PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 17 - Part Two
SELECTION POSERS: The Chiefs may not be in action this weekend, but they have remained in the spotlight.
Calls to include in-form Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber in the All Blacks’ World Cup squad are growing louder after he orchestrated a stunning comeback against the table-topping Crusaders in Suva last week.
New Zealand needs a back-up for Aaron Smith and Thomas Perenara, a role Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has performed in the past.
Weber has been keeping Tahuriorangi on the bench for the Chiefs and pundits believe the 28-year-old should get a chance to add to his single Test cap.
All Black coach Steve Hansen remained non-committal.
“He’s obviously playing well and leading well, so he’s putting himself in the frame,” Hansen said.
“It’s nice to have multiple choices.”
The Chiefs also will keep a keen eye on the weekend’s matches, particularly those involving teams just ahead of them in the standings – the Lions (playing the Hurricanes), the Rebels (against the Crusaders), the Bulls (facing the Highlanders) and the Sharks (taking on the Jaguares).
We look at Saturday’s matches!
Saturday, June 8:
Crusaders v Rebels
(Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 19.35; 17.35 Melbourne time; 07.35 GMT)
The Rebels need to knock over the competition leaders and defending champions to cement a play-off spot.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels said there was no chance of targeting their Round 18 home game – against the Chiefs, which appears more winnable – as they try to finish in the top eight.
“We don’t have that luxury, to be taking things easy here,” Wessels said.
“We have to fight for every opportunity and this is an opportunity,” he added.
“There’s a couple of guys in this group who’ve had some success in Christchurch and the group is feeling good.
“The Crusaders are a hell of a good side, but they have been frustrated by their form.
“I think they’ve won two of their last five – but there’s no doubt we’re going to have to play really well.”
Wessels said the team was bitterly disappointed by their five-point loss to the Waratahs last week, but he felt they’d rallied well at training.
Crusaders counterpart Scott Robertson was equally vexed by his team’s 27-40 blowout loss to the Chiefs in Suva.
He will ask most of the same players to make amends, having introduced just flank Matt Todd and scrumhalf Bryn Hall to his starting side.
It is the 50th Crusaders game for Hall and the 150th for inside centre Ryan Crotty, one of nine All Blacks in the starting XV.
Nine points clear of the Hurricanes, who have two regular season games to play, the Crusaders can seal the top-seed by beating or drawing with the Rebels in their final league match of the season.
“It’s really important for momentum, and it’s really important for individuals and us as a team, to get that momentum back and put a performance in that’s got a little bit of consistency in it,” Robertson said.
“We also need to get excited about it. We know every year and every season is going to be different.
“There are different challenges, there’s a lot of expectation on us to perform.”
2018: Crusaders won 55-10, Melbourne
2017: Crusaders won 41-19, Melbourne
2016: Crusaders won 85-26, Christchurch
2015: Rebels won 20-10, Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 25-19, Melbourne
Prediction: The Crusaders have won five of their last six Super Rugby matches against the Rebels, including their last three on the bounce across which they’ve scored an average of 60 points per game. The Rebels have led at half-time in three of their last four games against New Zealand opposition, going on to secure two wins in that span. The Crusaders have won 16 of their last 17 Super Rugby games against Australian opposition, with two of those last three wins coming after having trailed at half-time. The Rebels have stolen a total of 20 line-outs against the throw this Super Rugby campaign, the most of any team in the competition and seven more than the Crusaders. Crusaders’ duo Sevu Reece (27) and George Bridge (22) have made the most and joint third-most clean breaks respectively of all players this Super Rugby campaign.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Braydon Ennor, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ere Enari, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Ngane Punivai.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Tom English, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Marika Koroibete.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Brumbies
(Bankwest Stadium, Sydney – Kick-off: 19.45; 09.45 GMT)
The Brumbies say confidence will trump desperation when they face the Waratahs in an all-Australian derby.
The Brumbies had lost three out of their opening four games and admitted they were “desperate” when they faced the Waratahs earlier in the season – but they are bubbling ahead of Saturday’s pivotal return in Sydney.
With six wins in seven, the Canberra side holds a five-point lead over conference rivals the Melbourne Rebels with two matches to play and know another victory will almost certainly secure a home quarterfinal.
“Back in round five we were desperate,” said Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney.
“We weren’t in great form and the boys were just desperate and wanted to do it for each other.
“But now I feel like we’ve got a lot more variety in our game.
“It’s a crucial game for them and us.
“However, I think a confident team [will win], because when you’re desperate not everything goes your way and we can use that as a massive weapon.”
It would mark the first time the Brumbies have done the double against their arch-rivals since 2016, after winning the first clash in Canberra in round five.
“We’re scoring a lot of tries out wide and in tight,” McInerney said.
“We’re certainly heading the right way [to becoming one of the best teams in the competition].
“We’re constantly testing ourselves to be better and I think that’s the difference.
Brumbies scrumhalf Joe Powell believes the turning point in their season came a week after beating the Waratahs, when they were upset by Queensland.
“After we lost to the Reds we went back and looked at our preparation and really tried to nail that. We probably got a bit slack in that area and it’s been a big thing that’s changed,” he said.
“I’m definitely confident we can continue our form this week.
“Our forwards have been going well all season and our backs are really clicking so it’s good we’ve got two points of attack now.”
2019: Brumbies won 19-13, Canberra
2018: Brumbies won 40-31, Sydney
2018: Waratahs won 24-17, Canberra
2017: Brumbies won 28-12, Sydney
2016: Brumbies won 26-20, Sydney
Prediction: The Brumbies have won five of their last six Super Rugby matches against the NSW Waratahs, including their last three meetings in NSW. The NSW Waratahs have won five of their last six Australian derbies in Super Rugby at home; their only defeat in that span coming against the Brumbies. The Brumbies have won their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce; the last time they won more was a six-game streak to round out their 2007 campaign. The NSW Waratahs boast a tackle success rate of 87 percent in Super Rugby 2019, the highest of any team in the competition and two percentage points higher than the Brumbies (85 percent). Only the Jaguares’ Guido Petti Pagadizaval (63) has won more line-outs (inc. steals) than Brumbies’ duo Sam Carter (60) and Rory Arnold (59).
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tuala/Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Tautalatasi Tasi, 23 Cameron Clark.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 21 Jahrome Brown, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 Tom Wright.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Lions v Hurricanes
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT; 01.05, Sunday, June 9 NZ time)
The Hurricanes need just two competition points – from their remaining matches against the Lions and Blues – to guarantee themselves a home quarterfinal.
However, Hurricanes coach John Plumtree is not about to leave anything to chance and hope to secure the necessary points on the Highveld.
“We know how desperate the Lions will be,” Plumtree said.
“They are still in the mix to also host a play-off match and we know how tough they can be to beat at home.”
Lions captain Malcolm Marx said he expects a “quick” and “physical” game from the Hurricanes – similar to the merciless performance the New Zealand franchise produced in the win over the Sharks a week earlier.
Marx tried to play down the importance of getting the win to stay in the play-off zone.
“We try and stay process driven,” the Springbok hooker said.
“We don’t want to rely on teams to beat other teams, but rely on ourselves.
The Hurricanes were forced into a crucial change with flank Vaea Fifita slapped with a three-match ban for a dangerous tackle in the win over the Sharks.
With only two matches left, the ban means Fifita will play no part until the semifinals, should the Hurricanes get that far.
In contrast, the Lions will field an unchanged starting XV – with returning Springbok Elton Jantjies set to play off the bench after ‘clearing the air’ with the Lions management this past week.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin said the same starting side will provide continuity.
“We performed well against a quality Stormers side and the fact that we picked up no injuries meant we were able to pick the same starting side,” De Bruin said.
“Each game is important and we want to continue to improve on our performances.
“The Hurricanes are a very good side so we will have to make sure we do our basics right, and our defence will also have to be solid.”
2018: Hurricanes won 28-19, Wellington
2017: Lions won 44-29, Johannesburg (semifinal)
2016: Hurricanes won 20-3, Wellington (Final)
2016: Hurricanes won 50-17, Johannesburg
2015: Hurricanes won 22-8, Johannesburg
Prediction: The Hurricanes have won nine of their last 10 matches against the Lions, their only loss in that time coming in the 2017 Super Rugby semifinal (29-44). The Lions have won 10 of their last 12 Super Rugby games on home turf, including their last three on the bounce. The Hurricanes have won their last four away games on the bounce in Super Rugby; the last time they won more was a six-game streak in their first six away games of 2015. The Lions are one of only two teams (Rebels) with a success rate of 90 percent or greater at both the line-out (90 percent) and scrum (93 percent) this Super Rugby campaign. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) won a round-high six turnovers in Round 16 to take his season tally to 22, the most of any player thus far in Super Rugby 2019.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (captain), 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Tyrone Green.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stefan Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Stormers v Sunwolves
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.15; (15.15 GMT, 00.15 Sunday, June 9 Japan time)
Injuries have not aided their cause, but the Stormers know nothing less than a bonus-point win over the lowly Sunwolves will keep their fading play-off dreams alive.
With an equally desperate Sharks team scheduled to visit Newlands in a next week’s final round of league action, beating the Japanese franchise is a prerequisite.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that his side is looking forward to the match this weekend.
“We always get incredible support at Newlands,” Fleck said.
“The team has responded to well to the fans in recent home games, so we want to deliver another good performance in front of our fans.
“We will need to bring plenty of energy, but at the same time be as composed and accurate as possible in all that we do.
“We look forward to the challenge,” he added.
The long list of injuries – which include players like Damian Willemse, Eben Etzebeth, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siyamthanda Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit – means the Stormers will field a number of rookies.
However, Fleck put a positive spin on the brash of setbacks that have hit his team.
“It is a great opportunity for the young players to be part of something special,” Fleck said.
The return of Springbok Mbongeni Mbonambi brings some relief and experience.
“There should be some stability in our set pieces”,”Fleck said.
“Bongi [Mbonambi] is a senior player with plenty of experience, which will bring some confidence to the team.”
2018: Sunwolves won 26-23, Hong Kong
2017: Stormers won 52-15, Cape Town
2017: Stormers won 44-31, Singapore
2016: Stormers and Sunwolves drew 17-all, Singapore
2016: Stormers won 46-19, Cape Town
Prediction: The Sunwolves were victorious in their most recent Super Rugby fixture against the Stormers (May 2018), coming from behind at half-time to win 26-23 and snapping a four-game winless run against the Cape Town side in the process. The Stormers have lost just one of their last seven games at home in Super Rugby, and are undefeated in their last three. The Sunwolves have lost their last seven games on the bounce in Super Rugby, conceding an average of 40 points per game in that span. The Sunwolves (94 percent) and Stormers (83 percent) boast the two best goal-kicking accuracies of all teams in the competition in Super Rugby 2019. Dillyn Leyds (Stormers) has scored four tries and made three try assists in his last two Super Rugby games against the Sunwolves.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Josh Stander, 23 EW Viljoen.
Sunwolves: 15 Semisi Masirewa, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Hayden Parker (captain), 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Ben Gunter, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Ryota Hasegawa, 5 Tom Rowe, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Conan O’Donnell, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Alex Wooton.
Replacements: 16 Takuya Kitade, 17 Matasaka Mikama, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yuya Odo, 20 Masakatsu Nishikawa, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Timothy Lefaela, 23 Akihito Yamada.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Jaguares v Sharks
(Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires – Kick-off: 16.40; 21.40 SA time; 19.40 GMT)
The Sharks have performed better away from home this season, giving them hope that they can defeat South African conference leaders the Jaguares in Buenos Aires – something they have achieved twice before, in 2017 and 2016.
The Durban-based outfit has lost two of their six matches on the road, but five of eight at home – including a 34-point mauling by the Argentina side.
Sharks prop Thomas du Toit outlined the keys to beating the South Americans in their Estadio Jose Amalfitani fortress.
“We dare not let them start well, get their tails up and bring the crowd into the game,” said the eight-times capped Springbok forward nicknamed ‘The Tank’.
“You have to be more physical than them, outmuscle them and be more passionate.
“Taking them on where they are most robust is how you break them down.”
Daniel du Preez who achieved the milestone of 50 caps against the Hurricanes last week admits that, acknowledged that there are areas of the game that cost his team last weekend and which they will have focused on not repeating this week.
“We made a few crucial errors against the Hurricanes and they put us under pressure defensively,” Du Preez said.
“We didn’t make our first-time tackles and didn’t keep the ball when we needed to so we couldn’t build pressure.”
The Round Nine match against the Jaguares in Durban – won 51-17 by the South Americans – has caused a great deal of indignity for the Sharks.
“I definitely don’t think we pitched up on that day,” the Sharks No.8, Du Preez, said.
“We didn’t look after the ball, didn’t build any scoreboard pressure and they gave us a big hiding.
“This Saturday we expect a massive battle, akin to a Test match and we’re looking forward to it.
“They have a few dangerous players, both in the forwards and the backs, they live off mistakes, so we know we have to look after the ball this week.”
2019: Jaguares won 51-17, Durban
2018: Sharks won 20-10, Durban
2018: Jaguares won 29-13, Buenos Aires
2017: Sharks won 33-25, Buenos Aires
2017: Sharks won 18-13, Durban
Prediction: The Jaguares have won two of their last three matches against the Sharks, after losing their first four encounters in Super Rugby history. The Jaguares have won seven of their last eight Super Rugby games, including their last three on the bounce. The Sharks have lost just one of their four games outside South Africa in Super Rugby 2019, losing only to the Chiefs in that time. The Jaguares and Sharks have each conceded just nine clean breaks per game in Super Rugby 2019, the joint fewest in the competition alongside the ladder-leading Crusaders. Guido Petti Pagadizaval (Jaguares) has stolen nine line-outs this Super Rugby campaign, the joint-most of any player in the competition and three more than Sharks’ best Hyron Andrews (six).
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Francisco Gorrisen, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning, additional reporting from AAP & AFP
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports