PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 14 - Part Two
HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS: The last time the Crusaders lost to a South African team, Scott Robertson was not yet coaching them.
Since taking over as Crusaders coach Robertson has not lost to any South African team.
The 21-all draw to the Sharks in Christchurch a fortnight ago was the closest he came to his unbeaten run being broken.
Todd Blackadder, who coached them from 2009 to 2016, was in charge when the Lions beat them in the 2016 quarterfinal at Ellis Park.
The Stormers will be the next to have a crack at ending Robertson’s run.
Before that encounter, at Newlands, there are three other equally intriguing Saturday games.
It starts with an all-New Zealand derby between the Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park, Auckland.
That is followed by an all-Australian derby between the Reds and Waratahs in Brisbane.
Then follows two South Africa versus New Zealand encounters – the Lions hosting the Highlanders at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, and the Stormers at home to the Crusaders at Newlands, Cape Town.
We look at Saturday’s matches!
Saturday, May 18:
Blues v Chiefs
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT)
Mathematically both teams still have a chance of reaching the play-offs, remote as it may be.
However, it is more the long history in the battle of the Bombays that will drive the motivation for this match.
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper spoke of the rich history between two franchises separated only by the small and seemingly insignificant range of hills, which serve as a divide between the Auckland and the Waikato regions.
“It is always a great rivalry between us and the Blues,” Cooper said.
“We expect another brutal encounter again this weekend.
“They have some great attacking ability among their team.
“We will need to continue to build on our performance ‘[win] against the Sharks.”
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said there was real intensity to the team’s preparation and strong motivation from the side this week.
“We feel we are really close to achieving the complete performance we’ve been striving for,” MacDonald said.
“This team continues to impress me with their heart and determination.
“This weekend, we probably have a little unfinished business.
“I know the boys are pretty motivated after last week, and we definitely have a few things we want to revisit with the Chiefs.”
The Blues, in 14th place, need a win to have any chance of making the play-offs – knowing too they have been pushed around for too long by their rivals down State Highway One.
The Blues haven’t beaten the Chiefs since 2011 and lost a thriller [29-33] in Hamilton last month.
The Blues have also won only one derby match this season.
2019: Chiefs won 33-29, Hamilton
2018: Chiefs won 21-19, Hamilton
2018: Chiefs won 27-21, Auckland
2017: Blues and Chiefs drew 16-all, Auckland
2017: Chiefs won 41-26, Hamilton
Prediction: The Chiefs are undefeated in their last 15 games against the Blues in Super Rugby; winning their last three clashes against the Auckland side. The Blues have won just two of their last 35 Super Rugby fixtures against opposition from New Zealand, both victories in that spell coming against the Highlanders. The Chiefs are winless in their last four New Zealand derbies away from home, they haven’t won such a fixture in Super Rugby since June 2018. The Blues have the best scrum success rate in Super Rugby 2019 (97 percent), five percentage points higher than the Chiefs (92 percent). Rieko Ioane (Blues) has made the second most clean breaks (23) of any player in Super Rugby 2019, one behind overall leader Sevu Reece (24) and seven more than Chiefs’ best Tumua Manu (16).
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Thomas Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Lua Li, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Duffie.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Reds v Waratahs
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Kick-off: 19.45; 09.45 GMT)
The Waratahs will look to continue their winning ways against the Reds, having not lost to their Queensland rivals since round three in 2014.
It is the longest standing and most traditional rivalry in the Australian game – Queensland versus New South Wales.
However, there is much, much more than just tradition riding on this outing.
Apart from the last-placed Sunwolves, these two are the lowest placed contestants in the Australian conference.
The Brumbies, who have a bye, top the conference with 29 points from 12 matches. Their nearest challengers are the Rebels (28 points from 11 matches), followed by the Reds (23 from 11) and then the Waratahs (22 from 11).
Defeat for their side will be the end of their play-off dreams, which are already hanging by a thread.
“New South Wales is our traditional foe,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
“They’re in a similar position to us on the table, so we’ll be looking to put in a good performance in front of our Queensland fans at home.”
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said the team is motivated by the rich history both teams share, as the Sydney-based franchise searches for a much-needed win.
“The Waratahs versus Reds is a game our boys enjoy playing.
” There’s an extra spice in it, particularly the way the Reds approach the game as well,” he added.
“So, plenty on the line, a lot of history between the teams.
“Historically it’s one of our oldest rivalries so it’s something extra, meaning in this game.”
2019: Waratahs won 28-17, Sydney
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 each of their last 10 Super Rugby clashes with the Reds, the Queensland side were last victorious in July 2013. The Reds have won four of their last six home games against Australian Super Rugby opposition, more than they’d won in their previous 16 such games. The NSW Waratahs have won seven of their last nine Australian derbies away from home in Super Rugby, scoring an average of 33 points in those wins. The Reds average the most defenders beaten per game in Super Rugby 2019 (28), eight more than the NSW Waratahs (20). Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs) has made the most tackles of any player in Super Rugby 2019 (159), 33 more than any other player in the competition.
Reds: 15 Matt McGahan, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (captain), 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Seb Wileman
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Cameron Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Curtis Rona.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
Lions v Highlanders
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT; 01.05, Sunday, May 19 NZ time)
It has been called a ‘dog fight’, but nowhere is the nature of the play-off race better depicted than in this match.
Just three points separate the fifth-placed Highlanders (29 points from 12 matches) and the ninth-placed Lions (26 from 11).
At least both teams have control of their own destiny.
However, the Lions have to do so without the services of inspirational captain Warren Whiteley, ruled out with a bruised knee.
His calm demeanour and astute leadership will be missed against their tricky New Zealand opposition.
“The rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand will always be there and that’s the case for the Super Rugby teams too,” Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi said.
“It’s going to be a big one this weekend, a good contest,” Dyantyi added.
While prop Dylan Smith described the loss of Whiteley as “difficult”, it is the tempo and intensity with which the Lions play that holds the key to their success.
The Lions go from the more methodical Australian approach to the more energetic New Zealand franchises – the Waratahs last week to the Highlanders this week.
“I feel the New Zealand teams, the way they are able to pick up their tempo and slow the game down, is key,” utility back Tyrone Green said.
The Highlanders have to overcome a 14-year drought at Ellis Park.
It was 2005 when they recorded one of only two wins in Johannesburg.
2018: Highlanders won 39-27, Dunedin
2016: Lions won 42-30, Johannesburg (semifinal)
2016: Highlanders won 34-15, Dunedin
2015: Lions won 28-23, Johannesburg
2014: Highlanders won 23-22, Dunedin
Prediction: The winner has alternated in the last 10 Super Rugby meetings between the Lions and the Highlanders, both sides winning five games apiece in that spell; should that run continue the Lions would be due to victory in this game. The Highlanders have won five of their last seven Super Rugby fixtures in South Africa, the same amount as they’d won in their previous 21 such matches. The Lions have lost their last three Super Rugby games at home to New Zealand opposition, despite holding the lead at half-time in the last two matches of that span. Only the Crusaders (18) have scored more tries in the third quarter of matches than the Lions (13) and the Highlanders (12) in Super Rugby 2019. Matt Faddes (Highlanders) has scored three tries in his last four Super Rugby games; however, he’s not scored a try away from home in the competition since Round 12, 2017.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee; 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi; 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje; 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (Captain), 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green.
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Shannon Frizell, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Luke Whitelock (captain), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Daniel Hollinshead, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Stormers v Crusaders
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT; 03.15, Sunday, May 19 NZ time)
Stormers Chief Executive Paul Zacks may have set his own team up for failure with an outlandish remark this week.
He compared the struggling Stormers – struggling in both the boardroom and on the field – to the epic Champions League semifinal comebacks of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
“We have seen inspirational Champions League stories with Liverpool and Tottenham producing remarkable recoveries,” Zacks said – following a meeting that granted coach Robbie Fleck a stay of execution.
“There is no reason, given the quality we have in our playing and coaching groups, why the Stormers cannot emulate those performances,” he added.
Bottom of the South African pool and 10th overall, the Cape Town outfit play four of their remaining five league games at home, starting with the Crusaders this Saturday.
Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar dismissed the notion that his team need only arrive to claim the victory.
He spoke of a “quality” Stormers side with a good number of Springboks.
“That makes us focussed and on high alert,” Mooar said.
“We have high respect for South African players and their rugby history.”
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that his team is looking forward to playing at Newlands again.
“They are pretty loaded with All Blacks in their side and they got a pretty decent pack,” Fleck said of the Crusaders.
“It is certainly going to be a big battle up front like it always is.
“Just the way that the Crusaders went about their business last weekend – they were pretty effective against the Bulls and we certainly need to match that intensity up front.”
2018: Crusaders won 45-28, Christchurch
2017: Crusaders won 57-24, Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 14-13, Christchurch
2013: Crusaders won 19-14, Cape Town
2012: Crusaders won 31-24, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders have won 15 of their last 17 games against the Stormers in Super Rugby, including each of their last seven in a row. The Stormers have won just three of their last 16 Super Rugby games against sides from New Zealand, although each of those three victories in that spell did come at home. The Crusaders have won their last five Super Rugby matches on the bounce in South Africa; only once in Super Rugby history has any overseas team enjoyed a longer winning streak in South Africa (Blues – six wins from 2002 to 2005). The Crusaders (55) have scored the most tries of any team this Super Rugby season, while the Stormers (22) have scored the fewest. Only Duane Vermeulen (Bulls, 20) has won more turnovers in Super Rugby 2019 than the Crusaders’ Matt Todd (16).
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports