Preview: Super Rugby, Round Three, Part Two
UNBEATEN: All five teams that remain unbeaten will be in action on Saturday – a day that could see some significant movement on the standings.
At least one team will lose its unbeaten record – as the Sunwolves (one for one) hosts the Chiefs (two from two) at the Prince Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo in the first match of the day.
The Hurricanes, who bounced back from their opening-round loss to the Stormers to beat the Jaguares, will look to end the Sharks’ impressive start to the season (wins over the Bulls and Highlanders).
The Brumbies (two from two) face a Highlanders determined to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Sharks.
The Lions, with a loss and a win from their opening rounds, are up against the table-topping Stormers – a team highly fancied to go all the way this year.
The weekend is concluded when the Jaguares host the Reds at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium, in Buenos Aires.
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We look at Saturday’s matches!
Saturday, February 15:
Sunwolves v Chiefs
(Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo Kick-off: 12.45; 03.45 GMT; 16.45 NZ time)
The Chiefs only need to look back to their clash against the Sunwolves last year to realise the danger the Japanese side holds.
The Sunwolves recorded a historic 30-15 win in Hamilton, to stun the Chiefs and show that they can never be underestimated.
The Japanese-based side is also coming off an impressive victory over the Rebels and will look to run the Chiefs ragged on their home track.
Chiefs coach Warren Gatland, although cautious about the threat posed by their hosts, said this was a great opportunity for a number of players to get some game time under their belt.
“We have started the season two from two, to continue this momentum it is important we rotate our squad,” Gatland said.
“We have rested several players this weekend, but this provides an opportunity for those who have been working hard over the pre-season to have some game time.
“We are coming off the back of two tough games and we are pleased to be where we are, but we know the Sunwolves are a competitive side who can upset teams.
“They stunned us last year winning 30-15 in their first overseas win. Our job is to build on what we have achieved so far and continue to show improvement.”
Fullback Damian McKenzie was also cautious in his assessment.
McKenzie said while it had been great to get a win over the Crusaders in week two, they had to make sure they backed up with a good performance this weekend.
“The Sunwolves are coming off a bye so they’ll be pretty fresh so for us it is about going over there and having the same mindset we had last week,” the All Black said.
“They’re a good side and can’t be taken lightly so we’ll have to come out and start well,” he added.
Head to head
Prediction: The Chiefs won the first two of the three previous Super Rugby games between themselves and the Sunwolves; though, the Japanese side prevailed 30-15 in their most recent encounter (Round Three, 2019). The Sunwolves will be on the hunt for back-to-back Super Rugby wins for the first time since May 2018 – and just the second time ever – after opening their campaign with a 36-27 win over the Rebels in Round One. The Chiefs have won their last five regular-season games on the bounce in Super Rugby; the last time they won more was a seven-game stretch in 2016. The Sunwolves are the only team remaining (14/14 -100 percent) yet to lose a line-out off their own throw this Super Rugby season, while the Chiefs have lost the joint-most such line-outs of any side (6 – also Lions and Hurricanes). Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs) has won the most turnovers (9) of any player this Super Rugby season, four more than the next best (Tom Christie – 5). Forget Wellington last year and the first-round win over the Rebels. This Sunwolves team must still prove it can be consistent against quality teams. The Chiefs should win comfortably, by at least 15 points.
Sunwolves: 15 James Dargaville, 14 Siosaia Fifita, 13 Keisuke Moriya (captain), 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Tautalatasi Tasi, 10 Garth April, 9 Naoto Saito, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Mitch Jacobson, 5 Michael Stolberg, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Conraad Van Vuuren, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Jarred Adams.
Replacements: 16 Effie Ma’afu, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Hencus Van Wyk, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Tevita Tupou, 21 Takahiro Kimura, 22 Shogo Nakano, 23 Johannes Engelbrecht.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Dylan Nel, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Mitchell Brown, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Tiaan Falcon, 23 Orbyn Leger.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Tasuku Kawahara (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)
Hurricanes v Sharks
(Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington – Kick-off: 19.05; 08.05 SA time; 06.05 GMT)
The Sharks are in a buoyant mood after their impressive start to the season, but their hosts, the Hurricanes, showed they are no pushovers either.
The Hurricanes are on their home turf for the first time in 2020 – after a dismal performance against the Stormers at Newlands and rebounding with a win over the Jaguares last week.
It makes for an intriguing encounter, with the Sharks against showing last week – with a sensational 42-20 win over the Highlanders – that they still have the ability to knock over New Zealand teams in Aotearoa.
The Durban-based franchise will be looking to repeat their performances of 2014, 2010 and 2009 – an unbeaten tour of New Zealand.
Hurricanes coach Jason Holland was confident that his team could end the visitors’ unbeaten run.
“We have an excellent squad,” Holland said.
James Venter is a local boy, born in Port Shepstone, schooled at Glenwood in Durban, played his junior rugby for the Cell C Sharks before expanding his horizons with the Golden Lions and then returning to Durban late last year.Given the fact that he’s had two starts, it’s clear that he’s back home and loving it. Three years in Johannesburg didn’t quite realise the rugby rewards he had hoped for at the Lions and when the opportunity to come back to The Sharks, he grabbed it with both hands.Full article: bit.ly/2tOVY6w#OurSharksForever
Posted by The Sharks on Wednesday, 12 February 2020
The Sharks have scored more tries against the Hurricanes than any other South African side.
Last year the Hurricanes walked away with a 30-17 win, but Holland says it’s always a tough encounter.
“The Sharks are a physical side with a big kicking game – not too dissimilar from the style the Springboks adopted to win the World Cup,” the Hurricanes coach said.
“They’ve got a back three who will take opportunities we give them.”
The absence of Springbok flyhalf Curwin Bosch – who returned to South Africa due to a family bereavement – means Junior Springbok flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain is thrown in at the deep end by the Sharks.
“Preparations for the game on Saturday have gone well and the guys are enjoying Wellington,” Sharks coach Sean Everett from the team’s base in New Zealand.
Given the favourable conditions, the coach admitted that more of the same can be expected of this exciting side.
“We’re hoping for more of the same from last week – if the weather allows it.
“It looks like it’s going to remain the same which is good, and we can then look to unleash our backs again.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Hurricanes have won their last four home games on the bounce against the Sharks in Super Rugby. The last time they lost in such a fixture was in Round Seven, 2010. The Hurricanes picked up an away win in their last Super Rugby game against the Sharks. It was the first time in eight games between the two teams that the away squad had won on the day. The Sharks have made the most kicks in play (67) of any side in the 2020 Super Rugby season, only two other sides have also made 50+ (Jaguares – 58 and Bulls – 52). The Hurricanes have won the most scrums (16/16 -100 percent) on their own feed of any side yet to lose one in Super Rugby 2020. In fact, the Sharks’ 75 percent success rate at the scrum is the second-lowest of any team. Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes) has made the most tackles (28/28 – 100 percent) of any player yet to miss a single attempt; in fact, only four have made more than him overall. This may well be where the Sharks’ winning streak ends – with the Hurricanes to take a close win and the Sharks getting a losing bonus point – seven points or less.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Billy Proctor.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Phepsi Buthelezi, 22 Sanele Nohamba, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Rebecca Mahoney (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
Brumbies v Highlanders
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 19.15; 21.15 NZ time; 08.15 GMT)
The Brumbies are looking equal their second-best winning streak at home against a Highlanders team desperate to bounce back from a trouncing at home.
Chasing an 11th straight win in Canberra, the Brumbies also they look to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
The Brumbies have scored the most tries (10) of any team in the opening two rounds and are the only Australian side to post a win.
They can finish the weekend on top of the table if results fall their way, but the Brumbies have lost four straight to the Highlanders.
Assistant coach Peter Hewat said he was “expecting the unexpected” from the Highlanders – who lost to the Sharks last week.
“They’re difficult to read really,” Hewat said.
“A Tony Brown-coached team always has something up their sleeve.
“Turnover attack, they like to kick a lot, but we’ve done a lot of work on that this week so hopefully we can work them out.
“They’re going to come to Canberra pretty pumped up and ready to rock and roll.”
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger is aware of the challenge his team will face in the Australian capital city.
“They are a tough team to play in Canberra and have a strong home record over the last few seasons,” Mauger said.
“We are expecting a physical encounter on Saturday.
“We took some positives out of our second-half performance last week, so we now have a good opportunity to build on that this round against the Brumbies.”
The Brumbies have won 10 straight at home, but Canberra crowds are down 17 percent, averaging just 7267 fans after two rounds.
Hewat hopes their first Saturday game and decent weather will bring the faithful back, but conceded rugby currently faced a perception problem.
“We’re taking a bit of a hit at the moment. That’s half the battle isn’t it, how it’s perceived,” Hewat said.
“We’ve got to get out there and continue to work with our community and reconnect and try and get people to our games.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Highlanders have won their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Brumbies – their longest streak against them – including a 26-point win in their last meeting – their equal biggest winning margin over the side from the Australian capital. The Brumbies have won their last 10 Super Rugby home games on the bounce; an 11th consecutive home win would equal their longest home streak since they won their first 13 home games in Super Rugby history from 1996 to 1998. The Highlanders have won 12 of their last 15 Super Rugby games against Australian opponents, including a 49-12 win over the NSW Waratahs in their last such fixture. The Brumbies (10) are the first team to reach double figures in tries for the 2020 Super Rugby season, they are also one of three teams to have already scored a drop goal (also Bulls and Chiefs). Aaron Smith (Highlanders) has had five-try involvements (2 tries, 3 try assists) in his last six Super Rugby matches against the Brumbies. The Brumbies look the best bet of the Aussie teams for the play-offs and the Highlanders will find the trip across the Tasman Sea a tall order. The Brumbies to win by eight points.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Len Ikitau, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Highlanders: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Sio Tomkinson, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jesse Parete, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Conan O’Donnell, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Lions v Stormers
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT)
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen was stating the obvious when he suggested that his team needs to “fix a few things” ahead of this crucial all-South African derby.
The loss in Round One in Buenos Aires already had the alarm bells ringing, but last week’s struggling in at home to a travel-weary and under-performing Reds was cause for panic – at least among the supports.
The sight of 2007 World Cup winner Jannie du Plessis being demolished in the scrums – by the unheralded South Africa-born Queensland loosehead Jean-Pierre Smith – in Johannesburg last weekend will have had many reaching for the panic button.
Van Rooyen responded by naming a forward-heavy bench – six forward and just two backs.
And the coach admitted the set pieces will be a focus.
“They have a world-class forward pack, with a number of World Cup-winning Springboks,” Van Rooyen told a media briefing at the team’s training base in Johannesburg.
“The battle will start up front this week,” he said of the encounter with the Stormers.
He said the lack of training time in the first two weeks – when they were constantly on the road (Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, to Buenos Aires, to Sao Paulo and back to Johannesburg) – resulted in the pack not being able to work on specific details.
“We had combined time of 25 to 30 minutes for the first two rounds,” the Lions coach said, adding: “This week alone we had an hour, to an hour-and-a-half just to work on our scrums.
“The forwards had a little bit more time to understand the systems.”
He said they finally had a “good” training week, which will give themselves “an opportunity” to cause an upset.
“They have momentum on their side,” the Lions coach said of a Stormers side that is yet to concede any points this season.
Stormers coach John Dobson said that his team face a serious challenge if they are to maintain their winning start to the season.
“It is always a tough assignment to travel up to Johannesburg, but it is a challenge that the team has really embraced this week,” Dobson said.
“We have made a solid start to the season at home, but we need to back that up with good performances away from home and that starts this weekend against the Lions,” he added.
Dobson said he was not reading too much into the Lions’ opening-round loss (8-38) to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires and last week’s struggles against the Reds (a 27-20 win).
“They are a multi-phased team that play at high-tempo. Last week was very wet and it is difficult for a team like that to get going in those conditions.
“Even from Johan Ackerman’s days to now, there has been no change in their DNA.
“Cash [Van Rooyen] was the guy who conditioned them for that.
“I am not expecting them to deviate from their tempo game and given the strength of our pack they will try to make us run around a bit.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Lions have won five of their last six Super Rugby games against the Stormers, after having won only one of their first 13 meetings since their divorce from the Cheetahs (in the unworkable Cats marriage). The Lions have won only two of their last eight South African derbies in Super Rugby – one of those wins in that span was against the Stormers – after having been undefeated in 21 derbies prior. The Stormers have won only one of their last six Super Rugby away matches against fellow South African sides, a tight five-point win over the Sharks (2 March 2019). The Lions boast the best ruck success rate (179/182 – 98 percent) of any side this Super Rugby campaign, the Stormers (96 percent) are one of four other teams with a success rate above 95 percent. Damian Willemse (Stormers) has made the most metres gained (163 metres from 20 carries) of any flyhalf in the 2020 Super Rugby season; the only No.10 to make more carries is Jaguares’ Domingo Miotti (21 carries for 99 metres gained). If you are into gambling, then wager some of your hard-earned money on the Lions – as you will get good odds. However, our money is on the Stormers to win by 15 points, or more.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Johan du Toit, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 John Schickerling, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Ernst van Rhyn, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Jaguares v Reds
(Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires – Kick-off: 20.00; 23.00 GMT; 09.00, Sunday, February 16 Brisbane time)
Last year’s losing finalists, the Jaguares, will be hurting after losing to the Hurricanes last week – a loss that came after an impressive opening-round demolition of the Lions.
The ‘angry’ Argentineans will get a chance to put their campaign back on track against a bumbling Reds outfit.
Brad Thorn’s Reds have suffered two close losses already this season – 24-27 to the Brumbies in Canberra and 20-27 to the Lions in Johannesburg.
And the Jaguares have had the edge over Australian opponents in recent times, with nine wins out of the last 10 matches.
“Very disappointed,” was the blunt assessment of the coach of his team’s opening fortnight.
“It was similar to last week. You have these games in the balance and we’re not getting the result.
“There are moments in games where you can win or lose it, we need to get our heads around that.”
Flyhalf Hamish Stewart echoed the coach’s sentiments.
“We had a really stern review,” Stewart said at the team’s training base in Buenos Aires.
He described this week’s opponents, the Jaguares, as very physical.
“They were one of the top two defensive teams last year and were in the Final,” the No.10 said.
“We will have to match their physicality and the boys are up for it.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Jaguares have won two of their three previous meetings with the Reds in Super Rugby, including a 34-23 win in their most recent encounter. The Jaguares have won nine of their last 10 Super Rugby games against Australian opponents, including their last six on the bounce – though, their only defeat in that span was to the Queensland Reds. The Reds have won just two of their last 16 Super Rugby away matches; although, they have picked up a losing bonus point in four of their last five defeats in that run. The Jaguares (920) is one of only two teams (Crusaders – 967) to have gained 900+ metres so far in the 2020 Super Rugby season. Indeed, they are the only side to have made 30+ clean breaks (34). Bryce Hegarty (Reds) boasts a 100 percent goal-kicking record (8/8) in the 2020 Super Rugby campaign; his tally is the most of any player yet to miss a single attempt, while only two have kicked more than him overall (Curwin Bosch – 12 and Domingo Miotti – 11). The reds will huff and puff, but they won’t blow the house down. The Jaguares will win easily – 12 points or more.
Jaguares: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente (captain), 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Buni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Lucas Paulos, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Lucio Sordoni, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Juan Cuz Mallia.
Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sean Farrell, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Pablo Deluca (Argentina), Martin Cordoba (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)
Compiled by Jan de Koning; with additional reporting by AAP & superrugby.co.nz
* Stats provided by Opta Sports