Preview and Predictions: Super Rugby, Round Four
DERBY DAY: It is truly a weekend of derbies – two matches in the New Zealand conference, two matches in the Australian conference and two matches in the South African conference.
One of the more intriguing matches will be on Friday.
The Rebels and Brumbies will meet for the third time in six weeks when they go head-to-head in Melbourne on Friday – following their trial match in January and round one clash.
It looms as a vital early season encounter for the Brumbies, who will slip to one win from four matches if they can’t redeem their 27-34 loss to the Rebels in Canberra.
“We certainly learned a couple of things out of Round One, but it’s going to be another tough clash down there,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.
“It’s an eight-point game, really.”
In the other Friday match the situation is not quite as critical, but still could have dire consequences for the Hurricanes and Highlanders – who both have two wins and one defeat from the opening three weeks.
We look at the Round Four matches!
Friday, March 8:
Hurricanes v Highlanders
(Westpac Stadium, Wellington – Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35)
The Hurricanes will be looking to the All Blacks for inspiration when they play their first match of the year in Wellington.
Assistant coach Carlos Spencer said they are keen for the likes of Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Ardie Savea to reproduce the form that helped the Hurricanes to a 43-13 win over the Brumbies in Palmerston North last week.
“They all put their hand up at the weekend,” Spencer told superrugby.co.nz in an interview – adding that their energy lifted the young guys.
The arrival of former Lions lock Andries Ferreira – as a replacement for injured Sam Lousi – will provide additional physicality to the pack.
Spencer worked with Ferreira during a stint in South Africa with the Lions and said he was a solid player.
“From his experience at the Lions, he’s a pretty physical ball player. He likes to carry. He’s good at set piece, which is what we need.”
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Coach John Plumtree said he had a lot of respect for Ferreira’s approach and he would be an asset to the squad.
“We’ve been really happy with the work of our young guys in the first three games and we think Andries will bring some real experience and help develop the guys around him,” he said.
The Highlanders will also be bolsters by the return of some All Blacks – most notably Ben and Aaron Smith.
The All Black rest protocols – which has limited All Blacks to 180 minutes over the first three games – have now ended and Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney believes the competition will take a step up in intensity.
“When we play these derbies, you know the intensity goes up a notch, and we’ve got three on the spit,” Delaney told the Otago Daily Times.
“So it is exciting and they will bring the best out of both sides,” Delaney said.
Delaney said every side had mixed selections in the first three weeks as that was simply the world in which the New Zealand sides were living this year.
“I would suggest things are going to get very serious, very quickly on Friday”.
2018: Highlanders won 30-14, Dunedin
2018: Hurricanes won 29-12, Wellington
2017: Hurricanes won 41-15, Wellington
2016: Hurricanes won 27-20, Wellington
2016: Highlanders won 17-16, Dunedin
Prediction: The Hurricanes have won three of their last four Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, though were beaten last time out when they met in Round The Hurricanes have won three of their last four Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, though were beaten last time out when they met in Round 16 last season. The Hurricanes have won their last three home games on the bounce against the Highlanders in Super Rugby, leading at half-time on each occasion. Each of the Highlanders’ last five Super Rugby games have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer, with the Highlanders picking up three wins and two losses in that span. The Hurricanes have scored five tries in the final quarter of Super Rugby games this season, more than any other team in the competition. The Hurricanes’ Ardie Savea has beaten 15 defenders so far this Super Rugby campaign, two more than any other player in the competition – 16 last season. The Hurricanes have won their last three home games on the bounce against the Highlanders in Super Rugby, leading at half-time on each occasion. Each of the Highlanders’ last five Super Rugby games have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer, with the Highlanders picking up three wins and two losses in that span. The Hurricanes have scored five tries in the final quarter of Super Rugby games this season, more than any other team in the competition. The Hurricanes’ Ardie Savea has beaten 15 defenders so far this Super Rugby campaign, two more than any other player in the competition.
Hurricanes: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ben May, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Vince Aso.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Jackson Hemopo, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Nick Hogan (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Rebels v Brumbies
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.45; 08.45 GMT)
Turning around their poor recent record against the Rebels looms as critical for the Brumbies’ play-off hopes this season.
The Brumbies have lost their last three matches against the Rebels, including the round one clash in Canberra three weeks ago.
It is the Rebels’ best winning streak over the Brumbies since joining the competition in 2011, with the rivalry previously being one-sided in favour of the ACT-based franchise.
If they aren’t able to come away from AAMI Park with a win on Friday, the Brumbies will be in a hole at one win from four rounds – with games against the Waratahs and Reds to come.
The Rebels kept their undefeated record intact by escaping with a 24-19 victory over the Highlanders last week.
“It’s always a good game against the Rebels and they’ve had the wood over us in Super Rugby over the last few games,” Brumbies lock Rory Arnold told AAP.
“The Australian games are massive, especially if we want to top the pool later in the season.”
The Brumbies know how quickly fortunes can change after celebrating their best win for years in round two before being routed by the Hurricanes last Friday.
Despite heading to New Zealand boosted by the return of star Wallaby David Pocock, Dan McKellar’s side was unable to replicate the form which saw them cross for eight tries against the Chiefs.
Arnold said the Brumbies needed to trust themselves and back in the free-flowing rugby which paid dividends a week earlier.
“I think the balance wasn’t quite there. We want to play this attacking rugby but we lacked that balance,” Arnold said.
“Instead of clearing, we held the ball for too long and the urgency at the breakdown wasn’t good enough and it hurt us.”
2019: Rebels won 34-27, Canberra
2018: Rebels won 27-24, Canberra
2018: Rebels won 33-10, Melbourne
2017: Brumbies won 32-3, Canberra
2017: Rebels won 19-17, Melbourne
Prediction: The Rebels have won their last three Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Brumbies, as many as they had won in their 12 meetings prior. Three of the last four Australian Super Rugby derbies involving the Rebels have been won by the away team on the day, with the Melbournians picking up two wins and two losses in that span. The Brumbies have won just two of their last eight games played away from home in Super Rugby, conceding 40+ points on three occasions in that span. The Brumbies have conceded just 13 turnovers per game on average this season, fewer than any other side. Only the Bulls’ Rosko Specman (eight) has made more clean breaks in Super Rugby 2019 than the Brumbies’ Tevita Kuridrani (seven).
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Rob Leota, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Reece Hodge.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Tom Wright, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Tom Cusack, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Chance Peni.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
More to follow …
Saturday, March 9:
Crusaders v Chiefs
(Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 17.15; 04.15 GMT)
Seeing the Chiefs at the foot of the standings is already an oddity. However, their loss to the Sunwolves – in Hamilton, of all places – is a new low for the two-time former Champions.
Along with the Blues and Reds they are the only teams yet to win a match this season.
It is thus not surprising to see All Blacks Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala in the starting XV.
Captain Brodie Retallick and Canadian Tyler Ardron – who has just resigned with the Chiefs till 2021 – will partner in the second row.
Coach Colin Cooper was not about the hit the panic button, despite the ‘slow’ start to the season.
“For us this week, we have gone back to basics and have focused on what we can control as a team,” Cooper said.
“We welcome the return of a couple of our team, who have been out with injury or on leave.
“These guys are ready to go and eager to play and bring great energy into the team which we will need to combat an impressive Crusaders team,” added Cooper.
Crusaders scrum coach Jason Ryan was also not about the write off the Chiefs, who are certainly having issues in getting their first win.
“Any forward pack that’s got Brodie Retallick and Nepo Laulala, they’re real enforcers for them – so we’re expecting it’ll be a ding-dong battle like all New Zealand derbies are,” Ryan told superrugby.co.nz.
“I would say they’re working pretty hard behind the scenes and pretty determined,” he said.
2018: Crusaders won 34-20, Hamilton
2018: Crusaders won 45-23, Christchurch
2017: Crusaders won 27-13, Christchurch (semifinal)
2017: Crusaders won 31-24, Suva
2016: Chiefs won 23-13, Suva
2016: Chiefs won 27-21, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders have won their last four games on the bounce against the Chiefs in Super Rugby; the last time they won more was an eight-game spree from 1999 to 2006. In the regular season the Chiefs have won three of their last four away games against the Crusaders, though fell to a 45-23 defeat in their last such fixture. The Crusaders have won their last 21 Super Rugby home games on the bounce, with those wins coming by an average margin of 19 points per game. The Chiefs have lost their last four Super Rugby games heading into this fixture; the last time they lost more in succession was a five-game stretch across the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs) has made 33 tackles so far this Super Rugby campaign, the most of any player who is yet to miss an attempt.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty (captain), 11 Braydon Ennor, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Harry Allan, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 David Havili.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Nick Hogan (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Blues v Sunwolves
(QBE Stadium, North Harbour – Kick-off: 19.35; 15.35 Japan time; 06.35 GMT)
All the pre-season promise, with the signing of stars like Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, has quickly evaporated.
Back from a trip around the globe – where they lost (7-26) to the Sharks in Durban and (19-23) to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires – they will look to Williams for inspiration.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks of long travel, short turnarounds, hot conditions, and performances that were below our capabilities,” said coach Leon Macdonald.
“It’s good to have some of our key injured players back to inject some freshness both in the starting team and off the bench and give us a chance to rest some who have had a big start to the season.
“We also expect our North Harbour boys to really stand up on their home ground and set the platform up front for our backs to prosper. Overall we are looking for a more physical job at the breakdown, and more accuracy and patience.”
The Sunwolves will be looking for unprecedented back-to-back wins – both on New Zealand soil, where they had not won till last week’s triumph over the Chiefs in Hamilton.
“Clearly the Sunwolves are a vastly different team, with a lot of New Zealand and Australian players with Super Rugby experience,” Macdonald said.
“They proved their capability last week with the win against the Chiefs and we are under no illusions of the challenge they will bring.
“We are looking forward to it and hopefully produce a game of real quality.”
Centre Jason Emery said the Sunwolves will not rest on their laurels after securing a maiden away win, 30-15 over the Chiefs.
“We know we won’t be seen anymore as a team you can just turn up and beat, that’s what we wanted to do this year,” the New Zealander told Maori TV.
“We can’t just turn up and catch people off guard.”
2018: Blues won 24-10, Tokyo
2017: Sunwolves won 48-21, Tokyo
Prediction: This will be the third Super Rugby meeting between the Blues and Sunwolves, but the first in New Zealand; the ledger is split at one win apiece from their previous two encounters with both games won by the team trailing at half-time. The Blues have won only one of their last nine Super Rugby games on home turf, scoring more than 22 points in a game on only two occasions in that span. The Sunwolves are hot off the back of their first ever away victory in the last round and will have the opportunity to win back-to-back games in Super Rugby for just the second time, previously doing so in May last year. The Sunwolves remain the only team in Super Rugby 2019 with a 100 percent goal-kicking accuracy, slotting all 14 of their attempts thus far). The Blues’ Akira Ioane has made 41 carries thus far in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other player in the competition, while the Sunwolves’ Gerhard van den Heever (34) has made the third most.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 Thomas Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams (captain), 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Lua Li, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Otere Black, 23 Levi Aumua.
Sunwolves: 15 Semisi Masirewa, 14 Gerhard Van Den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Michael Little (captain), 11 Jamie Henry, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Shahel Matshuhashi, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 James Moore, 4 Tom Rowe, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Alex Woonton, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Munro (New Zealand), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Reds
(Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 Queensland time; 08.45 GMT)
Karmichael Hunt insisted there will be no mixed feelings when he lines up in the blue of the Waratahs against his old team, the Reds.
The code-hopping Hunt grew up in Brisbane and had only ever played for Queensland teams in Rugby League, Union and Australian Rules football before signing for the Sydney-based Waratahs this year.
“I’m going to take all that passion and pride that I used as a schoolboy in Queensland as a [Brisbane] Bronco, an AFL player, an Origin player and just pour it into the NSW jersey this weekend,” said Hunt.
“Once the whistle goes, there’s no friends other than the guys wearing the same colours.”
The Waratahs have certainly under-performed in the opening rounds – losing (19-20) to the Hurricanes, then beating the Sunwolves (31-30) in Week Two – before last week’s bye.
Coach Daryl Gibson said his side had plenty to work on.
“We are facing our oldest rival this week and we want to put out the strongest team we can,” Gibson said.
“The Reds are a very competitive unit, we saw that last weekend and saw that in their first game. We know what we’re in for.
“We know how important these derbies are from a conference standing, so there is plenty to play for,” he added.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said: “No matter what code or sport, Queensland versus New South Wales are always good games. It’s a historic rivalry and I know our men will wear the maroon jersey with pride.”
Thorn has also made five changes, promoting Junior Wallaby, Isaac Lucas to the starting side as fullback.
Bryce Hegarty has also shifted to flyhalf, whilst Scott Higginbotham comes off the bench to start as No. 8.
“Bryce is a great communicator within the group. He has showed good composure, confidence and direction when he’s slotted into that No.10 position the last two games.”
2018: Waratahs won 52-41, Brisbane
2018: Waratahs won 37-16, Sydney
2017: Waratahs won 29-26, Brisbane
2016: Waratahs won 15-13, Brisbane
2016: Waratahs won 30-10, Sydney
Prediction: The NSW Waratahs have won their last nine games on the bounce against the Reds in Super Rugby, including a 52-41 triumph when they last met – the highest points tally ever in an Australian derby in the competition. The NSW Waratahs lost their last Australian derby in Super Rugby 40-31 to the Brumbies, snapping a five-game winning run for the New South Welshmen in local affairs. The Reds have lost their last seven Super Rugby games on the bounce away from home, conceding an average of 40 points per game in that time. The Reds have averaged 156 tackles per game so far this season, more than any other side, and 50 more per game than the NSW Waratahs. Israel Folau (Waratahs) needs just one more try to equal Doug Howlett’s Super Rugby record of 59 career tries and two to eclipse him for the record outright; Folau has crossed for four tries in his last three games against the Queensland Reds.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Alex Newsome.
Reds: 15 Isaac Lucas, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jack Hardy.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
Lions v Jaguares
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT)
The Lions will look to put their campaign back on track and have invested heavily in youth in their bid to do so.
Coach Swys de Bruin has picked a very youthful side.
Wandisile Simelane, a product of Golden Lions youth policy and in the system since his Under-13 years, Ruan Vermaak and Vincent Tshituka will all start.
The Highvelders started with an historic win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, but have since slumped to defeats to the Stormers and Bulls.
The Jaguares, in turn, will be aiming to snap a losing run of three away losses.
Lions head coach Swys de Bruin is excited about the next generation of players coming through in Johannesburg.
“I believe our future looks bright with these young cubs,”De Bruin said.
“We back them, our coaching staff have doing fantastic work to bring them through the system and I want our supporters to be patient because we will reap the rewards.”
Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada has made 11 changes to his team for their first away game for the season.
They are coming off back-to-back wins over the Bulls and Blues, but have yet to win at Ellis Park.
Gonzalo Quesada said the travel factor has contributed to the many changes.
They played last Saturday, on Sunday they travelled to Brazil – where there was a four-hours stopover – and from there they flew to Johannesburg.
“We have confidence in this group,” Quesada said.
“In the first game against Lions we lacked rhythm.
“We had more possession than them and generated several opportunities, but could not finish them off.”
2019: Lions won 25-16, Buenos Aires
2018: Lions won 40-23, Johannesburg (quarterfinal)
2018: Jaguares won 49-35, Buenos Aires
2018: Lions won 47-27, Johannesburg
2017: Lions won 24-21, Johannesburg
2017: Jaguares won 36-24, Buenos Aires
Prediction: The Lions have won four of their last five Super Rugby games against the Jaguares, including a 25-16 victory when they met in the opening round of this campaign. The Lions will be out to avoid back-to-back defeats at home in Super Rugby for the first time since Rounds 1 & 3 of the 2015 campaign after 30-12 defeat to the Bulls last round. The Jaguares have lost their last three away games on the bounce in Super Rugby, a span preceded by a four-game winning streak on the road which included three come-from-behind wins. There have been just three scrums won against the head in Super Rugby this season, with the Jaguares (two) and Lions (one) responsible for each of them. Pablo Matera has scored three tries in his last three away games for the Jaguares in Super Rugby, making an average of 16 carries per game in that period.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Franco Naude, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 James Venter, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Gianni Lombard/Tyrone Green.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet (captain), 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Juan Pablo Zeiss.
Replacements: 16 Gaspar Baldunciel, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Juan Cruz Mallia, 23 Matias Orlando.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Bulls v Sharks
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
Many pundits supporters were sceptical about the signing of 37-year-old hooker Schalk Brits and fellow veteran Bok Duane Vermeulen (32) by the Bulls.
But getting the two elder statesmen on board has proved a master stroke for the Pretoria-based franchise – who are looking to complete a sweep of fellow South African sides – after disposing of the Stormers and Lions in earlier rounds.
Handre Pollard’s team is a tough nut to crack when playing in local derbies – having won five of their last seven local games, including two this year.
Pollard, who will be playing in his 50th Super Rugby match, has been in splendid form so far this campaign and is the leading point scorer after three rounds with 52 points.
The Springbok flyhalf looms large as a big threat for the visitors, as he has also scored a total of 50 points against them in their last four meetings.
Bulls coach Pote Human said the team is keen to reproduce the form they showed in the opening match at Loftus Versfeld, when they outplayed the Stormers.
“We did not play well the next weekend in Argentina, but delivered a much better effort [against the Lions] last weekend, so I am confident that we will be up for this one as well,”Human said.
“The local derbies certainly brings out the best in our teams, so this will be a physical, hard-fought affair again.”
For Pollard, the upward curve remains a priority.
“We had a speed bump, but generally we are growing nicely and that’s what it is about. We have to adapt with one or two new faces coming into the starting team, but we all know what needs to be done on the day,” the captain said.
“The fact that most games so far have been closely contested shows you the need for consistency. You can’t afford to be up and down because everybody is striving for a solid run.”
Sharks lock Hyron Andrews admits that there were areas of the team’s game that let them down in the 11-16 loss to the Stormers last week, but this week is all about fixing that.
“Our accuracy at set-piece time let us down last week but we’ve worked hard to rectify it this week and the boys are up for this match,” Andrews explained.
“The boys hate losing and we learn from defeat, but we’re coming back stronger. We’re tough on ourselves and each other when we make mistakes but it’s a brotherhood and we get on with it.”
He adds that this game is all down to pressure – who can exert it and who crumbles.
“We know we can expect the Bulls to put pressure on us at line-out time as well as the scrums so it’s going to be a real set-piece battle on Saturday.
“If we can put pressure on them, then that gives our backs an opportunity to really play; we have some outstanding backline players.”
2018: Bulls won 39-33, Pretoria
2018: Bulls won 40-10, Durban
2017: Bulls won 30-17, Durban
2016: Bulls and Sharks drew 16-all, Pretoria
2015: Bulls won 17-10, Durban
2015: Bulls won 43-35, Pretoria
Prediction: The Bulls are undefeated in their last seven Super Rugby games against the Sharks, including wins in their last three meetings; neither side has ever won more consecutive iterations of this fixture. The Bulls have won five of their last seven South African derbies in Super Rugby, including their last two on the bounce. The Sharks picked up a 45-10 win over the Sunwolves in their last away fixture in Super Rugby and will now be looking to string successive road wins together in the competition for the first time since March 2017. The Sharks have conceded just one second-half try this Super Rugby campaign, fewer than any other team in the competition. Handre Pollard (Bulls) has scored more points (52) than any other player this Super Rugby campaign and has scored a total of 50 points in his last four meetings with the Sharks.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Hanro Liebenberg, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbock, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Wian Vosloo, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Fezokhule Mbatha, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Curwin Bosch.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa
Compiled by Jan de Koning, additional reporting by AAP & AFP
* Stats courtesy of Opta Sports
About the RugbyPassIndex:
RugbyPass has created a next-generation rugby rating system, based on machine learning and shaped by game-winning moments. The system (RPI) is a world first for its complexity and comprehensive embrace of northern and southern hemisphere players and teams.
By using in-depth data analysis, RPI determines exactly what it takes to win, in real time. Check out the RPI here.