Preview: Super Rugby, Round Two, Part Two
BIG NORTH-SOUTH DERBY: The Sunwolves’ stay at the top of the Australian conference will be brief, but there are other very delectable games to look forward to.
For starters, there is the BIG north-south derby at Newlands – the Stormers hosting the Bulls.
It is a game that comes with the added spice of the Glass House saga – the Hurricanes responding in kind to Stormers coach John Dobson’s claims of ‘mean spirited’ tactics by the Kiwis.
The push-back of ‘those who live in glass houses’ will have reminded the Stormers to focus on how they perform, rather than what the opposition does.
Saturday’s drama starts with a tasty all-New Zealand derby – the Chiefs hosting the defending (and 10-time) champion Crusaders in Hamilton.
The Waratahs are at home (Newcastle) to the Blues in a Trans_Tasman encounter, the Lions will look to bounce back from last week’s humiliation at the hands of the Jaguares when they host the Reds in Johannesburg, then follow the Stormers versus Bulls at Newlands and the weekend’s action concludes with the Jaguares at home to those ‘nasty’ Hurricanes.
We look at all Saturday’s matches!
Saturday, February 8:
Chiefs v Crusaders
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – Kick-off: 19.05; 06.05 GMT)
Despite that absence of World Cup All Black Richie Mo’unga, this game is set to be a cracker – for a number of reasons.
Aaron Cruden gets a start in the Chiefs’ No.10 jersey – after impressing off the bench against the Blues last week – and will have a great opportunity to make another statement about a possible All Black recall.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who was not willing to risk Mo’unga, named fullback David Havili to start at No.10.
“[If it was] a Final, he could have played,” Robertson said, adding: “It’s one of those situations.”
The Crusaders welcome back George Bridge and Sevu Reece.
- Continue reading below …
The Chiefs’ new coach, Warren Gatland, said he was looking forward to seeing the Chiefs challenge the defending title holders.
“Last week we achieved the desired result on the scoreboard,” he said of their come-from-behind win over the Blues.
“However, there were plenty of learnings for the group.
“This week we need to take those learnings and implement them, ensuring we are patient with the ball in hand and a nuisance when we are defending.
“The Crusaders are a formidable pack and set a great challenge for us.
“The only way we are going to continue to improve is by playing the best, so this will be a great contest for us and one we are preparing well for.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Chiefs defeated the Crusaders 40-27 in their most recent meeting in Super Rugby (1 June 2019), ending a five-match losing run -their tally of 40 points their joint-most ever against the Crusaders in Super Rugby. The Crusaders have won only two of their last five Super Rugby games away from home, including a draw and a loss in their last two away games despite having held the lead at half-time on both occasions. The Chiefs have trailed at half-time in each of their last five New Zealand derbies in Super Rugby; however, they’ve managed to pick up two wins and a draw in that span. The Chiefs made a round-high 162 tackles during the first round of the 2020 Super Rugby campaign, their most in an away game in the competition since June 2012 (174 vs Highlanders). Braydon Ennor (Crusaders) scored a brace of tries in Round 1 this season and has crossed for one try in each of his two previous Super Rugby appearances against the Chiefs. The Chiefs will push the Crusaders all the way, but a late score will see the visitors win by five points.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Sam Cane (captain), 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Ollie Norris, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 David Havili, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Cullen Grace, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Blues
(McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle – Kick-off: 19.15; 21.15 NZ time; 08.15 GMT)
Waratahs coach Rob Penney has hailed Michael Hooper’s opening round effort as unbelievable and says he could lead the side again in the future.
Having relinquished the Waratahs captaincy this season, Wallabies skipper Hooper turned in what Penney described as an unbelievable performance in last weekend’s opening-round loss to the Crusaders.
“He’s had two months off since the World Cup and had 50 minutes [in a trial] against the Reds, and then to play like that for 80 minutes, incredible,” Penney said.
“As we know he’s a superman in more ways than one.”
While lock Rob Simmons has the captaincy after Hooper opted to stand down, Penney did not rule out the openside flanker regaining it in future seasons.
“I guess the idea behind relinquishing the captaincy was to freshen him up and see the game through a different set of eyes and a different role,” he said.
“Geez, if we can get performances like that out of him over the next three or four years and he doesn’t have the C badge on, then it was a great decision.
“The captaincy thing is not always and forever, he could easily have it back at some point.”
After much was said last week about Akira Ioane’s absence, he will play off the bench for the Blues.
The Blues have a good track record over the Waratahs in recent years, having won their last four matches, however they have lost their last two games on Australian soil.
However, they have been dealt a triple injury blow, including a broken hand for All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane.
The Blues have been bottom of the New Zealand conference for the past six seasons but looked much-improved in the 29-37 loss to the Chiefs.
But it came at a cost and the Blues said Ioane, who scored two tries, will be sidelined “for several weeks”.
Hooker Ray Niuia suffered a season-ending knee injury that will require surgery while prop Alex Hodgman tore a calf muscle.
The depleted Blues face the NSW Waratahs in Newcastle on Saturday.
“Injuries are part and parcel of this competition and this sport, but it gives us the opportunity early in the season to give opportunities to others who have been working very hard on the training field,” said Blues coach Leon Macdonald.
“We did a lot of things well last week, particularly in the first half, but also some periods in the second half. We will look to consolidate those areas of strength and work on solutions for some of the areas of growth from the game.
“The pack will be the cornerstone and we will look to provide the platform for our backs to show their skills against what will be a very good Waratahs team.
“We are looking forward to playing in a different venue and atmosphere at Newcastle and excited put on an improved overall performance.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Blues have won each of their last four Super Rugby matches against the NSW Waratahs, each of those games has been decided by seven points or less – the last and only time they’ve won more against them was their first five fixtures in the competition (1996 -2000). The only previous Super Rugby game played at McDonald Jones Stadium saw the NSW Waratahs defeated by the Sunwolves by a two-point margin (29 March 2019); they’ve managed just one win from four games as hosts overall since that defeat. The Blues have lost their last two Super Rugby games in Australia after having enjoyed a five-game winning streak immediately prior; the last time they lost more than two successive games in Australia was a three-game stretch across the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The NSW Waratahs conceded 23 turnovers during their opening round fixture, the most of any team in Round 1 this Super Rugby campaign; the last time the NSW Waratahs conceded more in a game was in Round 10, 2018 (24 vs Lions). The Blues’ Rieko Ioane crossed for a brace of tries in the opening round of the 2020 Super Rugby campaign and boasts having scored a total of nine tries in his last eight games against Australian opposition in the competition. If the Blues can repeat last week’s first half and maintain it for the full 80 minutes, they should get an invaluable away win – by three points.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (captain), 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Tepai Moeroa, 22 Mitch Short, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Blues: 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Nicholas Berry (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Lions v Reds
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT; 23.05 Brisbane time)
The Lions will be out to redeem themselves against the Reds, following last weekend’s humiliating loss to the Jaguares.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said it is vital for the Lions to get a win this week, since they only have two home games in the first eight weeks.
“Brad Thorn [Reds coach], as a player, was a physical, hard man,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “That is the way his team will play.”
He admitted there is pressure on him, after the opening round performance in Buenos Aires.
“Part of this job is the pressure [to win],” he said.
One of the more interesting selections is young Morné van den Berg at scrumhalf, in place of the injured Andre Warner (ankle).
He only converted from fullback to scrumhalf two years ago, but the coach described him as a ‘little Faf’ – in reference to Springbok star Francois de Klerk.
“He is desperate and will bring energy,” Van Rooyen said.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said he expected a tough game against the Lions at Ellis Park.
Thorn has had a selection surprise of his own – with James O’Connor to play No.10, with incumbent flyhalf Isaac Lucas dropped to the Reds’ bench.
It will be O’Connor’s second start at No.10 for Queensland, after calling the shots in his 2015 Reds debut and an ideal platform to push his case for a Wallabies berth in a position that remains up for grabs under new national coach Dave Rennie.
O’Connor played at No.12 in last Friday’s loss to the Brumbies in Canberra, but finished at No.10 as the Reds coughed up a 10-point halftime lead to lose 27-24.
Thorn indicated O’Connor and Lucas might be in and out of the No.10 jersey at different stages of the season in a horses-for-courses approach.
“We just want to have a look at him [O’Connor] and we also think Isaac can really bring something in that last 30, 20 minutes as well,” the coach said.
“We’re looking forward to James having a shot there and working with Hamish and also what Isaac can bring [off the bench].”
In a brutal three-week road trip to start the season, the Queensland outfit will move on to Argentina the following weekend to play the Jaguares, who thumped the Lions last weekend at home.
“Around the world trip; no other sport really does it, let alone a contact sport,” Thorn said.
“So, if you can get a victory on this trip, you can call that a success.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Reds defeated the Lions 27-22 in their most recent meeting in Super Rugby (28 April 2018) after keeping them scoreless in the first half (24-0), it ended a three-match losing run against them. The Lions have won 10 of their last 11 home games against Australian opposition in Super Rugby, including their last seven on the bounce; their only defeat in that span came against the Brumbies in 2015. The Reds have lost 29 of their last 33 Super Rugby games away from home, including their last four on the bounce; however, they were successful in their last visit to South Africa (def. Sharks, 21-14). The Lions beat a total of just 13 defenders throughout the first round of the 2020 Super Rugby campaign, the fewest of any team –only once in the two seasons prior have they made less (9 v Stormers, 23 February 2019). Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Reds) stole a brace of line-outs during Round 1 this season – one of only two players to do so (also Mitchell Brown) – after having only stolen one line-out in his previous 15 Super Rugby games. The Lions are sure to be fired up and while the Reds may well hold the lead at some stage in the game, the Lions should win by at least a converted try.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Duncan Matthews, 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 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Ruan Vermaak, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Shaun Reynolds
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sean Farrell, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Hunter Paisami.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Griffon Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Stormers v Bulls
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
Alongside the Chiefs versus Crusaders encounter, this is the feature match of the weekend.
Recent history does not favour the Bulls away from home.
The Stormers have won their last eight Super Rugby home matches, with the Bulls having not won away to the Stormers since 2011.
The Stormers will be high on confidence after keeping the Hurricanes scoreless at home in Round One last week.
Stormers coach John Dobson said the set pieces will be key.
“We expect them to use [flyhalf] Morné [Steyn] to go for territory,” the coach said.
“We are aware they want to lure us into some form of kicking game. We planned around that.”
However, that could change during the game.
“If [scrumhalf] Embrose [Papier] and [flyhalf] Manie [Libbok] come of [off the bench] together, that changes how we would defend,” Dobson added.
Bulls captain Burger Odendaal said the Bulls are determined to bounce back from last week’s Round One loss to the Sharks.
“The players were extremely disappointed,” the midfielder said.
“There is no two ways about it, we let ourselves down – especially considering that we were in it until the final minute.
“We have the manpower to beat any team and we will take that mindset into our second South African derby in as many weeks.”
Bulls coach Pote Human was happy with his team’s discipline against the Sharks, where they only conceded five penalties, but added that this week’s preparations included serious conversations about finishing try-scoring opportunities.
“Our discipline was good, which allowed us to stay in the game,” Human said.
“However, tries are our bread and butter and we cannot afford to fluff so many opportunities.
“Super Rugby is extremely brutal so when the try line presents itself we need to take full advantage of it.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Stormers have won their last eight Super Rugby home matches on the bounce against the Bulls; indeed, the Bulls haven’t won away to the Stormers since June 2011. Four of the Stormers’ last five South African derbies in Super Rugby have been decided by a margin of five points or fewer on the day, with the Stormers picking up three wins in that period. The Bulls are winless in their last five Super Rugby games away from home; though, they’ve managed to pick up two draws and one losing bonus point in that time. The Bulls conceded a round-low five penalties in the opening round of the current Super Rugby campaign; indeed, only once in the last nine Super Rugby campaigns have they conceded fewer in a game (4 vs Crusaders in May 2019). Herschel Jantjies (Stormers) was directly involved in three tries in Round 1 this season (1 try, 2 try assists), the joint-most of any player and the first Stormer to do so since Dewaldt Duvenage in March 2018 (3 try assists). If you are a gambling man, there is good value in backing the Bulls. However, the Stormers are fancied to win comfortably – by 12 points or more.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Johan du Toit, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Jeandré Rudolph, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans (South Africa)
Jaguares v Hurricanes
(Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires – Kick-off: 20.00; 17.00 GMT; 12.00, Sunday, February 9 NZ time)
The Jaguares put down an early marker, which suggests they may well be capable of going one step further – after losing to the 10-time champion Crusaders in last year’s Final.
Overpowering a disappointing Lions side 38-8 in Buenos Aires, the Jaguares showed growing confidence, especially in being able to turn on the class in what had been a tight game to put the issue beyond doubt.
Traditionally they would have relied on their rolling maul to secure a win, and that was still present.
However, they impressed with their backline cohesion and line-breaking variations – which left the Lions defence flummoxed.
In contrast, the Hurricanes are coming off a humbling 0-27 loss to the Stormers – described Cape Town coach John Dobson as a ‘mean-spirited’ display.
The Hurricanes appear to still struggle to come to terms with the late change in coaching – with John Plumtree moving to All Blacks duty and Jason Holland being promoted.
It was always going to be tough, no matter how seamless they attempted to make the transition.
That was evident in Cape Town.
Two of the Stormers tries were from intercepts that have their origins in lack of communication and execution.
What is most representative of the job ahead of Holland and his playing leaders is the nil in the scoreline.
The coach, Holland, expects the Jaguares will have confidence after their humiliation of the Lions.
“Their victory was impressive and they dominated the Lions in all areas,” the Hurricanes coach said.
“There’s also a lot of hype for the team over here after their strong 2019 campaign.”
Holland says the squad has done a lot of reflection and is ready to come back strong.
“We have to nail the small details on an individual level and collectively.
“Too many turnovers and giving away possession killed us last week and so we need to be patient and to build some pressure.”
Head to head
Prediction: Each of the last two Super Rugby matches between the Jaguares and Hurricanes have been won by the away side on the day, the Hurricanes winning 34-9 in their only previous visit (3 March 2018) to Argentina. The Jaguares have won their last seven home games on the bounce in Super Rugby by an average margin of 21 points per game; their last home defeat came against the Chiefs in Round Seven last season. The Hurricanes have won four of their last five Super Rugby games played outside New Zealand, despite having led at half-time only once in that period. The Hurricanes crossed the gainline on just 34 percent of all carries during the opening round of 2020 Super Rugby campaign, the lowest rate of any team in the competition and 13 percentage points lower than the Jaguares (47 percent). Jaguares players beat a combined 37 defenders in round one – the second-most of any team (Rebels – 38) and their most in a game since Round 18, 2018 against the Bulls (53). The Hurricanes do have a chance of an upset, but don’t bet your house on it. The Jaguares look to have too much class and should win by 10 points.
Jaguares: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente (captain), 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomas Cubelli (captain), 8 Rodrigo Buni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Francisco Gorrissen, 5 Lucas Paulos, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Javier Ortega Desio, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Santiago Chocobares.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Vince Aso.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
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