PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 14 - Part One
CRUNCH TIME: With just five rounds of league action remaining, any defeat could see a team drop out of the play-off race and into the also-rans zone.
It is particularly true for some of the teams in Friday’s two matches.
It starts when the Hurricanes host the Jaguares.
The Hurricanes are second in the New Zealand conference (fourth overall), with an 11-point buffer on the third-placed Highlanders, who are also fifth overall.
However, the Argentinean franchise, the Jaguares, don’t have the same luxury. They are third in the South African conference (eighth overall), with 28 points – just two points ahead of the fourth-placed Lions (ninth overall).
In fact, just five points separate the Brumbies (top of the Aussie conference and second overall) from the 10th-placed Stormers.
The other Friday match has the Rebels, second in the Aussie conference and sixth overall), host the Bulls, second in the SA conference and seventh overall.
There is no doubt a mad scramble awaits the next month of Super Rugby and it all starts in Round 14.
We look at Friday’s matches!
Friday, May 17:
Hurricanes v Jaguares
(Westpac Stadium, Wellington – Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT; 04.35 Buenos Aires time)
Unpredictable and inconsistent. That, in a nutshell, sums up the Jaguares.
It is also what makes them so dangerous to a team like the Hurricanes, who are searching for the type of form that could challenge the Crusaders.
Hurricanes assistant coach Carlos Spencer they would focus on their own game, rather get obsessed with the physicality or unpredictability of the Argentineans.
“We understand that – although we haven’t been playing well – we’re still winning matches, which is important,” Spencer told superrugby.co.nz.
“However, we also realise going into this part of the season we have to start playing better.
“We were delighted [to win against the Blues in Auckland], it was a tough match which we had to grind out again.
“I thought some of our defence, although in the first half we probably gave them a bit much momentum, we showed some real character and grit later in the game and it probably won us the game.”
Hurricanes coach John Plumtree said he was impressed with the overall work of the squad at Eden Park and the impact they got off the bench.
“We are expecting the same sort of physical challenge from the Jaguares, who showed last year and last week against the Highlanders that they can perform really well in New Zealand,” Plumtree said.
“They also play a really entertaining style of rugby and are prepared to use the ball from anywhere on the field so our defence is going to have to be really good again this week.
“We really want to end this block of five games on a high in front of our fans and head into the bye week in good shape.”
2018: Hurricanes won 34-9, Buenos Aires
2016: Hurricanes won 40-22, Wellington
Prediction: The Hurricanes have won each of their two clashes with the Jaguares in Super Rugby, recording an 18-point victory in 2016 before winning by 25 points in 2018. The Hurricanes have lost just four of their last 39 home games in Super Rugby, with each of those defeats coming against opposition from New Zealand; the last time they were beaten at home by a side from outside their conference was in April 2015, when they lost to the Waratahs at Westpac Stadium. The Jaguares have won three of their last five Super Rugby games against opposition from New Zealand; all five games in that span have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Jaguares average the most kicks in play per-game in Super Rugby 2019 (25), four more than the Hurricanes (21). Pablo Matera (Jaguares) has made the most offloads (15) of any forward in Super Rugby 2019, seven more than Hurricanes’ best forward Ardie Savea (8).
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 James Marshall, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Juan Manual Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enriqua Pieretto, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: Aaron Paterson
Rebels v Bulls
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.45; 11.45 SA time; 09.45 GMT)
The Rebels and Bulls are both desperate to reclaim their places at the top of their respective conference – which they surrendered in Round 13.
The importance of topping your conference can’t be overstated. It holds the advantage of an automatic top-three finish.
The Rebels, on 28 points, are just one point behind the Brumbies in the Australian conference.
The same applies to the Bulls, on 28 points, who sit a solitary point behind the Sharks in the South African conference.
With just five rounds remaining before the play-offs, both coaches highlighted the importance of victory.
“It is a big game,” Rebels coach Dave Wessels said.
“We want to be in the mix this time of the year, fighting for these things [play-offs] – so it is cool that we are.
“We are trying to enjoy it and be the best version of ourselves.”
Bulls coach Pote Human said they need to start well on a tour that will also see them face the Brumbies, Blues and Highlanders.
“Our performance against the Rebels will be a crucial indicator of our prospects for the rest of the season,” Human said.
“We need to start the tour well, but more importantly, we need to get some self-respect back after our poor showing in front of the Loftus faithful [against the Crusaders] last weekend.
“We owe it to them, but also ourselves to show some intent and some desire to win this competition.”
Bulls captain Handré Pollard said the Rebels have shown how good they are on preying on weaknesses in their opponents’ make-up.
“And to be fair, we showed that we have a couple of areas to improve upon,” Pollard said.
“That said, the one thing about this squad you cannot fault is to take it on the chin and then just work harder.
“We all want to be there at the end of the race, we want to play in the knock-out phase and then the Final.
“I believe we have the players to do exactly that,” he added.
2018: Bulls won 28-10, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 45-25, Pretoria
2015: Rebels won 21-20, Melbourne
2014: Bulls won 40-7, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 41-35, Melbourne
Prediction: The Bulls have won five of their six Super Rugby meetings with the Rebels, their solitary defeat in that run coming by just one point, at AAMI Park in June 2015. The Rebels have won four of their last five home games in Super Rugby, the solitary defeat in that run coming against South African opposition (Stormers). The Bulls have lost nine of their 10 Super Rugby games in Australia since the beginning of 2013, failing to score more than 20 points in any of those nine defeats in that spell. The Rebels have stolen 16 line-outs thus far in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team and more than three times as many as the Bulls (five). Handre Pollard (Bulls) has kicked the most goals (51) in Super Rugby 2019, only Sunwolves’ Hayden Parker (40) is between him and Rebels’ best Quade Cooper (38).
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Rob Leota, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Pone Fa’amausili, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Matt Toomua.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehan Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Aaron Pook
TMO: Ian Smith
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports