PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 19 - Part One
LAST HOORAH: Two teams are playing in their last game of the season, with nothing but pride on. Two teams are playing with plenty of the line as the head into the play-offs after the regular season.
That is the scenario facing us in Friday’s two encounters.
The day starts with the appetising encounter between New Zealand rivals the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.
At any time this is a massive game. There is additional spice for this occasion.
The Chiefs need to win by 23 points, with a bonus point, to secure a home quarterfinal. On paper it may seem unlikely, but anything is possible with this Chiefs unit.
Whatever happens this weekend, the Hurricanes and Chiefs will meet again next week – with Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett going head-to-head in a knockout situation.
The Reds host the Sunwolves, with nothing on the line.
Perhaps, for the Reds, there is ‘prize’ of finishing 13th instead of 14th if they win.
The Sunwolves will finish last, again, regardless of the outcome of the match.
We take a look at Friday’s matches!
Friday, July 13:
Chiefs v Hurricanes
(FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton – Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT)
The pressure is on the Chiefs. They have to chase the win and a bonus point.
If the Chiefs can beat the Hurricanes by 23 points, with a bonus point, they will secure a home quarterfinal – if they deny the Hurricanes any points.
This means that the Hurricanes will lose home ground advantage for a crunch quarterfinal against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs know they can do that. Two weeks ago they piled 42 points on the Highlanders in a flawless first half.
If they repeat that performance against the Hurricanes, then it could be play-off time in Hamilton.
The Hurricanes are well aware of the consequences and the possibility of that happening.
That is why they have sent all their available big guns into battle.
Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland said the Hurricanes wanted to gather momentum, especially as a result of where they had come from this season and having ended a run of three losses last weekend – with their win over the Blues.
“We want to win and make sure we are at home and give our boys an opportunity to play in front of our awesome crowd again next week,” Holland said in an interview on superrugby.co.nz.
“We’re approaching it as if it was any other day and we want to beat the Chiefs,” he added.
The win over the Blues had been good and they felt they achieved some momentum as a result.
“It was good to kick on but we are well aware we still want to be better in some areas.
“We want to continue that so we give ourselves every opportunity to play a good brand of footy and get our skills right.
“It’s the same old thing. We know what they’re going to bring, they’re going to be physical and direct and it’s always an interesting old battle between the two forward packs.
“So we know we need to be direct and nice and strong physically around collisions, around carry, around tackle,” he said.
Holland said both teams would probably have a bigger picture plan from the game but for the Hurricanes the first consideration was winning the game by doing the things they do well.
2018: Hurricanes won 25-13, Wellington
2017: Chiefs won 17-14, Wellington
2017: Chiefs won 26-18, Waikato
2016: Hurricanes won 25-9, Wellington (semifinal)
2016: Chiefs won 28-27, Wellington
Prediction: The Chiefs have won three of their last four regular season games against the Hurricanes, though they slipped to a 25-13 defeat earlier this season. The Hurricanes have won just one of their last eight away games against the Chiefs, scoring an average of just 16 points per game in that time. The Chiefs have kept their opposition scoreless in the opening half of each of their last two games, just the second team to do so this decade (Highlanders March 2016). The Chiefs have won four of their last six New Zealand derbies, with two of those four wins coming after having trailed at half-time. The Canes have won six of their most recent eight New Zealand derbies, including a 42-24 win over the Blues in Round 18. The Chiefs appear to be holding back some of the aces for next week. The Hurricanes should win by eight points.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Jesse Parete, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Tiaan Falcon, 23 Johnny Faauli.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Wes Goosen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Sam Henwood, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith,
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Julian Savea.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Richard Kelly (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Reds v Sunwolves
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 Japan time; 09.45 GMT)
What to do when there is nothing on the line? You play for pride and end the season in a way that will give you hope for the next year.
The Brad Thorn-coached team has undergone a metamorphoses this season and while the results are not apparent, there is a belief in Brisbane that the future has arrived.
Hamish Stewart is one of those new faces.
The 20-year-old has stepped in after Thorn decided to banish Wallaby veteran Quade Cooper to club rugby.
Thorn has used Stewart carefully, bringing him off the bench across the first part of the year and deploying him at fullback on occasion.
Having started in the No.10 jersey in the last three matches, he gets a chance on Friday to show the world why Thorn rates him so highly.
“Having that experience has really benefited me,” Stewart said.
“The whole team, we’ve got a whole lot of improvement to do. That’s why we’ve got to really stick into this pre-season coming up.
“I definitely have Test aspirations, but in due course,” Stewart said.
“I’m not really rushed. I just want to play good footy for Queensland.”
The Reds coach, Thorn, said they are excited to be back in Brisbane.
“We were all really pleased with the character shown to get the win against the Melbourne Rebels last week and we know we need to back that up with another strong performance against the Sunwolves,” Thorn said.
“We’ve made a couple of changes that probably reflect the depth in the squad and also point a bit to the future.
“The Sunwolves are a dangerous attacking team.
“They’ve got some clever plays and a smart kicking game, so we need to be switched on and prepared for anything.”
2018: Sunwolves won 63-28, Tokyo
2016: Reds won 35-25, Brisbane
Prediction: Both of the two meetings between the Reds and Sunwolves have been won by the home team on the day (one win apiece), with the Sunwolves picking up a 63-28 victory in their most recent encounter. Queensland are hunting for back-to-back wins for the first time since Round Five after picking up a 37-23 win over the Rebels in Round 18. There has been an average of 84 points scored per game over the Sunwolves’ last three fixtures, though only one of those games ended with a margin of greater than 10 points. The Sunwolves boast a goal kicking success rate of 88% this campaign, the best of any team in the competition and 13 percentage points greater than that of the Reds. Of the three players to have attempted a drop goal this season, the Sunwolves’ Hayden Parker is the only player to have landed one. The Sunwolves’ race is run. The Reds should win by 20 points, perhaps even more.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Liam Wright, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Moses Sorovi, 23 Teti Tela.
Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Yoshikazu Fujita, 13 Michael Little, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 James Moore, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kazuki Himeno, 20 Rahboni Warren Vosayako, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports