Preview: Super Rugby, Round Five - Part One
CRUNCH TIME: The word ‘desperate’ would be synonymous with a couple of the teams in Friday’s matches.
The Chiefs, who host the Hurricanes in Hamilton, have had their worst start to a season ever – four straight defeats and just one losing bonus point.
They have suffered massive hammering – coughing up 50 points in two of their matches.
The Brumbies, one of the teams who has put half-a-century past the Chiefs, are also desperate. That 54-17 win over the Chiefs in Canberra was the Brumbies’ only win.
The very next week they coughed up more than 40 points (a 13-43 loss) to the Hurricanes. The Brumbies host the Waratahs in an Australian derby.
The Stormers also started their season with a hammering (3-40 to the Bulls), but have bounced back with impressive wins over the Lions and Sharks.
They will look to continue that against the Jaguares at Newlands.
We look at Friday’s matches!
Friday, March 15:
Chiefs v Hurricanes
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper called it “testing couple of weeks”. That is putting mildly.
The Chiefs are stuck at the bottom of the standings after four straight defeats, with a negative points difference of -84.
That is an average of a 21-point loss each week.
And it is not getting any easier.
“We know the Hurricanes will be a strong challenge,” Cooper said.
“We are not afraid of the contest on Friday, we have come together as a team and will focus on sticking to our structures and working on delivering our game plan.”
The Chiefs’ build-up has not been smooth sailing either.
Cooper has had to pout cold water on claims that his dressing room is split after their horrendous start.
“We work really hard on feedback and we’ve got good leaders in the group that will keep tapping in with us as coaches and making sure that we’re all aligned and in the same waka,” he told NZME’s Radio Sport.
Cooper also said he and his team still believed that they will be in contention for the play-offs come the business end of the season.
In stark contrast, Hurricanes coach John Plumtree has the luxury of introducing new blood into a winning environment.
“We said at the start of the season that we want to trust our squad and be smart with how we use our players and Heiden [Bedwell-Curtis] and Salesi [Rayasi] have worked really hard and deserve their chance if the opportunity presents itself,” he said.
“We have a real belief in the other players we have brought in and we are also really happy for Ngani [Laumape] to bring up his 50th match in what promises to be a tough New Zealand derby against a dangerous Chiefs team.”
2018: Hurricanes won 32-31, Wellington (quarterfinal)
2018: Chiefs won 28-24, Hamilton
2018: Hurricanes won 25-13, Wellington
2017: Chiefs won 17-14, Wellington
2017: Chiefs won 26-18, Hamilton
Prediction: The Chiefs have won four of their last five regular season Super Rugby games against the Hurricanes, despite leading at half-time just twice in that span. The Chiefs have lost their last five games on the bounce heading into this fixture; the last time they lost more consecutive Super Rugby games was a six-game stretch across the 2008 and 2009 campaigns. Each of the Hurricanes’ last eight New Zealand derbies in Super Rugby has been won by the home team on the day. The Hurricanes have beaten 29 defenders per game this Super Rugby season, more than any other team in the competition, the Chiefs rank third with 25 beaten per game. Thomas Perenara (Hurricanes) has scored four tries in his last six games against the Chiefs, including a brace in his last game against them; he needs just one more for his 50th career try in Super Rugby.
Margin: Four points
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Ataata Moeakiola, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Hurricanes: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Nick Hogan (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Brumbies v Waratahs
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 19.45; 08.45 GMT)
The Brumbies versus the Waratahs. Not much more needs to be said.
This game has overtaken the Queensland versus New South Wales encounter as the biggest derby in Australia.
It has been described as the Rebellion versus the Empire.
Players don’t need much motivation to get fired up and charged up for this one but, if they do, they only need to cast their minds back to season’s past and the moments that live long in the memory.
Just last year we had Tevita Kuridrani rampaging through the Tahs defence in Sydney to secure a remarkable 41-31 victory, as Dan McKellar’s charges found their feet.
Those with longer-term recollections may well sit back with a contented smile on their faces when they recall the 56-9 shellacking the Brumbies handed out on a never to be forgotten day in April 1997.
On the converse, there are the times the Brumbies would rather forget.
The Tahs waltzing to a 41-7 win in Sydney in 2011.
It might be sweet. It might be sour. What it definitely won’t be, is dull.
The Tahs will be out for redemption after the Brumbies stole a win at the end of 2018 Super Rugby season.
But the Brumbies on their home turf and on the back of a loss against the Rebels, will be just as hungry for the win.
“Whenever we play the Brumbies in Canberra it’s always going to be very difficult in terms of the fight that is going to be in the game and we’re expecting a close encounter,” said “Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.
Brumbies rival Dan McKellar said his team was motivated to take down the Waratahs for the second straight time after the Brumbies won the final-round clash last year.
“It’s the Tahs at home, an opportunity to get stuck into the New South Welshmen, what more do you need to get excited,” he said on Wednesday.
“You’re playing against NSW whether it’s rugby, marbles or whatever. Yeah I’m a Queenslander, but I’m a Brumbies man now and there’s a dislike for the Tahs.”
2018: Brumbies won 40-31, Sydney
2018: Waratahs won 24-17, Canberra
2017: Brumbies won 28-12, Sydney
2016: Brumbies won 26-20, Sydney
2016: Brumbies won 32-15, Canberra
Prediction: The Brumbies have won four of their last five games against the Waratahs, including a 40-31 triumph in their most recent meeting. Three of the Brumbies’ last five Super Rugby games at home have been won by the team trailing at half-time on the day, with the ACT franchise picking up three wins in that span. The NSW Waratahs have won six of their last seven Australian derbies in Super Rugby, despite having conceded an average of 26 points per game across that span. The Brumbies have scored 18 tries and 120 points in Super Rugby 2019, the second most of any team in the competition behind the Crusaders (23 tries, 141 points). Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs) is just one try shy of equalling Doug Howlett (59) as the most prolific try scorer in Super Rugby history; the NSW Waratahs’ flyer has scored five tries in his last three games away from home in the competition.
Margin: Two points
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Lausii Taliauli, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valentini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Jordan Jackson-hope, 23 Mack Hansen.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Lachlan Swinton, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cameron Clark.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
Stormers v Jaguares
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT; 14.10 Buenos Aires time)
Winning on Friday is all that matters. This is the message from Stormers coach Robbie Fleck.
Fleck said that following their bye last week, his team are aiming to build more momentum before their four-week tour of Australasia.
“We are looking forward to being back at Newlands for what will be a tough match against the Jaguares on Friday,” Fleck said.
“The players are focused on raising our standards further as we look to keep building and creating momentum.”
Following Friday’s outing, they face the Hurricanes in Wellington, Blues in Auckland, Reds in Brisbane and Rebels in Melbourne.
“This is a big game before a four-week tour,” Fleck said.
He said the team will look to build on the momentum from their wins over the Lions and Sharks – following an opening round hammering at the hands of the Bulls.
“It’s taken a lot of character, but we feel like we’ve gained some momentum and confidence.”
He warned against expecting an easy win against the Jaguares.
“They’ve shown how hard they are to beat in Buenos Aires and have put some teams under pressure when they’ve travelled.
“They didn’t scrum too badly against the Bulls [in Buenos Aires], but they did struggle a bit against the Lions last week, but I think that a few of their better players didn’t feature in that game at Ellis Park.
“They also have one of the top line-out units in the tournament and we all saw what their maul was like against the Lions last week, so we’ll have to be at our best.”
The Stormers coach spoke about the South Americans’ ability to build pressure through holding onto the ball for numerous phases.
“They have some big ball carriers,” Fleck said, adding: “Our defence will have to be top notch.
“We all saw the ability the Jaguares have when there is a bit of space – they scored some pretty impressive tries against the Lions.
“When they do get a rumble on they are a pretty tough side to play.
“They will be asking more questions than what we faced in the last three weeks.”
2018: Jaguares won 25-14, Buenos Aires
2018: Stormers won 28-20, Cape Town
2017: Stormers won 32-25, Cape Town
2016: Stormers won 13-8, Buenos Aires
Prediction: The Jaguares picked up a 25-14 win in their last Super Rugby meeting with the Stormers, snapping a three-game losing streak against the South African franchise. The Stormers have won seven of their last nine Super Rugby games on home turf, including their last two on the bounce. The Jaguares have lost their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce away from home, conceding 40+ points on three occasions in that span. The Stormers have missed just 15 tackles per game this season, fewer than any other team in Super Rugby 2019. The Jaguares’ Tomas Lavanini is the most penalised player in Super Rugby 2019, having conceded eight penalties thus far, three of which have been for being caught offside, no other player has been caught out this way more often.
Margin: Three points
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 John Schickerling, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Damian Willemse.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Gaspar Baldunciel, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Juan Cruz Mallia, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Stats courtesy of Opta Sports