Preview: Super Rugby, Round Eight - Part Two
MILESTONE MATCHES: The Sharks’ veteran Springbok loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira and South African referee Jaco Peyper will reach special milestones this weekend.
Mtawarira makes a record 157th appearance by a South African when he plays against the Lions in Johannesburg Friday, overtaking retired Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss.
Peyper will add to a weekend of milestones when he handles the Crusaders against Brumbies encounter on Saturday – becoming only the fourth referee after Steve Walsh, Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert to officiate 100 matches.
“I wish my dad was still alive to see this day, as he would have been so proud,” said the 39-year-old Bloemfontein lawyer.
We look at all Saturday’s matches!
Saturday, April 6:
Crusaders v Brumbies
(Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 Canberra time; 04.15 GMT)
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has made clear to his team that they’ve been lacking “effort and intensity” and he wants a reaction against the Crusaders.
His blunt assessment followed their heavy defeat to the Reds a fortnight ago.
They had a bye last weekend.
“They ran harder and tackled harder than us and we got what we deserved, so we’re looking to turn that around,” he said.
“It’s pretty crystal-clear to this group that effort’s an expectation week-in, week-out, day-in, day-out, so I think we’ll get a reaction.”
They will need something special against the Crusaders in Christchurch, with their task made that much harder by several Wallabies set to be rested under their rotation policy in a World Cup year.
“Off the back of a bye week and a performance we weren’t all that pleased with the previous week, it’s an opportunity for us to bounce back,” said McKellar.
Despite their two-four win-loss record, McKellar said his group still had belief but just needed to find some consistency in their performances.
“There’s still plenty of confidence and belief in the group,” McKellar said.
“We had a disappointing second-half performance against the Rebels and bounced back well against the Waratahs, so there’s a psychological component to it and that’s our job to make sure that come Saturday afternoon in Christchurch we’re ready to play.”
2018: Crusaders won 21-8, Canberra
2017: Crusaders won 17-13, Christchurch
2016: Crusaders won 40-14, Canberra
2015: Crusaders won Brumbies 37-24, Canberra
2014: Crusaders won 40-20, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders have won their last eight Super Rugby games against the Brumbies, last losing to the Australian side over 10 years ago (February 2009). The Brumbies have not won a Super Rugby game on New Zealand soil since beating the Hurricanes 29-21 in March 2014, losing their last 12 games across the Tasman Sea. The Crusaders were defeated 20-12 by the NSW Waratahs in their last game against Australian opposition and will be looking to avoid consecutive regular-season defeats to Australian clubs in the same year for the first time since March 1997. Five of the last six Super Rugby meetings between the Crusaders and Brumbies have seen the home team on the day cross for the opening try of the game. Crusaders’ George Bridge has averaged over nine metres per carry (9.2) in Super Rugby this season, the best rate of any player to make 30+ carries.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 Vunipola Fifita, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Blues v Waratahs
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 19.35; 17.35 Sydney time; 06.35 GMT)
Daryl Gibson has challenged his under-performing Waratahs to up the ante for this crunch match with the Blues.
Resting key players like Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper and playmaker Kurtley Beale, they head to Auckland hoping to bounce back from last week’s shock loss to the Sunwolves.
Gibson, though, was adamant Beale hadn’t been dropped, that he merely wanted to stiffen up his midfield defence by pairing up Karmichael Hunt with Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Hunt will go head-to-head with veteran former All Black Ma’a Nonu, who will again start for the Blues – as Sonny-Bill Williams nurses a knee injury.
“I’ve looked at the Blues and I look at it where they’re strong. They’ve got some big blokes coming down that channel,” Gibson said.
“I’ve selected a combination in the middle which I believe can combat that and add some.
“Karmichael and Adam really excel in the defensive area and there’s a role for Kurtley coming off the bench in providing that spark in attack.”
Blues coach Leon MacDonald named what he felt was a “settled” team.
“If the starters do their job well, then they earn the right to stay there,” MacDonald said.
“We have already highlighted that while we want our starters to set the platform, equally one of our strengths is the energy we get off the bench to help us finish strongly.
“We again showed improvement last week which we are pleased about, but it also showed up areas that we need to improve. Our aim is to continue to improve every game, and we have the confidence that if we can continue to improve, then we will reap the rewards.
“We want to achieve this with a quality brand of rugby that is fantastic for fans to watch – and we are hoping they will flock in to support us this weekend.”
2018: Blues won 24-21, Sydney
2017: Blues won 40-33, Sydney
2016: Blues won 34-28, Auckland
2015: Waratahs won 23-11, Sydney
2014: Blues won 21-13, Auckland
Prediction: The Blues have won their last three Super Rugby games against the NSW Waratahs, they’ve not gone on a longer such run in this fixture since winning the first five clashes between the sides (1996-2000). It is over 10 years since the Waratahs last beat the Blues in New Zealand, their 27-22 win in March 2009 is, in fact, their only away win against the Blues in Super Rugby history. NSW Waratahs have won three of their last four regular season games away from home, though were defeated 19-13 by the Brumbies in their last outing on the road. The Blues have averaged more carries (131) and fewer kicks (15) per game than any other side in Super Rugby this season so far. Michael Hooper is the first player in Super Rugby this season to tally 100 tackles, he has completed 102 of 111 attempts so far.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Thomas Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1. Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Michael Collins.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Will Miller, 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Lachlan Swinton, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Lalakai Foketi.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Rebels v Sunwolves
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.45; 17.45 Japan time; 08.45 GMT)
The Melbourne moved back to the top of the Australian Conference on the back of their 32-13 demolition of the Reds last week.
However, on Saturday they face a team that helped them get there – the Sunwolves, who upstaged the Waratahs 31-29.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels was delighted to be in such a position seven weeks games into the campaign and with a fortnight in South Africa behind them.
“We’ve won two away Aussie derbies, which is good, and we’ve also got our longest, or heaviest, travel block behind us now,” Wessels said.
“We need to consolidate now this week at home.”
Wessels is adamant the Japanese side is better than what the bottom-placed franchise’s two wins and five defeats record suggest.
With that belief in mind, Wessels says he has put the best possible side forward in a game which could help Melbourne further solidify their standing in the Australian Conference.
“The Sunwolves are a very good side,” Wessels said.
“They’re obviously well coached and look at the quality in their back row.
“It’s a huge challenge for us, so we’ve put, what we’ve considered to be our best team at the present time on the field.”
2018: Rebels won 40-13, Melbourne
2018: Rebels won 37-17, Singapore
2016: Rebels won 35-9, Tokyo
Prediction: The Rebels have won all three previous Super Rugby clashes with the Sunwolves, those wins all coming by margins of 20+ points. In Round 7 the Sunwolves picked up their first ever Super Rugby victory on Australian soil at the seventh attempt thanks in large part to a Semisi Masirewa hat-trick. After victory last time out against the Waratahs, the Sunwolves will be aiming to record back to back victories in Super Rugby for just the second time (May 2018). Sunwolves duo Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco and Gerhard van den Heever have made more carries (76) and metres (608) respectively than anyone else in Super Rugby 2019. Quade Cooper already has eight try assists to his name for the Rebels this season, three more than any other player in Super Rugby in 2019.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Semisi Tupou.
Sunwolves: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Hendrick Tui, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Grant Hattingh, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Takuya Yamasawa, 23 Josh Timu.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Bulls v Jaguares
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 15.05; 10.05 Argentinean time; 13.05 GMT)
The Bulls have ‘revenge’ on their mind ahead of their encounter with the South American franchise.
The Jaguares recorded a comfortable 27-12 win over the Bulls in Buenos Aires in February.
However, that has not stopped Bulls coach Pote Human resting a number of key players – including Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard and Bok centre Jesse Kriel.
Then there is also the controversial four-week ban slapped on Bok hooker Schalk Brits.
Despite this Bulls skipper Duane Vermeulen is adamant they will be able to make amends for their early-season mishap.
“We were way under-par when we last played them, so we owe ourselves a proper performance against the Jaguares,” Vermeulen said.
“It is nothing personal, but we would love to get one over them this time.
“The South African Conference is so tight that we cannot afford another slip-up at home.”
Human said the squad prepared well and is keen to continue their winning momentum against a dangerous opponent.
“The Jaguares are very, very competitive and have shown that they can win away from home,” the coach said.
“We will be looking for some consistency in performance and we need to play better when at home, as we have some of the best home support in the competition.
“We have rested some players, but the new guys are all very keen to make a contribution and I expect a massive effort from all of them.”
2019: Jaguares won 27-12, Buenos Aires
2018: Bulls won 43-34, Pretoria
2018: Jaguares won 54-24, Buenos Aires
2017: Bulls won 26-13, Pretoria
2016: Jaguares won 29-11, Buenos Aires
Prediction: All five previous Super Rugby games between the Bulls and Jaguares have been won by the home side on the day, victory here for the Bulls would tie up the head to head record with three wins apiece. The Bulls lost their last home game in Super Rugby against the Chiefs, they’ve not lost back to back home games though since 2017. The Jaguares have lost their last five away games on the bounce in Super Rugby, conceding 40+ points on three occasions in that span; they had won four on the bounce away from home prior to that run. The Bulls have conceded just one try within the opening 20 quarter of a game this Super Rugby season, fewer than any other team in the competition. Bulls back row forward Duane Vermeulen has 11 turnovers to his name this season, two more than any other player in Super Rugby, six of those have been jackals.
Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Hanro Liebenberg, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 JT Jackson, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning, with additional reporting by AFP & AAP
* Stats courtesy of Opta Sports