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Blues

FULL-TIME
12     16

Highlanders

Super Rugby | Auckland
06:35 (GMT) | 11-03-2017
  • 80
Blues bash at the Highlanders line, relentless waves of attack from the home side, Evans is shown a yellow card, Tuipolotu then loses the ball and the ref blows for Full time! Thank you for joining us at Rugby365.com for this match!
  • 79
Scrum resets and chows up another minute. Smith then clears the ball and the Blues have one last chance as they have a lineout outside the Highlanders 22.
  • 77
Pulu makes a half break , Blues 5 meters away before a forward pass is thrown. Scrum Highlanders on their own try line.
  • 76
Blues win the penalty , Francis sets up a lineout close to the Highlanders 22. Moulds finds his man and Moala makes a good run once again.
  • 75
Pulu clears the ball into touch, lineout Highlanders on the 10 meter line inside their own half. Sekenoia Pole finds his jumper in Elliot and the maul is set by the visitors before Smith clears the ball up field.
  • 73
Highlanders win the penalty, Banks will have a shot at goal , he lines it up, strikes the ball and its over!
  • 71
Francis clears the ball into touch on the 10 meter line inside his own half. Highlanders lineout, Sekenoia Pole finds his man and the maul is set before Thompson has a run midfield
  • 69
Banks hoists the up and under putting pressure on the Blues back three again, Duffie does well this time. Ref blows for a Blues scrum .
  • 68
Banks clears the ball up field and Collins knocks the ball on at the back. Scrum Highlanders inside the Blues half.
  • 67
Blues win the penalty with the try line in sight, they opt to have a shot at goal to make it a one point game. Francis slots the penalty from in front. We in for a nail biter of a finish!
  • 64
Blues 10 meters from the Highlanders line. Highlanders defence refusing to crack
  • 63
Moala linebreak! George Moala makes a massive run of 30 meters and is chopped down with the try line in sight! What a run! Buckman somehow gets the ball and clears it into touch. Sopoaga looks to be in a spot of bother too... Another injury for the Highlanders.
  • 62
Knock on once again, Blues put in on the halfway line . Pulu feeds the scrum, plays Francis who unleashes Nanai who is shut down quickly . Highlanders defence has been solid
  • 60
Blues finally string some phases together but they are not making many yards before Fekitoa does some great work in forcing the Blues to hold onto the ball, penalty Highlanders.
  • 58
Highlanders on the attack midfield through Thompson once again, Sopoaga then clears the ball up to Collins who returns the favor. Sopoaga gets the ball back does excellent work in stepping Collins and putting in a lovely relieving clearance from a tight angle
  • 57
Another knock on , this time from Sopoaga. Blues scrum just outside their own 22. A very scrappy game this evening.
  • 56
Smith feeds the scrum , plays Thompson on the crash. Blues defend well as the attack is a touch static
  • 55
Gibson strips the ball from the Highlanders followed by Tuungafasi making a run and knocking the ball forward. Scrum Highlanders
  • 54
Lovely set piece from the Highlanders pierces the Blues defence. Fekitoa makes a run , then Coltman who gets the ball stripped off him. There's a knock on from the Blues, Highlanders with the scrum put in.
  • 53
Messy from both sides as there knock ons galore, first being from the Blues, scrum down Highlanders put in near the halfway line
  • 51
Moulds misses his jumper and the Highlanders turn the ball over , Smith clears the ball up field and Duffie runs it back at the visitors
  • 50
Lineout Blues on the Highlanders 22 , Blues looking slightly better this half.
  • 49
Penalty for the Blues , Parsons points at the posts and West will have a shot at goal to close the gap. He lines up his kick, strikes the ball and its over!
  • 48
Blues lose possession again , Banks clears the ball up field and Moala runs it back at the visitors but hes met with solid defence. Ref awards the Blues a penalty and West clears the ball into touch to set up a lineout outside the Highlanders 22.
  • 46
Lineout Blues on the halfway line , Kaino is the jumper and Moala has a bash midfield. Better from the Blues.
  • 45
Blues attempt to attack through Duffie and Ioane but the center is tackled into touch and the Highlanders have the lineout throw
  • 44
Aaron Smith clears the ball into touch from the restart. Lineout Blues on the halfway line which is stolen by the visitors once again
  • 43
Blues penalized for holding on, penalty Highlanders, Sopoaga will have a shot at goal. He lines up his kick strikes the ball well and its over!
  • 42
Smith clears the ball up field and West loses the ball forward, Highlanders back on the attack on the Blues 22 before the ball is turned over by the home side and West clears his lines.
  • 41
Second half underway as Sopoaga kicks off

Half Time

  • 40
Pulu clears the ball into touch and the ref blows for halftime. See you all in a bit for the second half
  • 39
Knock on after knock on at the moment, lineout Blues, Parsons misses his jumper at the lineout once again. Theres a million mistakes once again from both teams. Blues lineout on their 22.
  • 38
Sopoaga looks to pin the Blues back but overcooks his kick as the ball goes out on the full, Blues lineout on the halfway line.
  • 37
Tevita Li puts in a nice kick that rolls out on the Blues 22. Parsons finally finds his jumper in Tupou and Pulu clears the ball up field.
  • 35
Great run from Pulu for the Blues before the Highlanders turn it over and Sopoaga puts in a grubber pinning the home side back once again. Aaron Smith then punts the ball through the post, honestly, a complete shambles from both sides. 22 dropout Blues.
  • 33
Aaron Smith throws the Hail Mary out the back door pass which is a complete shambles as Whitelock loses the ball forward, scrum Blues.
  • 32
Into the Blues 22 the visitors go , Blues defence holds strong then theres a pile up of bodies which forces the ref to blow for a scrum put in for the Highlanders in a dangerous position.
  • 30
Blues with ball in hand on the halfway line as Moala shows good hands from a dodgy pass from Pulu, Highlanders turn the ball over and Aaron Smith grubbers the ball into touch on the Blues 22. Parsons then misses his jumper at the lineout and the Highlanders are back on the attack!
  • 28
West narrows the gap with a lovely penalty kick!
  • 27
Blues on the attack in the Highlanders 22 through Pulu, then Manu, West then puts through a grubbed which is cleaned up by Aaron Smith, ref then blows for a Blues penalty and West will have a shot at goal to close the gap.
  • 26
Moala charges down a kick from Sopoaga, the Highlanders man then cleans up the ball plays Buckman who slices the ball into touch off the side of his boot, Blues lineout inside the Highlanders 22.
  • 24
With Naholo and Fekitoa off , the Highlanders have been forced to play one of their forwards (Evans) in the backline. Rather alarming for the visitors.
  • 23
West lands the penalty and the Blues are on the board
  • 22
Blues on the attack as Moala makes a great run, Blues 5 meters from the Highlanders line, ref awards the Blues a penalty, West will have a shot at goal
  • 20
Penalty for the Blues as Li takes Duffy in the air , West clears for touch and sets up a lineout outside the Highlanders 22
  • 18
Blues back three having a hard time under the high ball in the gusty conditions, a game of aerial ping pong takes place before West clears the ball into touch, Highlanders lineout
  • 17
Conversion made by Sopoaga
  • 15
Massive mess at the back from Collins results in Marty Banks breaking the line and playing Fekitoa who scores in the corner!!!
  • 14
Sopoaga lands the penalty
  • 13
Collins breaks the line for the Blues , Tuipolotu then loses the ball forward , game is opening up as the Highlanders run it back at the home side and Fekitoa makes a nice run. The visitors are then awarded the penalty in a kick-able position. Sopoaga will have a shot at goal
  • 11
Aaron Smith feeds the scrum, plays Li on the crash, then Fekitoa makes a run but is met with solid defence. Ranger then clears the ball up field.
  • 10
Couple handling errors in the early stages but the intent to run the ball is there from both teams. We have a scrum near the halfway line for the Highlanders .
  • 9
Dixon makes a good run for the Highlanders, then Fekitoa who plays Naholo who loses the ball forward again, Ranger runs it back at the visitors.
  • 8
Pulu feeds the scrum plays Moala on the crash ball before West clears the ball into touch, lineout to the Highlanders outside the Blues 22
  • 7
Tighthead from the scrum as the Highlanders regain possession , cross kick from Sopoaga is knocked forward by Naholo! Scrum Blues 5 meters from their own line
  • 5
Great play from the Highlanders as Buckman makes a good run and offloads to Fekitoa who loses the ball forward with the try line in sight, scrum Blues.
  • 4
Aaron Smith hoists the up and under, Collins then fumbles the ball and knocks it on, scrum Highlanders near the Blues 22.
  • 3
Blues with the lineout inside the Highlanders half, Parson finds his jumper before the ref blows a not straight throw in gusty conditions, scrum Highlanders
  • 2
Highlanders take the ball well from the kick off, Smith clears the ball up field and Pulu returns the favor before Moala makes a good run and offload on the halfway line. Highlanders then hold up the Blues runner in Kaino and force the ref to award them a scrum put in.
  • 1
First half underway, West kicks off for the Blues
  • -5
Last match preparations, its almost time for kick-off!
  • -10
The Blues have lost 16 of their last 17 against New Zealand sides including the last six in a row.
  • -15
The Blues won their last game against the Highlanders and will be aiming to win consecutive games against the Dunedin side for the first time since a run of six wins in a row between 2007 and 2011.
  • -20
Injuries have played some cruel tricks on the Highlanders - All Black fullback Ben Smith still suffering the effects of concussion from an opening loss to the Chiefs. Loose forward Liam Squire was a casualty in last week's loss to the Crusaders.
  • -25
Two years ago the Highlanders were Super champions, but this year they have been hard hit by injuries, are winless after two games and will be hard pressed to get on the board against the Blues.
  • -30
Welcome to this Super Rugby clash between the Blues and the Highlanders coming to you from Auckland, New Zealand
Mc blues logo 80x50
Blues
Mc highlanders logo 80x50
Highlanders
START LINE UP
  • 1 Pauliasi Manu
  • 2 James Parsons
  • 3 Ofa Tuungafasi
  • 4 Jimmy Tupou
  • 5 Patrick Tuipulotu
  • 6 Jerome Kaino
  • 7 Blake Gibson
  • 8 Murphy Taramai
  • 9 Augustine Pulu
  • 10 Ihaia West
  • 11 Rene Ranger
  • 12 George Moala
  • 13 Rieko Ioane
  • 14 Matt Duffie
  • 15 Michael Collins
RESERVES
  • 16 Matt Moulds
  • 17 Sam Prattley
  • 18 Sione Mafileo
  • 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
  • 20 Akira Ioane
  • 21 Billy Guyton
  • 22 Piers Francis
  • 23 Melani Nanai Vai
START LINE UP
  • 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
  • 2 Liam Coltman
  • 3 Siosula Halanukonuka
  • 4 Alex Ainley
  • 5 Tom Franklin
  • 6 Gareth Evans
  • 7 Elliot Dixon
  • 8 Luke Whitelock
  • 9 Aaron Smith
  • 10 Lima Sopoaga
  • 11 Tevita Li
  • 12 Rob Thompson
  • 13 Malakai Fekitoa
  • 14 Waisake Naholo
  • 15 Richard Buckman
RESERVES
  • 16 Sekenoia Pole
  • 17 Aki Seiulu
  • 18 Siate Tokolahi
  • 19 Joe Wheeler
  • 20 Jackson Hemopo
  • 21 Dillon Hunt
  • 22 Kayne Hammington
  • 23 Marty Banks
Mc article sr preview  round three  part two 800

SR PREVIEW: ROUND THREE, PART TWO

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 22:51

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: It may be the early rounds, but already there are a few matches that will give us some pointers as to where the season is heading.

Yes, all teams still have plenty of time to make up ground.

However, injuries - there are already plenty of those - and back-to-back defeats means some teams are getting nervous.

The Highlanders, who get Saturday's action underway when they face the Blues in Auckland, is one of five teams yet to win a match.

This is followed by the Reds, fortunate to win in Week One and very poor last week, are up against the Crusaders - the latter one of five teams who are still unbeaten

The Southern Kings had a good win last week, against the hapless Sunwolves, but they will face a stern test against the Stormers.

The Cheetahs, after last week's impressive win over the Bulls, host the Sunwolves; the Sharks (another team who had an encouraging result last week) host the Waratahs and the weekend's drama come to a conclusion when the Jaguares host the Lions in Buenos Aires.

We look at all the Saturday matches!

Saturday, March 11:

Blues v Highlanders
(Eden Park, Auckland - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)

Two years ago the Highlanders were Super champions, but this year they have been hard hit by injuries, are winless after two games and will be hard pressed to get on the board against the Blues.

Much was also expected of the Blues at the start of the season, but some old habits crept in during the opening weeks.

They had hoped that Ihaia West would finally live up to the promise he showed a few years ago.

He has been erratic at best and not the playmaker they had hope.

However, the biggest disease was their lack of discipline last week.

Coach Tana Umaga did not pull any punches this week and made it clear his forwards must step up.

"They [the Chiefs] put pressure on us in the forward pack and we can't get our game going if we can't get set-piece, so that's been a big work-on for us," Umaga told the NZ Herald said.

"We have to get into our structures that we want to play but depending on the weather, that could be different to what the tactics are."

Injuries have played some cruel tricks on the Highlanders - All Black fullback Ben Smith still suffering the effects of concussion from an opening loss to the Chiefs. Loose forward Liam Squire was a casualty in last week's loss to the Crusaders.

That is why Highlanders coach Tony Brown is looking to players like Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa to provide the stability that is lacking.

"I think everyone can see that they're not quite on the money at the moment," Brown said of his senior players.

"In the Chiefs game, the execution was really poor and then, against the Crusaders, we were awesome for 50 minutes and then fell off the pace a bit and made a few uncharacteristic errors.

"I think, naturally, they will be able to go longer now, because they've got two games under their belts.

"The problem we've had with our All Blacks is asking them to win us games of rugby, when they've only played 40 minutes in the pre-season.

"That's just game-time, for me, and this week, they'll be better for those two runs and we've still got enough quality to do well in this competition."

Recent results:
2016: Blues won 33-31, Auckland
2015: Highlanders won 44-7, Auckland
2015: Highlanders won 30-24, Dunedin
2014: Blues won 30-12, Auckland
2014: Highlanders won 29-21, Dunedin

Prediction: The Blues won their last game against the Highlanders and will be aiming to win consecutive games against the Dunedin side for the first time since a run of six wins in a row between 2007 and 2011. The Blues have lost 16 of their last 17 against New Zealand sides including the last six in a row. This will be the Blues' first home game this season, they ended 2016 with a run of five wins in their last six games at home; four of those victories came by eight points or fewer, though. The Highlanders have won their last two regular season games away from home but have not won more consecutive away games since a run of four victories in 2005. Ben Smith has scored seven tries in his last seven games against the Blues, including three in his last two and a brace when these teams met in Round One last season. The Highlanders will come good, eventually. However, this game is in Auckland and the adverse weather sweeping across the North Island means it will be an arm-wrestle the Blues will win by five points.

Teams:

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Murphy Taramai, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Akira Ioane/Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Melani Nanai.

Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Elliot Dixon (captain), 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Dillon Hunt, 22 Kayne Hammington, 22  Marty Banks.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

Reds v Crusaders
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Kick-off: 18.45; 21.45 NZDT; 08.45 GMT)

Most pundits expect the Crusaders to be too strong for the Reds in Brisbane.

The test for the Reds, up against an All Blacks-laden pack, is how they bounce back from their surprise loss to the Western Force last week.

"Every player should be highly motivated to compete for every minute of this game," Reds coach Nick Stiles said.

"It's what you have to do against the Crusaders, because if you are not as relentless as they are, you are going to pay."

Stiles admitted some harsh word were spoken this week.

"None of us was happy with last week's performance," he said of the loss to the Western Force.

"We addressed it and moved on and are looking forward to the opportunity to test ourselves against a difficult opponent this weekend.

"We knew there would be setbacks along the way as this group continued its development.

"The setback isn't as important as how we respond to it. That's the challenge presented to the team this weekend."

The Crusaders - despite being in a confident frame of mind after coming back from 21 points down to beat the Highlanders last week - are mindful that they leaked some easy tries from the set-pieces.

"We had a couple of miscommunications and we have worked on it," said Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.

"Our back three will be a lot tighter now," he added.

Recent results:
2016: Crusaders won 38-5, Christchurch
2015: Crusaders won 58-17, Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 57-29, Brisbane
2013: Crusaders won 38-9, Christchurch (first round of play-offs)
2012: Crusaders won 15-11, Christchurch

Prediction: The Crusaders have won the last five meetings between these sides with the most recent four wins in that run all coming by 28+ points. Before that run the Reds had won three on the bounce between the sides; their last victory over the Crusaders came in the 2011 Super Rugby Final. The Reds have lost three of their last five at home against New Zealand sides more than they had lost in their previous 13 such games. The Crusaders have made an average of 159 carries per game this season, 26 carries more than any other team in the competition and 49.5 more than the Reds. Quade Cooper has made five offloads so far this season, the equal third most of any player and more than any other scrumhalf in the competition. There is nothing to suggest the Reds should win this one - unless the Crusaders arrive in a complacent mood. The Crusaders should win by at least 15 points.

Teams:

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Chris Kuridrani.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.  
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 George Bridge.

Referee: William Houston (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Southern Kings v Stormers
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth - Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT)

The Stormers are looking to continue their impressive early season form, as they go hunting a third consecutive win.

The Capetonians travel to Port Elizabeth for their clash against the Southern Kings with a new captain - Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, the first time he will lead the Stormers.

Etzebeth will lead the side at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the absence of regular captain Siya Kolisi, who is being rested for this match, while wing Bjorn Basson will also make his debut for the Cape side on the wing.
 
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that his team is focused on building on the two victories that they have earned this season.

"This will be our first away game of the campaign after two good wins at Newlands and we would like to see further improvements in our game this weekend," Fleck said.

"We always get great support as a team in Port Elizabeth, so we are looking forward to the challenge on Saturday," he added.

Kings coach Deon Davids said they are not concerned about being branded underdogs in this all-South African derby.

"I have not concentrated on their team," Davids said, adding: It is all about and see where we can improve.

"We understand the Stormers are a quality side with a number of Springboks - it is going to be a huge challenge.

"However, it would be a mistake to focus just on the Stormers and forget about what we must bring to the game."

The Kings coach said it is important to retain the momentum they gained from last week's win over the Sunwolves.

"Winning is a culture, but losing can also become a culture."

Kings captains Schalk Ferreira said they are aware of the threats posed by the Stormers.

"They like to counter attack and run the ball," Ferreira said. adding: "Technically they are quite good."

Previous results:
2016: Stormers won 52-24, Cape Town
2013: Stormers won 24-12, Port Elizabeth
2013: Stormers won 19-11, Cape Town

Prediction: The Stormers have won all three meetings between these sides including a 28 point victory in their last meeting. In fact, the Kings have never beaten a fellow South African team, losing all 15 such meetings and failing to pick up even a losing bonus point. The Stormers have won their last two away games but haven't won three road games on the bounce since the beginning of 2015. The Stormers have scored six tries after four or more phases of play so far this campaign, more than any other team in the competition. Chris Cloete has won five turnovers so far this season, only one player has won more; Cloete is also yet to concede a turnover. The Stormers should win by at least 20 points - anything less will be a disappointment.

Teams:

Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Rick Schroeder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Chris Heiberg, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Berton Klaasen.

Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris Van Zyl, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Damian Willemse.

Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Cheetahs v Sunwolves
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT;  Sunday, March 12 Japan time)

The Cheetahs will be fancied to put a big score past the hapless Sunwolves, who have travelled to Bloemfontein on the back of two defeats.

The match will also see the return of former Cheetahs loose forward Willie Britz to the Free State capital.

After more than 100 first-class games for the Cheetahs and Lions in various competitions, he is now on a two-year contract with the Sunwolves.
 
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith, who spent a substantial amount of time on Springbok duty in the last fortnight, said all the South African teams have bought into the new 'ball-in-hand' expansive philosophy sweeping the country.

It means the Sunwolves will be forced to make bucketloads of tackles on Saturday.

If they again struggle to maintain their enthusiasm and intensity, they will be on the wrong side of a 50-point-plus result.

Smith said the Sunwolves' biggest threat is their "unpredictability".

"They take quick line-outs, deliver cross-field kick for their wings and have an x-factor which teams don't always recognise>'

Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia said the team has "worked extremely hard" on making adjustments after the heavy defeats in the opening rounds.

"Representing the Sunwolves and Japan means a lot to these guys and they will do us all very proud," Tiatia said.

"South Africa is a wonderful place to tour and a wonderful place to play rugby.

"The Cheetahs must be respected and a team that play an aspiring brand of rugby.

"We will take the field on Saturday in true Sunwolves attacking spirit."

Previous results:
2016: Cheetahs won 92-17, Bloemfontein
2016: Cheetahs won 32-31, Singapore

Prediction: This will be the third meeting between these sides after the Cheetahs won both encounters last season in contrasting styles; the Bloemfontein outfit recorded a -one point win away to the Sunwolves in Round 3 before winning by 75 points in Round Eight, the third-biggest margin of victory in Super Rugby history. The Sunwolves are still searching for their first away victory in Super Rugby; they lost all seven away games last year, conceding 52 points per game on average.  The Cheetahs have won their last two games when hosting a team from outside South Africa, they haven't won three such games in a row since 2012 to 2013 when they beat the Force, the Waratahs and the Rebels. The Sunwolves have scored four tries in the final quarter of their games this campaign, the equal most of any team in the competition. Fred Zeilinga (34) has scored more points than any other player in the competition so far, and has missed just two of 15 goal attempts. The Cheetahs will win by 50 points or more.

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Zee Mkhabela, 13 Ryno Benjamin, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain) , 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Danie Mienie, 17 Elandre Huggett, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Ruan van Rensburg.

Sunwolves: 15 Shota Emi, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 William Tupou, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Edward Quirk, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Sam Wykes, 20 Shokei Kin, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Sharks v Waratahs
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.30; 17.30 GMT;  04.30 AEDT Sunday, March 12)

The Sharks will be looking to build on last week's impressive come from behind win when Pat Lambie's team face the Waratahs in their first home game of the season - following two away games in Australia, which produced five important league points.
 
Sharks coach Robert du Preez named the same 23-man squad that beat the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend.

The Waratahs, with Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley still sidelined with concussion symptoms, are will be looking to bounce back after last week's loss to the Lions.

The Waratahs have not lost consecutive games in South Africa since 2013.

The Sharks coach, Du Preez, spoke of the "character" shown by the players against the Brumbies.

"That win has definitely motivated us, however it is important that we build on that momentum this week," he said.
 
"We arrived back home this past Sunday and despite the jet lag, there have been no excuses from the guys.

"As a coaching unit, we cannot fault their commitment and work ethic, which has been amazing."
 
He said the Waratahs will be a "difficult prospect", despite some patchy form this season.

"We are looking forward to playing at home and the support and backing of our fans will give us added motivation."

Former Sharks player David McDuling said he was pleased to return home to Sydney to play with Tahs this season and is looking forward to running out against his former teammates in Durban.

"They [the Sharks] will be confident after winning that game last week against the Brumbies on tour," the lock said.

"I always look forward to playing, especially with my ties to Durban and the Sharks it does make it a little bit special.

"Everyone enjoys playing against people they know, which is the same in the Australian derbies - you want to get one up over your mates.

"For me, it is another great opportunity to pull on a Waratahs jersey, play at a great stadium against a great team," he added.

Recent results:
2015: Waratahs won 33-18, Sydney
2014: Sharks won 32-10, Durban
2012: Waratahs won 34-30, Sydney
2011: Sharks won 26-21, Durban
2010: Waratahs won 25-21, Sydney

Prediction: The last five meetings between these sides have been won by the home side on the day with the 2009 Waratahs being the last team to win away in this fixture. The Sharks have won their last four home games; not since a run of eight wins on the bounce in Durban from 2013 to 2014 have they won more consecutive matches at home. Despite a 19 point loss to the Lions in the last round, the Waratahs have still won four of their last seven games in South Africa and have not suffered consecutive defeats there since 2012-2013. The Sharks have slotted nine penalty goals so far this season, more than any other team in the competition, while the Waratahs (2) have conceded the equal fewest. Andrew Kellaway has recorded an average gain of 15.5m per carry this campaign (170m from 11 carries), the most of any player to have made more than two carries. It will be a real arm-wrestle, but the Sharks should win by a converted try.

Teams:

Sharks: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (captain), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch.

Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 Senio Toleafoa, 20 Maclean Jones, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Cameron Clark

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)

Jaguares v Lions
(Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires - Kick-off: 16.40; 21.40 SA time; 19.40 GMT)

Buenos Aires hosts the final game of the weekend when the Jaguares entertain the high-flying Lions, who are hunting their third successive win of the season.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann named a very experimental side, saying it is important to back the entire squad.

Former Junior Springbok and Bulls lock Marvin Orie will make his debut for the visitors, replacing Springbok Franco Mostert (one of a handful of senior players being rested).
 
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd believes the complicated Super Rugby draw - which sees the Lions avoid all the New Zealand sides during the conference phase - should see the South Africans top the regular season and be set to host the Final.

It was the banana-skin game for them last year when they were also under-strength and lost to the Jaguares in the final pool match, costing them first place in the standings and resulting in them having to travel to New Zealand for the Final/.

"It will be a huge challenge," Ackermann said of the trip to Buenos Aires, via Sao Palo in Brazil.

"It is the Jaguares' first home game of the season. They are a very passionate team and will be charged up to win at home.

"In all fairness, it is Argentina's national team," Ackermann said of the Jaguares, adding: "You don't get a much bigger challenge than this."

He said the Lions also have a target on their backs, having played in the Final last year.

"They would like to prove a point.

"We are also in the same pool and chasing the same qualifying spot for the play-offs."

Despite resting some Springboks and starting other senior players off the bench, he described the Lions as a "well-balanced team".

"Some of the guys who worked hard in the off-season are getting a chance," Ackermann said.

"It also gives us a chance to freshen up a few of the other players.

"We are also very excited about our bench, which is very strong and hopefully they can make a big difference.

"We always said we must trust our squad."

Previous results:
2016: Jaguares won 34-22, Buenos Aires
2016: Lions won 52-24, Johannesburg

Prediction: This will be the third meeting between these sides, both fixtures last season were won by the home side on the day. The Jaguares won their last home game - against the Lions - but have not won back-to-back home games in Super Rugby so far. The Lions have lost their last three away trips outside of South Africa, including last year's Final; this comes after a run of four wins in a row in such fixtures, their best ever run outside of the country. The Lions have won 34 line-outs (including steals) across the opening fortnight, more than any other team in the competition. The Jaguares have conceded 26 turnovers in their opening two games, no team has conceded fewer (level with the Brumbies). The Jaguares must e favoured, given the experimental nature of the Lions, but if the Lions get their high-paced running game going and hold onto the ball they could sneak it - by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Felipe Arregui, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Cristian Bartoloni, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Juan Martín Hernández, 23 Matías Moroni.

Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Andries Coetzee, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)

Compiled by Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Statistics provided by Opta Sports

Mc article blues v highlanders 2017 800

'Landers edge Blues in scrappy affair

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 05:31

SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders bagged their first win of the season after they beat the Blues 16-12 in a scrappy affair in Auckland on Saturday.

The Highlanders scored the only try of the match and extended the Blues' run of losses in the competitive New Zealand conference to seven. 

After being beaten by the Chiefs and Crusaders at home in the opening two rounds, the Highlanders beefed up their defence and polished their trade mark kick-and-chase game for the trip north. 

While the game was no champagned rugby, the improvement in the Highlanders was evident early as the Blues struggled to cope with the high-ball pressure and committed multiple errors which kept them on the defensive for the first 60 minutes. 

All Blacks centre George Moala mounted a fightback with a 30-metre solo effort that took the Blues deep into Highlanders territory where they pounded the Highlanders line for most of the final quarter.

But it was the handling problems which ultimately ruined their finishing burst when a forward drive on the stroke of full-time ended with the ball lost on the try line. 

As the Highlanders celebrated, captain Elliot Dixon noted the extra effort that that had gone into their preparation. 

"It was an awesome effort," he said. "We went to the drawing board and thought we needed to step up our game on defence. It was a good improvement for us, but it was a nail-biter." 

The Highlanders shocked the Blues with their pressure start and were up 10-0 with a Malakai Fekitoa try and a conversion and penalty by Lima Sopoaga before the Blues were able to get on the board with two Ihaia West penalties.

The second half was restricted to penalties with the Blues closing to one point at 12-13 before another Highlanders penalty eight minutes from time forced the Aucklanders to go searching for a try.

"We put ourselves in a position to win it," Blues skipper James Parsons said. 

"But it starts at the start of the game. We needed to set a platform to get the result and unfortunately we took about 20 minutes to do that and we were chasing the game from there on." 

The Highlanders next week head to Wellington to play the Hurricanes in a repeat of the 2015 Final while the Blues play the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Man of the match: There were a few contenders on the Highlanders side. Gareth Evans was a nuisance in the line-outs and did some good dirty work around the park. However, the award goes to Highlanders centre Rob Thompson for his sterling work in the midfield, especially on defence.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Pens: West 3, Francis

For Highlanders:
Try: Fekitoa
Con: Sopoaga
Pens: Sopoaga 2, Banks

Yellow card: Gareth Evans (Highlanders, 80 - cynical play, playing the ball on the ground)

Teams:

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Murphy Taramai, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Melani Nanai.

Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Elliot Dixon (captain), 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Dillon Hunt, 22 Kayne Hammington, 22  Marty Banks.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

AFP & @rugby365com

 
TRIES
Malakai Fekitoa (15min)
 
CONVERSIONS
Lima Sopoaga (17min)
Ihaia West (23min), Ihaia West (28min), Ihaia West (49min), and Piers Francis (67min)
PENALTIES
Lima Sopoaga (14min), Lima Sopoaga (43min), and Marty Banks (73min)
 
PENALTY TRIES
 
DROP GOALS
 
Gareth Evans (80min)
 
 
VENUE Auckland
REFEREE Glen Jackson