the Cheetahs have a defensive line-out five out from their tryline. Pietersen clears and the Crusaders have a line-out just outside the Cheetahs 22
  • 62
The Crusaders are now dominant and find themselves with another attacking line-out just outside the Cheetahs 22. But they lose the throw in and the Cheetahs now attempt to run it but they lose it forward and the Crusaders have a scrum on the Cheetahs 10 metre line
  • 58
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders now leads 38-14
  • 57
Another turnover is won by the Crusaders and Nadolo picks up a grubber kick and scores another TRY for the Crusaders!
  • 56
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 31-14
  • 55
Carter is now in for the fourth TRY! after some messy play by the Cheetahs at the back.
  • 54
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the home team leads 24-14
  • 53
Todd now breaks through a tackle on halfway after a kick from the Cheetahs. The flanker passes to Sam Whitelock who gives the ball to Dagg who is in for the third TRY! for the home team.
  • 52
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 17-14
  • 51
The Crusaders, from an attacking scrum five metres from the Cheetahs tryline, wins a PENALTY TRY with the Cheetahs under pressure and a strong shove from the home team
  • 49
The Crusaders take a quick throw near halfway after a Cheetahs kick. Nadolo finds space and smashes his way through three tackles before he is brought down by a high tackle. The ball goes to Sam Whitelock who crashes over the line but is held up. Willie le Roux gets YELLOW CARDED for the high tackle
  • 48
From the line-out, Brussouw charges up the middle before Sadie's pass is loose and the Crusaders counter with Carter making ground before he passes to Todd. The flanker then gives it to Slade who is in the Cheetahs 22, but play goes into touch and the Cheetahs have a line-out in their 22
  • 46
Nadolo charges at the Cheetahs defense before Fonotia finds some space as the Crusaders move towards the Cheetahs 22, but Read is tackled into touch. The Cheetahs take it quickly and kick down field before winning a penalty near halfway and they will have a line-out on the home sides 22
  • 42
Ellis sends a high ball and Le Roux is played in the air again on halfway. Read gets a talking to and Pietersen gives his team a line-out near the Crusaders' 22. They setup the driving maul with Brussouw breaking away before losing the ball forward and the home team has a scrum in their own 22
  • 41
SECOND-HALF: Cheetahs' flyhalf Joe Pietersen gets the second half under way!

Half Time

  • 40
Carter converts the PENALTY, but it is the Cheetahs who lead 14-10 at HALF-TIME
  • 39
The Cheetahs noe, from a line-out deep in their own half takes it up the midfield before Pietersen kicks down field, The Crusaders run it back and find themselves in the Cheetahs 22 with Nadolo in space again. Taufua is now over the lne but he was held in the tackle. But play is brought back for a Crusaders penalty.
  • 37
Pietersen kicks from the scrum before Dagg sends another chip and the Cheetahs win a penalty with Nadolo offside and the Cheetahs have an attacking line-out in the Crusaders 22. The home team wins the line-out before Nadolo kicks. The Crusaders no have the ball on halfway after a kick dual
  • 35
Dagg sends a chip kick behind the Cheetahs defence after a kicking duel after the restart, but he loses it forward trying to pick it up and the Cheetahs have a scrum on their own ten-metre line
  • 33
Pietersen adds the CONVERSION and the Cheetahs lead 14-7
  • 32
The Cheetahs win a penalty at the restart after Mahoje was taken out in the air and from a line-out just outside the Crusaders 22 the Cheetahs go wide with Rhule into space in the Crusaders 22 before he gives a pass to the inside and Sadie scores the TRY!
  • 30
Pietersen adds the CONVERSION and it is all level at 7-7
  • 29
The home team goes wide from the line-out. Ellis slips a tackle before Venter snaps up a loose pass and races 78 metres to score the Cheetah's first TRY! of the game
  • 28
The Crusaders win the ball back from a kick and run it back into the Cheetahs 22 before Taufua is tackled into touch about five metres short of the Cheetahs tryline. From the line--out, the Cheetahs clear through Le Roux and the Crusaders have a line-out just outside the away team's 22
  • 26
The Cheetahs have the ball back now just outside the Crusaders 22 after a knock on, but they knock on themselves after a number of phases and the Crusaders have a scrum near own 22. They go wide with Nadolo into space. He passes to Carter but it is stolen by the Cheetahs.
  • 24
The Cheetahs win the restart after agood take by Steven Sykes and Pietersen will have a chance to reduce the margin with a kick almost 40 metres out. He line it up and he misses the penalty and the score remains 7-3
  • 22
The Crusaders now have the ball deep in their own half before Dagg kicks. Le Roux returns it. Dagg kicks again before Le Roux finds touch near the Crusaders ten-metre line. Le Roux fields a kick before his own kick goes over the Crusaders tryline.
  • 20
Carter adds the CONVERSION and the Crusaders lead 7-0
  • 19
The Crusaders win another penalty at the scrum after Coenie Oosthuizen collapsing again and Carter gives his team a five-metre line-out. They form a maul. Ellis is nearly through as the home team are just metres away. The Crusaders go for pick and goes before Jordan Taufua is over for the TRY!
  • 17
Dagg runs it out from his 22 from the restart. Ellis kicks. Blommetjies gets the ball in his own half and runs it back. After a few phases the Crusaders win the penalty and they take it quickly on halfway but Crotty loses it forward after going wide and the Cheetahs have a scrum on their own ten-metre line
  • 15
The Cheetahs, from a scrum about six metres from their own tryline, gives away a penalty after Coenie Oosthuizen collapses and Read opts for the three points. Carter sets up his kick and misses the penalty. The score remains 0-0
  • 13
The Crusaders win a penalty with the Cheetah's scrumhalf Tian Meyer offside at the scrum and Carter gives the Crusaders a line-out five metres from the Cheetahs 22. They form a driving maul with Todd in possession at the back but good defence bu the Cheetah's wins them a scrum.
  • 11
From a line-out just outside the Cheetahs 22, Ellis goes wide with Nadolo making ground in the midfield. Read takes it in the Cheetahs 22 before Pietersen knocks it forward and the Crusaders will gets an attacking scrum in the Cheetahs 22
  • 9
The Cheetahs opt for a driving maul before going wide but play is brought back for a penalty after Read comes in from the side and Pietersen gives his team a line-out in the Crusaders 22. It is an untidy line-out and the home team comes away with it and they get a penalty on halfway.
  • 7
Willie le Roux gets taken out in the air by Kieron Fonotia on the Cheetahs ten-metre line and the Crusaders' wing gets a YELLOW CARD! Pietersen gives his team a line-out near the Crusaders ten-metre line
  • 6
The Cheetahs win a penalty from the scrum after a illegal wheel. Pietersen cannot find touch and the Crusaders run it back with Dagg who passes to Nadolo put into space, but Carter kicks out on the full in the Cheetahs 22. The Cheetahs win the line-out before Pietersen clears
  • 4
From the scrum, the Crusaders win a penalty with Mienie collapsing and Carter gives his team an attacking line-out in the Cheetahs 22. They opt for a maul before going wide with Crotty nearly in. The Cheetahs will have a scrum five metres from their tryline after the Crusaders were held up.
  • 2
Cheetahs knock-on straight from the kick-off and the Crusaders have an attacking scrum on the visitor's ten-metre line.
  • 0
KICK-OFF: Crusaders' inside centre Daniel Carter gets the game under way!
  • -5
We have perfect conditions at AMI Stadium ahead of kick-off.
  • -10
The Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home, including the last five outside of South Africa, averaging 39 points conceded per game during those five matches.
  • -20
The Crusaders have won five of their last six at home, with four of those wins coming by more than 20 points.
  • -30
Welcome to live coverage of Super Rugby with the Crusaders taking on the Cheetahs at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Mc crusaders logo 80x50
Mc cheetahs logo 80x50
  • 15 David Havili
  • 14 Seta Tamanivalu
  • 13 Jack Goodhue
  • 12 Ryan Crotty
  • 11 George Bridge
  • 10 Mitchell Hunt
  • 9 Bryn Hall
  • 8 Jordan Taufua
  • 7 Matt Todd
  • 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis
  • 5 Sam Whitelock
  • 4 Scott Barrett
  • 3 Michael Alaalatoa
  • 2 Codie Taylor
  • 1 Tim Perry
  • 23 Manasa Mataele
  • 22 Mike Delany
  • 21 Mitchell Drummond
  • 20 Tom Sanders
  • 19 Quinten Strange
  • 18 Chris King
  • 17 Wyatt Crockett
  • 16 Ben Funnell
  • 15 Clayton Blommetjies
  • 14 William Small-Smith
  • 13 Francois Venter
  • 12 Niel Marais
  • 11 Sibahle Maxwane
  • 10 Johan Goosen
  • 9 Tian Meyer
  • 8 Uzair Cassiem
  • 7 Oupa Mohoje
  • 6 Paul Schoeman
  • 5 Reniel Hugo
  • 4 Carl Wegner
  • 3 Johannes Coetzee
  • 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld
  • 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche
  • 23 AJ Coertzen
  • 22 Clinton Swart
  • 21 Zee Mkhabela
  • 20 Henco Venter
  • 19 Reynier Bernardo
  • 18 Tom Botha
  • 17 Charles Marais
  • 16 Jacques du Toit
Mc article lambie v cruden 630

Preview: S15 Round Six, Part Two

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 23:06

The stage is set for two days of high drama in the Super Rugby arena, as we take a look at Saturday and Sunday's matches.

The stage is set for two days of high drama in the Super Rugby arena on Saturday and Sunday, with the presence or absence of several big-name players the main attraction.

Star flank David Pocock will return to the spotlight for the Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies, against the defending champion Waratahs.

In contrast All Black superstar Sonny Bill Williams will be missing when the Chiefs take on the Sharks this weekend.

The Sharks also suffered a setback, with Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit ruled out for three months after knee surgery this week.

However, it is the decision of the Sharks to not rest key Springboks Marcell Coetzee, Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach that caused the biggest stir in the Republic.

Saturday's drama starts when the seven-time champion Crusaders, 10th on the standings after just two wins from four starts, host the 11th-placced Cheetahs (also two wins from four starts) in Christchurch.

We then cross the Indian Ocean to South Africa, where the seventh-placed Bulls (two wins from four starts) host the Western Force (12th, with just one win in five outings) in Pretoria.

The Sharks (sixth, with two wins in five starts) are then up against the Chiefs (fourth, just one loss in five outings).

Sunday's only game is the big all-Australian derby - where the defending champion Waratahs (eighth after recording just two wins) and the table-topping Brumbies (four wins in five outings) go head-to-head in a match that is an early wallaby trial.

We look at Saturday and Sunday's matches!

Saturday, March 21

Crusaders v Cheetahs
(AMI Stadium, Christchurch - Kick-off: 19.35; 08.35 SAST; 06.35 GMT)

The Crusaders, notoriously slow starters, will be without one of their most iconic players, Richie McCaw when the dangerous Cheetahs arrive in town.

McCaw, who has been replaced as openside flank by Matt Todd, is being rested up so he can be fresh when the Crusaders arrive in South Africa next week - where they will face the Bulls in Pretoria and the Sharks in Durban.

Coach Todd Blackadder made no secret of the fact that McCaw is being held back to be unleash in the Republic.

"That was part of the plan for both Richie and Matt," he said of the decision to rotate the two flanks, adding: "Both wore worn out a couple of weeks ago, so it's just purely rotation."

McCaw's absence coincides with the Cheetahs' famed poacher Heinrich Brüssow, who will start his first game of the season - after recovering from concussion-related symptoms he suffered while playing in Japan.

The Cheetahs, who haven't won in Australasia since their successful 2013 tour, have managed just one win outside Bloemfontein in their last 11 matches on the road. That victory was in Round One this year, when they beat the Sharks in Durban.

The Crusaders, who won just one of their first three matches, looked to be showing signs of improvement when they dismissed an underwhelming Lions team 34-6 last week.

However, their coach, Blackadder, felt they played nowhere near their true potential.

"I still think we have got some work to do," the coach said.

The Cheetahs, who lost their last two outings after winning in rounds one and three, will have to improve their defence and cut down on the high error count if they are to stop the slide that has set in, in recent weeks.

Recent results:
2014: Crusaders won 52-31, Bloemfontein
2012: Crusaders won 28-21, Christchurch
2011: Cheetahs won 33-20, Bloemfontein
2010: Crusaders won 45-6, Christchurch
2009: Cheetahs won 20-13, Bloemfontein
2008: Crusaders won 55-7, Christchurch

Prediction: The Crusaders have won five of their last six at home, with four of those wins coming by more than 20 points. In contrast, the Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home, including the last five outside of South Africa, averaging 39 points conceded per game during those five matches. The New Zealand side has conceded more tries (nine) than they have scored (eight) so far this season, however, at home they have scored five tries and conceded just two. The Crusaders have beaten the fewest defenders on average this year. They have evaded just 11.8 would-be tacklers per game. The Cheetahs have conceded 29.8 points and three tries per game on average this season; no team has averaged more in 2015. The Cheetahs do have a realistic chance of an upset, but then they will need to be on top of their game. Anything less than 100 percent will not be good enough. Heinrich Brüssow versus Matt Todd is going to be a key head-to-head battle. The Crusaders may just have enough in the tank to sneak a win by less than seven points.


Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 David Havili
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Johannes Prinsloo, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.

Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Wratt (New Zealand)

Bulls v Western Force
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 23.05 AWST; 15.05 GMT)

The Western Force - despite having suffered four straight losses - do not fear the Loftus Versfeld factor and are willing to broadcast their confidence to the world.

History also seems to suggest they are a team that always push the Bulls to the limit, with the biggest home win by the team from Pretoria a 10-pointer (36-26) two years ago.

In fact in 2007, the year the Bulls won the first of their three titles, the Force scored an upset (30-27) victory at Loftus.

Force scrumhalf Alby Mathewson this week said are "quietly confident" of causing another upset.

"It's not like we're worried about playing in Pretoria or anything like that," Mathewson old the media from the team's base in South Africa.

"We are confident we can go there and do the job. Confidence in the group is still high. We still believe in what we're doing and how we do it.

"It's just about getting rid of those little inaccuracies."

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is well aware of the threat posed by the visitors, but felt his team - fresh from last week's bye - will be able to maintain the momentum they built through the victories over the Cheetahs and Sharks in their last two outings.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies was a bit more cautious in his approach.

"We always seem to be in tight matches against each other," he said of a rivalry in which the biggest winning margin - home and away - was 28-15 victory by the Bulls in Perth in 2010, the year that they won their third title.

"The trick for us will be to play the big moments better and to execute whenever we create scoring opportunities."

Ludeke said he had been impressed by the way his charges turned their fortunes around after the home defeats in the opening weeks.

"The impressive thing was the way the players changed and their accuracy suddenly changed, then the belief came, and with that the momentum came as well," Ludeke said.

"We would like to continue with what made us a dangerous side before the break, getting into the right areas, converting that opportunity, accuracy on defence and squeezing opportunities and hopefully winning that field position battle."

Recent results:
2014: Force won 15-9, Perth
2013: Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
2011: Force won 26-21, Perth
2010: Bulls won 28-15, Perth
2009: Bulls won 32-29, Pretoria
2008: Force won 15-14, Perth

Prediction: In the regular season, the Bulls have won their last 15 at home to Australian sides, last losing in February 2007; however that defeat was inflicted by the Force. The Force have averaged more time in possession than any other side this season (16 minutes and 32 seconds). The Bulls have the best ruck success rate this year (96 percent). The Western Australia side have the worst tackling success rate this season, making just 83 percent of their tackles so far in 2015. The Force has also averaged the fewest clean breaks this season, making just 4.2 per game. The Bulls, along with the Brumbies, have averaged the most points per game this season (28); this is due in part to their goal-kicking success rate in Super Rugby this season (86 percent). Handré Pollard is the second-highest point-scorer so far this season (72) and has so far averaged the most points per game of any player (18). In the Bulls' last match against the Cheetahs, Pollard joined an exclusive club of just nine Super Rugby players to score at least a try, a conversion, a penalty-goal and a drop-goal in the same match. The other players in this club are Carlos Spencer (1996), Andrew Mehrtens (1998), Glen Jackson (2001), Andre Pretorius (2003), Morne Steyn (2008), Kurtley Beale (2008), Quade Cooper (2011 & 2013) and Johan Goosen (2014). It may not be a run-away win for the Bulls, but it is difficult to see the Force cause an upset, given their poor form. The Bulls should win by between 10 and 15 points.


Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (captain), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins/Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Sharks v Chiefs
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.10; 06.10 Sunday, March 22 NZDT; 17.10 GMT)

The focus during the build-up to this game has been mostly on which players are in and who was out.

Sonny Bill Williams has failed to recover in time from his concussion issues and has been ruled out, while fellow centre Tim Nanai-Williams has flown home to New Zealand with a fractured finger.

The Sharks lost Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will spend the next three months on the sidelines, after undergoing knee surgery.

But the real drama involved the Sharks Springbok trio of Marcell Coetzee, Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach '- who will all feature in this vital match, despite a request from the Bok coach and the South African Rugby Union that they do not feature in more than five consecutive matches.

This will be their sixth successive outing.

The off-field issues aside, the Sharks know they are in for a testing encounter against a Chiefs team that ended the Stormers unbe4aten run last week.

"The Chiefs' backline has shown they can score a lot of tries," Sharks assistant coach Sean Everitt.

"The most important thing for us is stopping them from getting turnovers, that is where they are really strong and that is where they have scored the majority of their tries from."

Even without big names like Williams-times-two, they can still fall back on All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden to weave his magic.

"We are a talented group ourselves," Everitt said, adding: "We have internationals in our backline - we have Cobus [Reinach] and Pat [Lambie] and obviously Frans [Steyn] and JP [Pietersen] as well as Odwa [Ndungane] and Lwazi [Mvovo] who have all played international rugby."

The Chiefs fought back to end the Stormers' unbeaten start to the season with a 28-19 win last weekend and have won on four of their seven visits to Durban.

However, the Sharks' stuttering season took a turn in the right direction last week with a bonus point win over the Cheetahs.

Recent results:
2013: Chiefs won 37-29, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 37-6, Hamilton (Final)
2012: Chiefs won 18-12, Durban
2011: Chiefs won 15-9, Hamilton
2010: Chiefs won 19-18, Durban
2009: Sharks won 22-15, Hamilton

Prediction: The Chiefs are aiming to win on consecutive weekends in South Africa for just the third time; a feat they last managed in April 2012. The Sharks' Marcell Coetzee is the joint top-try scorer this season, and the top- scoring forward after crossing the whitewash four times in five games. The Chiefs' James Lowe has made the most clean breaks (11) in Super Rugby this season. Nobody else is yet to hit double figures. The Hamilton-based side has averaged the most offloads per game (18) this season.  Sonny Bill Williams has made 13 of those offloads and the most of any player in the competition so far. The Sharks will be without Super Rugby's top line-out winner this season, Pieter- Steph du Toit, who had won (28) and stolen (four) more than any other player so far this year. This is going to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend, both in terms of the quality of the rugby and the intrigue of the encounter. It is a tough call to make, but we feel the Sharks' curve is on the up and they will edge an arm-wrestle by less than 10 points.


Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Waylon Murray.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Tom Marshall, 23 Hosea Gear.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Sunday, March 22

Waratahs v Brumbies
(Allianz Stadium, Sydney - Kick-off: 16.05; 05.05 GMT)

This is going to be a Wallaby trial, whether the coaches say so in public or not.

Top of that list of head-to-heads is the Michael Hooper versus David Pocock openside battle, when the latter eventually is released off the replacement bench.

How much time Pocock is given will be crucial in the Brumbies. drive to cement their top spot on the standings and keep the Waratahs at an arms-length in the race for top spot in the Australian conference.

The Brumbies lead the overall standings after five games, while the Waratahs have had a difficult start to their title defence losing two of their four outings.

The Waratahs' shaky defence faces another test in Sydney, with the Brumbies having scored a tournament-best 19 tries in their surge to the competition lead.

Coached by Waratahs' Michael Cheika's newly-appointed Wallaby assistant Stephen Larkham, the Brumbies have also conceded only three tries in five games this campaign.

"The Brumbies are a very well drilled team," the Waratahs' injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau said.

"They do everything well and our focus on Sunday will be on playing consistently throughout the whole match and delivering a full 80-minute performance, which we haven't managed yet."

He is supported in this view by wing Rob Horne, who will be vying for a place in the Wallaby side with Brumbies wing Joe Tomane.

"They're going extremely well," Horne said of the table-topping visitors.

"They've got a style that is working for them at the moment and they always finish off games when they get into winning positions."

Returning to their home ground for the first time since round one, Horne said that he and the rest of the team were keen to play an entertaining brand of rugby in front of their supporters.

"It's nice to finally have a game at home, especially being a Sunday, and hopefully we can turn it on in front of a hostile home crowd, Horne said.

"We always try to play attractive rugby, no matter what the conditions, but it would be great if the track was dry and we can put on an impressive display."

Sunday's game will be the first time the two sides have met since the Waratahs ended the Brumbies campaign in 2014, when they knocked them out in last year's semifinal in Sydney, 26-8.  

Recent results:
2014: Waratahs won 26-8, Sydney (semifinal)
2014: Waratahs won 39-8, Sydney
2014: Brumbies won 28-23, Canberra
2013: Waratahs won 28-22, Sydney
2013: Brumbies won 35-6, Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 19-15, Sydney
2012: Brumbies won 23-6, Canberra

Prediction: The Waratahs have won eight of the last nine meetings between these rivals in Sydney and have limited the Brumbies to no more than eight points in three of their last four wins during that run. No side has averaged more points (28) or tries (3.6) scored per game this season than the Brumbies, who have also conceded the fewest (10.4 and 0.6 respectively). The Waratahs however have averaged more carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten than any other side this season. The Brumbies have allowed their opponents fewer metres and clean breaks than any other team this season, conceding 330 metres and 3.6 clean breaks on average per game. The ‘Tahs have conceded more turnovers, and won fewer in defence, than any other side this season. Nic White has been directly involved in six tries so far this season (two tries, four assists), more than any other player in Super Rugby this year. The Brumbies can be beaten, after all, they were knocked over by the Chiefs in week two. However, it will take a special effort and coach Michael Cheika's attention is being split between the Waratahs and the Wallabies - with the results speaking for themselves. The Brumbies should win this, but it will be by less than 10 points.   


Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements - from: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Peter Betham.

Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Scott Sio, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 David Pocock, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Stuart Berry (both South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub

Compiled by Jan de Koning

Statistical information provided by Opta Sports

Jordan Taufua (19min) and Jordan Taufua (70min)
Francois Venter (29min)
VENUE Christchurch
REFEREE Andrew Lees