PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 13 - Part Two
CRUEL END: All Black fullback Ben Smith may already have played his last game for the Highlanders.
The cruel end to his glittering career in Dunedin follows after he picked up a hamstring strain – which will sideline him for up to two months.
Smith, who is bound for French club Pau next season, was injured in the draw with Chiefs last week and may not return for the Highlanders if the team do not make the play-offs.
“He’s had a high hamstring strain so he’s going to be out for six to eight weeks,” assistant coach Glenn Delaney said.
“Just a classic rugby incident where he got caught in a tackle and overextended.”
The recovery timetable should see the 76-Test All Black back in time for the World Cup.
The other big feature of the build-up to Week 13 is the ongoing Israel Folau saga, which has left the Waratahs looking a disillusioned bunch on their tour of South Africa.
We look at Saturday and Sunday’s matches!
Saturday, May 11:
Highlanders v Jaguares
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Kick-off: 17.15; 05.15 GMT; 02.15 Argentina time)
The Jaguares will enter unfamiliar territory when they face the Highlanders.
The South Americans have never before played in Dunedin – with their only previous encounter with the Highlanders an 8-34 loss in Buenos Aires in 2016.
However, they will have fond memories to call upon from last year’s venture to Australasia, when they made a clean sweep on their four-match trip.
Travel fatigue will come into the equation, with a maddening dash from Buenos Aires to Dunedin taking them all of 24 hours.
It is a long trip for the side, but travelling is just part of the job for the Jaguares.
The side has made two trips to South Africa already and the game in Dunedin is the first of four matches in New Zealand and Australia. They also face Hurricanes in Wellington, the Waratahs in Sydney and the Reds in Brisbane.
For the Highlanders it is also a dramatic change of scenery.
Of their 11 matches this season, eight have been against New Zealand teams and three against sides from the Australian conference.
It is a crucial game from both teams – the Jaguares sitting in sixth place on 27 points, just two points ahead of the seventh-placed Highlanders.
Despite the importance of the occasion, the New Zealand franchise won’t become inhibited.
“We’ll be looking to run them round,” assistant coach Glenn Delaney said.
“That is our game.
“We want to move teams around and with our forwards’ skills we can put them into space.”
Not that the Jaguares are ultraconservative in their approach.
“They’ve been playing against big, big teams,” Delaney said, adding: “They’re used to dealing with the physicality of the South African conference.”
2016: Highlanders won 34-8, Buenos Aires
Prediction: This will be the second meeting between the Highlanders and Jaguares in Super Rugby history and first in New Zealand; the Highlanders were victorious in their inaugural clash in Argentina in 2016 (34-8). The Jaguares have won three of their last four Super Rugby matches against New Zealand sides, including their last two away fixtures in New Zealand. The Highlanders have led at half-time in each of their last four Super Rugby games; however, they’ve gone on to win only two of those fixtures. The Jaguares have conceded just seven clean breaks per game this Super Rugby season, fewer than any other team in the competition. The Jaguares’ Guido Pettiizaval has won 47 line-outs (including five steals) in Super Rugby 2019, the second most of any player and just one shy of competition leader Rory Arnold (48).
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Luke Whitelock (captain), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Daniel Hollinshead, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Juan Manual Leguizamon , 5 Lucas Paulus, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Enriqua Pieretto, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Chiefs v Sharks
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – Kick-off: 19.35; 09.35 SA time; 07.35 GMT)
The Sharks will be looking to write their own special chapter in Super Rugby history – a first-ever unbeaten Australasian tour.
“It would be massive if we could beat the Chiefs, because I don’t think any of us have completed an unbeaten tour before,” Sharks flank Philip van der Walt said.
“When you add the fact that we have had tough opposition on this tour [beating the Waratahs and drawing with the Crusaders], then it would add up to something very special.
“If we could win this game and come away with 10 points that would be great.”
However, coach Robert du Preez sounded a cautious note ahead of an encounter with the injury-riddled Chiefs.
Already down on experienced All Black lock Brodie Retallick and flank Sam Cane, they will also be without lock Michael Allardice, who has a knee injury, and flank Lachlan Boshier with a back issue.
“The Chiefs are among the leading points scorers in the competition,” Du Preez said of a team that has the third highest points for (296 from 11 games – for an average of 27 points per game) and 40 tries (just under four per game).
“We know what they can do from an attack point of view,” the coach said, adding: “But lately they have improved their defence.
“It is going to be an incredibly tough battle.
“We are well prepared and we are ready for the challenge.”
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper was equally complimentary ahead of the Hamilton showdown.
“The Sharks are a powerful pack and are coming off a strong performance against the Crusaders,” he said of last week’s 21-all draw with the table-topping, defending champions in Christchurch.
“Again, we will be challenged this week.
“In order for us to be successful, we need to capitalise on our opportunities and remain focused on delivering our game for a full 80 minutes.
“We do this then we will continue the momentum from where we finished last week and deliver an improved performance.”
2018: Sharks won 28-24, Durban
2016: Chiefs won 24-22, New Plymouth
2015: Sharks won 12-11, Durban
2013: Chiefs won 37-29, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 37-6, Hamilton (Final)
Prediction: The Sharks have won two of their last three Super Rugby games against the Chiefs and will now be looking to snare back-to-back wins against them for the first time since 2008-09. The Chiefs have won their last four Super Rugby games against the Sharks when hosting on the day; though, just one of those four wins came by a margin of greater than eight points. The Sharks are undefeated in their last four regular season Super Rugby games against New Zealand opposition. Only the Crusaders (+71) have a better points differential in the 20 minutes after half-time than the Sharks (+27) in Super Rugby 2019. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) has made 28 offloads in Super Rugby 2019, nine more than any other player.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Jesse Parete, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Fezokhule Mbatha, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
Lions v Waratahs
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT; 23.05 Sydney time)
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson acknowledged that his side’s season is on the line against the Lions.
With just four wins and five bonus-point defeats – for losing by seven points or less – the Waratahs are running fourth in the cut-throat Australian conference, with six games remaining before the play-offs.
While the Tahs only trail joint Australian conference leaders the Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies by three competition points, Gibson says the time for gallant losses is over.
The Waratahs’ biggest loss was by eight points to Sharks two weeks ago and Gibson said it was “absolutely” imperative the Waratahs starting closing out games if they wanted to feature at the pointy end of the competition.
“We’ve been in just about every close game we’ve played,” he said.
“The margins have been very small,” Gibson added.
“It’s really heartening that we are very competitive and there’s a lot of fight in the team.
“Ostensibly we’re a team that goes right to the end.
“But we’re just haven’t had that ability to kick on and win those tight contests, which are proving elusive at the moment.”
The return of captain Warren Whiteley will be a massive bonus for the Lions, who still retains a remote chance of reaching the play-offs for a fourth successive year.
Whiteley has recovered from a knee injury and is one of four changes to the Lions side that lost in Christchurch two weeks ago.
The Highvelders had a bye last weekend.
“He is so instrumental as a leader,” said coach Swys de Bruin – who himself returned from a fortnight of sick leave.
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx is also back, following his rest as part of the Springbok protocol.
“We have a run of home games now,” the coach said – with four of their last six games at Ellis Park and the other two in Durban and Pretoria.
“We are in the race and [just] six points off the [conference] leaders.
2018: Lions won 44-26, Johannesburg (semifinal)
2018: Lions won 29-0, Sydney
2017: Lions won 55-36, Johannesburg
2015: Lions won 27-22, Johannesburg
2014: Waratahs won 41-13, Sydney
Prediction: The Lions have won their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce against the NSW Waratahs, this after having lost six games in succession against them prior to that run. The Lions have won 10 of their last 12 Super Rugby games against Australian opposition but were defeated 31-20 by the Brumbies in their last such fixture; the last time they lost back-to-back games to Australian opposition was in May 2014. The NSW Waratahs have lost their last three games on the bounce away from home in Super Rugby; however, each of those three defeats has come by a margin of no greater than seven points. The Lions boast a 91 percent success rate at both the line-out and scrum in Super Rugby 2019, making them one of only two teams (Rebels) with a success rate of 90 percent or higher at both set pieces this season. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs) has made 14 break passes this Super Rugby campaign, more than any other player in the competition.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 23 Curtis Rona.
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Sunday, May 12:
Brumbies v Sunwolves
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 16.05; 15.05 Japan time; 06.05 GMT)
The Brumbies will look to continue their winning ways on Sunday, when ttheytake on the lowly Sunwolves.
The Brumbies have never lost a game against the Japanese-based Sunwolves.
The Brumbies can go top of the Australian conference with a win.
Both the Brumbies and the conference-leading Rebels are on 24 points – the Rebels having played one game less, but face the Reds in Melbourne.
“They’re a dangerous team,” McKellar said of the Sunwolves.
“In their first year or two were the easy beats of the competition, but that’s certainly not the case anymore.
They’re a quality side that are very well coached and our boys are well aware of that.”
The Brumbies have re-signed flank Tom Cusack on a two-year deal, in another indication that David Pocock’s Super Rugby career is drawing to a close.
Cusack has stepped up this season in the absence of Pocock, who has missed eight of 11 games through concussion and a niggling calf injury.
The Wallaby star, Pocock, is not expected to return to Super Rugby after the World Cup in October.
2018: Brumbies won 41-31, Canberra
2018: Brumbies won 32-25, Tokyo
2016: Brumbies won 66-5, Canberra
Prediction: The Brumbies have won all their previous three Super Rugby games against the Sunwolves, scoring an average of 46 points per game in that time. The Brumbies have won six of their last seven Super Rugby games at home, including their last four on the bounce; the last time they won more in succession was an 11-game stretch across the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Sunwolves have led at half-time in four of their last five Super Rugby games against Australian opposition; though, they’ve gone on to pick up just one win from that period. The Brumbies have scored 24 first-half tries thus far in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team in the competition and eight more than the Sunwolves (16). Only the Blues’ Melani Nanai (775) has gained more metres in Super Rugby 2019 than Sunwolves’ duo Gerhard van den Heever (773) and Semisi Masirewa (674).
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Tom Wright, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Sunwolves: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard Van Den Heever, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Jason Emery, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Conan O’Donnell, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Tom Rowe, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Ben Gunter, 22 Jamie Booth, 23 Hayden Parker.
Compiled by Jan de Koning, additional reporting by AFP & AAP
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports