||Join us for more live coverage of Super Rugby as the Cheetahs take on the Brumbies in the next fixture.|
||West converts the PENALTY to secure the 1 point for the Blues. That brings an end to the game and FULL-TIME.|
||Blues win the scrum and they keep attacking left with West controlling things at the pivot. Chiefs give a penalty away and Kaino points to the poles to try and secure a losing bonus point.|
||Blues attacking off the kick-off, running hard into contact, and they knock-on and lose the ball forward. The Chiefs have a scrum and Squire picks up at the back and breaks forward. Blues win a penalty by Daniel Braid. The blues kick for touch, and there is a scrum resulted from the line-out for the Blues.|
||Cruden converts the PENALTY to stretch the lead.|
||The game is opening up in the last ten minutes. The Chiefs have a scrum in the middle of the park, and they are given a penalty. Cruden will line-up a long shot for goal to take the gap to 10 points.|
||Cruden adds the extras as he makes the CONVERSION.|
||Another scrappy line-out from the chiefs but they secure it and kick the ball down field. Halai counters strong and beats 2 defenders. Blues looking good in the Chiefs 22m, but again the ball is turned over by the Chiefs and Leitch makes a 50 meter break down-field. Its the Chiefs now probing in the Blues 22m, and they pass it left as Messam passes to Marshall who shrugs off a defender and canters over the line for a TRY.|
||Blues lose the ball forward after the line-out and the Chiefs boot it down-field. Bowden replies with a good kick of his own. Line-out to the Chiefs on their 22m.|
||Blues win a penalty at the line-out and a relieved with a kick for touch from Dan Bowden. Blues secure their line-out and attack through the centre of the field. Moaba makes a good carry but Kane is all over him on the ground and makes the turnover. Cheifs send it wide and kick to touch but make no meters. Line-out for the Blues on the 22m.|
||Piutau makes a costly error as he kicks out on the full and the Chiefs have a line-out on the blues 22m. The Blues steal the line-out again and Piutau clears. Marshall launches a counter and James Lowe stabs a grubber through deep into the Blues 22m.|
||Cruden converts the PENALTY and adds the 3 points to the Chiefs score.|
||Chiefs are awarded a penalty right out in front as Cruden will attempt to level the scores.|
||Chiefs have a scrum on the 50m. Pulu feeds and they go blind with a set move but are met with some heavy defence from the blues. Line-out for the Blues but the Chiefs come away with the ball.|
||Bowden puts the blues in front as he converts the PENALTY for 3 points.|
||Pule feeds the scrum as they break right and into the blues 22m. The blues steal it on the gound at the ruck, as Gibson-Park streaks up the touch-line, he off-loads to Moala as he is tackled. The blues keep moving forward and are awarded a penalty 30m out in front. Bowden points to the posts.|
||Blues now with their tails up have a scrum on the half-way line in the centre of the field. Free-kick given to the Chiefs. Messam opts for a scrum.|
||Bowden adds the extras as he makes the CONVERSION.|
||Gibson-Park feeds the scrum and the Blues are awarded a penalty. Kaino opts for a scrum. Kaino picks up from the base and beats 2 defenders as he dives over for the TRY.|
||Chiefs win the line-out and go wide, Halai absolutely drills Horrell and gets a turnover. There is an exchange of kicks and the blues have possession on the 50m line. Blues now playing with advantage but make some good meters with slick off-loads. Chiefs turn it over but butcher the play as McKenzie drops the ball in the in-goal area, 5m scrum Blues.|
||Chiefs with an early penalty from a line-out infringement. Cruden kicks to the blues 22m and the Chiefs turn the line-out over. Halai then puts boots a kick down-field but it is out on the full. Play comes back to the 22m line of the blues.|
||SECOND-HALF: Cheifs flyhalf Cruden gets the half underway.|
||Blues steal the line-out, but the ball knocked on afterwards. That brings us to HALF-TIME.|
||Blues penalised at the scrum again, and Cruden kicks for touch.|
||Gibson-Park feeds the scum and he picks up and runs forward. The blues making good meters to get 7m out, but they lose it in contact and the Chiefs earn a scrum.|
||Blues looking good with ball-in-hand in the midfield, and are making meters slowly. Bowden directing traffic well at flyhalf. Chiefs defence is looking rock-solid. Blues come away with a scrum just outside the Chiefs 22m.|
||Bowden converts the PENALTY to get on the board for the blues.|
||Blues win the line-out and are awarded another penalty for Chiefs prop Tameifuna being off-side. Bowden lines up a shot for goal.|
||Chiefs with the ball in midfield, as the forwards rumble it forward. They move it wide and the Blues are showing resilient defence. The chiefs give a penalty away for obstruction. Bowden kicks for touch.|
||Cruden CONVERTS the extra 2 points.|
||Chiefs secure the line-out and are on attack keeping it close with the big forwards. Getting ever closer for the chiefs as Kane takes it to the line. Pulu plays it out and an inside ball from Messam to James Lowe sees the wing crash over for a TRY.|
||Pulu feeds the scrum and it is messy ball from Leitch. The Chiefs put an up-and-under in and Piutau knocks on for a Chiefs scrum in midfield. Chiefs milk the penalty from the scrum. Cruden puts a kick deep in the Blues 22m. Line-out Chiefs.|
||Blues now with a scrum 5m from the halfway line in midfield. Bowden goes wide and Halai is in space but a textbook tackle from McKenzie brings him down, and the chiefs get a scrum.|
||Chiefs counter straight off the kick-off as Marshall breaks down the touchline, he puts a kick in and Pulu chases but Piutau taps it out for a 22m to the chiefs.|
||Cruden lines-up for goal in front, and CONVERTS the penalty for 3 points. Chiefs take the lead.|
||Blues steal the line-out but lose it forward, chiefs lucky to come away with a scrum. Chiefs get a free-kick from the scrum and re-elect a scrum. The ball comes out and Cruden plays a switch with Lienert-Brown, but the blues come off their feet into the ruck and are penalised.|
||Chiefs have penalty advantage from the a maul. The Ref gives a penalty as Cruden goes for touch. Line-out chiefs on the blues 5m.|
||chiefs now on attack on the blues 10m line but have lost the ball out for a blues line-out. Blues secure the ball and form a maul. Gibson-Park with the box-kick and the chiefs counter before Marshall kicks it but it goes too far and Piutau dots it down for a 22m.|
||Chiefs misses again, and the blues have a 22m.|
||Chiefs awarded a penalty wide out left on the 10m as Cruden lines up a shot.|
||Chiefs have a line-out on their 5m line after Bowden put in a good kick. Chiefs with the exit play and the Blues take it quickly from halfway. Turnover in contact and the Chiefs capitalize and McKenzie breaks down the touchline after he is put away by Horrell, knock on and Scrum to the blues in the 22m of the away side.|
||Blues with possession and it goes wide to Halai who beats one and puts a kick through. Chiefs dot it down for the 22m. Blues return and Halai again finds some space on the touchline, but puts a foot in touch. Chiefs take the quick line-out and eventually kick down field.|
||Cruden lines up a kick for goal and and misses narrowly.|
||Early exchange of kicks between the sides leads to a Blues line-out on the halfway. Penalty awarded to the chiefs after Mealamu takes it to contact.|
||KICK-OFF: Blues flyhalf Dan Bowden gets the game under-way.|
||There has been a late change in the Chiefs starting line-up with the talented Sonny Bill Williams dropping out with knee trouble, Lienert-Brown moves into the starting position at inside centre, with Seta Tamanivalu coming onto the bench.|
||The chiefs have won the previous seven encounters between these two teams, so the odds are much in the Chiefs favour.|
||Welcome to live coverage of Round 8 of Super Rugby with the Chiefs taking on the Blues at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.|
SUPER SATURDAY It is going to be a spicy Easter weekend and for some certainly not such a Holy Saturday. Jan de Koning reports.
It is going to be a spicy Easter weekend and for some certainly not such a Holy Saturday.
There will be desperation by the Blues to finally get a win, when they get the day underway with a trip to Hamilton and an encounter with the high-flying Chiefs.
The Cheetahs will be equally desperate to end their losing streak when they travel to Canberra to take on the Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies - who are coming off a bye.
Then we cross the Indian Ocean for what will be the match of the weekend - an angry team of Sharks looking to take their frustrations out on the Crusaders, following the decision by SANZAR this week to not only ban utility back Francois Steyn, but also muzzle the men from Duran so they can't express their disapproval.
The weekend's action comes to a conclusion with the trans-Jukskei derby between the revitalised Lions - fresh from a record-breaking Australasian tour - and the Bulls, who are on a four-match winning streak.
We look at Saturday's matches!
Saturday, April 4:
Chiefs v Blues
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
These derbies have a knack of throwing up some nasty surprises.
Yes, the Blues have looked like they can't buy a win and the pressure on coach John Kirwan is mounting. In fact some media reports in New Zealand suggest he has already been 'fired' and will not coach the team next year.
That is a sideshow that may be contributing to the team's bush-league and unsatisfactory performances.
The Chiefs have five wins in seven games and are second in the New Zealand conference heading into the clash.
At the other end of the table are the Blues, who have yet to register a win in six outings, including a first-round 23-18 loss to the Chiefs.
However, the Chiefs barely scraped past the Blues in Week One - a result that is still fresh in the mind of Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
"The matches between these two teams are traditionally real arm wrestles," Rennie told the Waikato Times.
"The Blues have plenty of high quality players and have come close nearly every week, so we will give them the respect they deserve and expect it to be an entertaining, tough match."
Kirwan has not helped his own cause with the constant tinkering of the team - seemingly adding to the lack of confidence that is so evident every week.
This week Jamison Gibson-Park will start at scrumhalf ahead of veteran All Black Jimmy Cowan. Midfielder Francis Saili has been aced, with George Moala moving from outside to inside centre and Pita Ahki named in the No.13 jersey.
To add to their problems, veteran All Black prop Tony Woodcock has been ruled out with concussion.
While the bookies have made the Chiefs outright favourites, given the vastly differing fortunes of the two outfits, the Chiefs remain cautious.
"Regardless of how well the teams are going in the competition, these two neighbours have a fierce rivalry," Chiefs assistant coach Tom Coventry said.
"We know that the Blues have been hurting," Coventry told NZ Newswire.
"They have been talking about playing the Chiefs since we played them in round one. They were pretty disappointed in how they went. But the rivalry brings out the best in them. We're expecting a tough match."
2015: Chiefs won 23-18, Albany
2014: Chiefs won 11-8, Auckland
2014: Chiefs won 32-20, New Plymouth
2013: Chiefs won 26-16, Auckland
2013: Chiefs won 23-16, Mount Maunganui
2012: Chiefs won 41-34, Auckland]
2012: Chiefs won 29-14, Hamilton
Prediction: Prior to their current eight-match winning streak against the Blues, the Chiefs had never gone more than three victories in a row against their conference rivals. Despite losing the last eight instances of this fixture, five of those matches have seen a losing
bonus point scored. The Blues' losing streak against the Chiefs is their second-worst run against another team in Super Rugby history, only against the Sharks have they lost more games in a row (10; ongoing). Indeed, their current run of eight Super Rugby losses in a row (against all teams) represents the Blues' worst ever form in the competition. The Chiefs have averaged the fewest missed tackles this season (11.9). However, the Blues rank second when it comes to defenders beaten per game (21), with the Chiefs the third best side in this respect with an average of 20.7. I won't put my house on it, but there is a good chance the Blues will remain winless and the Chiefs will take away five valuable points - winning by 10 points or more.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Bryce Heem.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jerome Kaino (captain), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina/Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Brumbies v Cheetahs
(GIO Stadium, Canberra - Kick-off: 19.40; 10.40 SAST; 08.40 GMT)
The Brumbies maybe unbeaten at home and sit comfortably at the top of the Australian conference.
However, as the Waratahs showed two weeks ago - before last week's bye - the Canberra-based outfit is very beatable.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské certainly feels his team can upstage one of the tournament's big guns and end their own four-match losing streak.
"Yes, they are a well-balanced team - with good forwards and a good kicking game," Drotské told rugby365 in an interview from the team's training base at the beachside suburb of Coogee, near Sydney central.
"However, the last three years we did very well against them and were unfortunate to lose those games," he said of encounters that saw the Brumbies sneak by with 15-13 (2013 play-off match) and 24-23 (2012) margins.
On top of that, the Cheetahs won 27-21 in Bloemfontein last year.
"We are positive and we know that if we play to our potential we can beat any team."
The Cheetahs' biggest problem has been a lack of discipline - conceding silly penalties - and poor ball control.
The Brumbies, however, are determined to make their home advantage count.
Coach Stephen Larkham the Brumbies are in a good position to cement their spot on the ladder - being refreshed after last week's bye.
"We can get into a good routine and certainly build up towards that game against the Waratahs," Larkham told the Canberra Times.
"We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We've still got 10 games to go in the competition and we've lost two now - so we've got to make sure we make the most of this home-ground advantage that we're going to have over the next five weeks."
While the Brumbies were well beaten by the Waratahs 28-13, Larkham didn't think they were exposed by the reigning champions.
He was impressed with his team's physicality and felt if a few decisions had gone their way it could have been a different result.
2014: Cheetahs won 27-21, Bloemfontein
2013: Brumbies won 15-13, Canberra (preliminary play-off match)
2012: Brumbies won 24-23, Canberra
2011: Cheetahs won 47-36, Bloemfontein
2010: Brumbies won 61-15, Canberra
2009: Brumbies won 40-27, Bloemfontein
Prediction: The 61 points conceded by the Cheetahs against the Brumbies in 2010 was the most the South African outfit has shipped in a single game. The last three matches between the sides have been settled by losing bonus point margins. The Cheetahs are on a four-match losing streak, which has been at an aggregate margin of 89 points. The Cheetahs have the worst tackling success rate (83.9 percent) in the competition and have averaged the most misses per match (22.3) so far. The Brumbies are the second-worst side when it comes to misses per game, an average of 21 while their tackling success rate sits at 85.1 percent. The Cheetahs' scrum success rate (70 percent) is the worst in the competition, while just three sides have fared better than the Brumbies (91 percent) at this set piece. The Cheetahs always give themselves a chance with their attacking game, but it is their defence and lack of ball control that may well count against them again. The Brumbies to win by about 10 points.
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Henry Speight, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Scott Sio, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ita Vaea, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Lausii Taliauli, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Johannes Prinsloo, 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 Burrie Gildenhuys Uys, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner, James Leckie
TMO: Peter Marshall
Sharks v Crusaders
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT; 02.00, Sunday, April 5 NZ time)
The Francois Steyn saga is adding the spice, but encounters between these two sides are never short of on-field drama.
They are two quality outfits that have appeared in the play-offs more than most - the Crusaders kicking on to win seen titles, the Sharks unable to win in four finals, losing in the semifinals another four times and getting knocked out in the preliminary play-offs in 2011.
No doubt the men from Durban will want to show they can produce a quality game and are better than the reputation they have gained in recent weeks - which have resulted in captain Bismarck du Plessis and Steyn being banned for foul play.
Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold is adamant his team can be champions.
"The Crusaders are a fantastic team, loaded with All Blacks," Gold told a media briefing this week.
"They have not won this competition as many times as they have by accident.
"They can never be taken lightly and we all know what a dangerous side they are when they hit their straps.
"It's fantastic to play against a team of this quality; every team wants to be measured against the best.
"We are confident with our group of players and are excited about the match-up this weekend."
The Crusaders are without their two talisman players - Dan carter and Richie McCaw.
Carter returned home for the birth of his second child and McCaw will play off the bench.
Between them the two All Black greats have amassed 268 Super Rugby caps.
Assistant coach Aaron Mauger said they had always mapped out a contingency plan to cover the loss of Carter.
"We knew this was happening right at the start of the season and had a plan for it," Mauger told a media briefing in a teleconference call from Durban.
"The fortunate thing for us is we have got a lot of players who can play in multiple positions."
The decision to rotate McCaw to the bench appears to have been made before the Crusaders' loss to the Bulls last week.
"It was always part of the long-term plan," Mauger said in reference to McCaw.
"And we have got two quality No.7s, we know they can both do a job and Matty [Matt Todd] has been performing really well."
The other key selection is the inclusion of controversial loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett - with the All Black having come under fire for his illegal scrumming technique.
However, Mauger is confident that he will not be targeted by the referee.
"They know what they are doing and you would like to think a lot of those decisions aren't based on media influences and all that sort of stuff," the Crusaders' assistant coach said.
"I suppose it just comes down to a referee's interpretation and if they are doing it the wrong way they just have to adjust and make sure they get it right."
2014: Crusaders won 38-6, Christchurch (semifinal)
2014: Sharks won 30-25, Christchurch
2013: Sharks won 21-17, Durban
2011: Crusaders won 36-8, Nelson (preliminary play-off match)
2011: Crusaders won 44-28, Twickenham
2010: Crusaders won 35-6, Christchurch
2009: Crusaders won 13-10, Durban
2008: Crusaders won 18-10, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders accounted for the Sharks' heaviest ever defeat in terms of losing margin (43) and points conceded (77); a 77-34 win during 2005. However in their maiden meeting in 1996, the Crusaders lost 58-26 and that remains the most points conceded in a match by the Canterbury side. The Sharks have averaged more kicks from hand per game than any other side so far (29.3) but are also the recipients of more kicks from hand per game (28.9) than any other team. The Crusaders rank first for scrum success rate (94 percent). The Sharks have scored the most tries in the 20 minutes that lead up to half-time (seven). The Crusaders have scored the most tries in the 20 minutes that follow half-time (eight). It is a tough game to call, but under the circumstances I expect the Sharks to rally and sneak a win - by less than 10 points.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (captain), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Waylon Murray.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 David Havili, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 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 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Rodney Boneparte
TMO: Willie Vos
Lions v Bulls
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
The Lions are riding the crest of the wave - coming off a record-breaking tour of Australasia.
Their three wins mean they have made amends for the poor start to the season, but it could all unravel very quickly if thy lose to the Bulls this week.
The visitors from Pretoria are on a four-match winning streak, including an impressive demolition of the Crusaders last week.
That is why Lions captain Warren Whiteley has been cautious in his assessment of the Lions' prospects this week.
"Sometimes there is the temptation to relax a little after an emotional period, like on tour," Whiteley said.
The Bulls are also without Springbok Handré Pollard and veteran Bok Victor Matfield are being rested - with reports of a knee injury contributing to his absence.
Whiteley, however, does not believe it will weaken the Bulls.
"We have to be honest with ourselves, we're not outsiders anymore," the Lions skipper said.
"We've matured a lot this past year and therefore the expectations should be higher. If we want to move up in the log standings, we have to start beating the big guns."
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is keen for the team to continue with the rugby that earned them four wins on the trot, but realises the challenge that will come from the home side.
"The Lions just came back from their best tour ever, so will be keen to keep that momentum and will be boosted by their home crowd," Ludeke told a media briefing.
"We are also keen to keep progressing as a team and as it is our traditional derby, we are expecting a cracker of a game," Ludeke said.
Bulls captain Pierre Spies was adamant that the Bulls will have to play ever better this week.
"We learned it the hard way during the opening two weeks," Spies said.
"You cannot be off the pace during the 80 minutes, as other teams punish you. We played great rugby last weekend, but that will mean nothing to the Lions, who will come out all guns blazing on their home turf. We lost there last year, so have a lot to prove this time around."
2014: Lions won 32-21, Johannesburg
2014: Bulls won 25-17, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 37-20, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 32-18, Johannesburg
2011: Bulls won 30-23, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 24-20, Johannesburg
Prediction: Prior to their last meeting, which the Lions won, the Bulls had won their previous 11 games against the Lions. The run was the Lions' joint-longest losing run against a single opponent and is the Bulls' joint-best against one side; they also won 11 in a row against the Cheetahs. The Lions' seven matches this season have all yielded 41 or fewer points and an average of 35. The Bulls are aiming for five straight victories for the first time since 2013 when they went nine in a row. The Bulls have averaged the most points this season (28), while only the Reds (9.3) have turned in less per game than the Lions (13.7). The Bulls are on a hot streak and they have adequate replacements for their absent Springboks. The Lions will make life unpleasant for the Bulls and will go close, but in the end the men from Pretoria will sneak a win - by five points or less.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Compiled by Jan de Koning
Statistical information provided by Opta Sports
REPORT: The Chiefs cemented their place in the top six of the Super Rugby competition with a hard-earned 23-16 win over a combative Blues.
The Chiefs cemented their place in the top six of the Super Rugby competition with a hard-earned 23-16 win over a combative Blues team in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Blues, desperate to record their first win of the season, was holding onto a slender three-point lead with the final quarter approaching.
However, an Aaron Cruden penalty and an 80-metre try by wing Tom Marshall sealed the win for the Chiefs.
While the vultures will continue to circle around troubled Blues coach John Kirwan, it was his team's best performance of the season.
But, alas, it was still not enough for a win.
The Chiefs move up to fourth in the standings, just three points behind the unbeaten Hurricanes at the top - but with more points than the second-placed Brumbies and third-placed Sharks.
The Chiefs looked to be running away with the game when they were up 10-0 inside the first 30 minutes, only to find themselves down 10-13 early in the second half.
But for the Blues it was a fleeting taste of being ahead which evaporated within five minutes when Aaron Cruden levelled the scores with a penalty, before Tom Marshall scored the game-breaking try.
Chiefs captain Liam Messam said he knew when the Blues put their nose in front that his side needed to regain control urgently.
"We tried to use our forwards to do that and we got control back. The backs made some great decisions to put the ball down there and put them under pressure and that came off well for us," he said.
The Chiefs have now won six of eight for the season while the Blues have played seven and lost seven.
It was also the Chiefs' ninth consecutive win over their neighbours, but it was performance neither side would be happy with.
The Chiefs reined in the high infringement rate that has seen them heavily penalised in recent weeks, but instead they suffered from a misfiring line-out and gave up an abundance of turnovers.
The Blues were guilty of falling off tackles and also losing possession in the rucks.
It took the Chiefs until the 18th minute to get their first points on the board from a Cruden penalty after the All Black pivot was astray with his first two attempts.
But once under way, it looked as if the floodgates were about to open as the Chiefs swept back on attack.
Augustine Pulu went close to scoring to start a sustained Chiefs attack on the Blues line which ended with a try to James Lowe.
The superior Chiefs forwards were driving through the Blues pack but let themselves down with poor ball control which led to the Blues' flyhalf Dan Bowden landing penalty to have the Chiefs ahead 10-3 at the turn.
The Blues had one good try-scoring chance in the first spell, but turned the ball over just metres from the line on the stroke of half-time.
But they were more assured after the resumption with Jerome Kaino opening the half with a try off the back of a five-metre scrum.
Bowden landed the conversion and a penalty to put the Blues ahead before Cruden levelled the scores with his second penalty.
Mike Leitch then set up the decisive try with a breakout from inside his own 22 which ended with Tom Marshall touching down.
Cruden and Blues replacement flyhalf Ihaia West exchanged penalties in the closing minutes with West's contribution ensuring the Blues at least picked up a bonus point.
Man of the match: Jerome Kaino always give his all, Ofa Tamanivalu was good value, Steven Luatua had his moments and Luke Braid made an impact after coming on as a replacement. Damian McKenzie again showed how dangerous he can be with ball in hand, Aaron Cruden was again the general directing the troops, Michael Leitch played a big role in the late rally and Ben Tameifuna had one of his better games of the season. However, our award goes to flank Sam Cane, who has been a strong pillar for the Chiefs all season, while some of his turnovers in this game were crucial and central to the final result.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Lowe, Marshall
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 3
For the Blues:
Pens: Bowden 2, West
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Seta Tamanivalu, 23 Bryce Heem.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jerome Kaino (captain), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)