Super Rugby Predictions: Round Six, Part Two
PREVIEW: If you mention teams like the Bulls, Lions, Highlanders and Waratahs you wouldn’t normally associate them with exiguous performances.
However, none of them has managed to scrape together more than one win this season and on current form look unlikely to add to their ‘W’ column this coming weekend.
All four of those – three of whom are former champions and the other a three-times finalist – are on the road this weekend.
The Blues host the Lions in Auckland, the Reds are at home to the Bulls in Brisbane, the Jaguares face the Highlanders in Buenos Aires and the Brumbies face off against the Waratahs in Canberra.
Not because of home ground advantage – although that is a factor – the hosts are fancied to win in all four those matches this weekend.
We look at Saturday and Sunday’s matches and give our predictions!
Saturday, March 14:
Blues v Lions
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 16.25; 05.25 SA time; 03.25 GMT)
Even with star recruit Beauden Barrett, who joined the team for training for the first time this week after an extended break, the Blues are fancied to walk away with a full-house of five points.
Blues fans are no closer to knowing when Barrett will actually take the field, with coach Leon MacDonald saying only he was targeting a “mid-April” debut for the high profile recruit from Wellington Hurricanes.
Barrett a crammed a lot into his time off, including trips to Thailand, Fiji and the United States where he watched the Super Bowl and Phoenix Golf Open
“It was a really good break until Super Rugby kicked off, then my feet started to get itchy,” the 83-Test All Black told reporters.
“I’m not expecting to be back to where I was last year next week. It’s up to me get myself right physically and mentally, to learn the plays, the calls. It’s like learning a different language, so I’m enjoying that challenge.”
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The Blues are cautious about the Lions and are under no illusion that the Johannesburg-based outfit will pose a much tougher test than their lowly one win from five starts suggest.
While the Blues have won four games away from home this season, both their losses have come at Eden Park.
“The calibre and history of their side suggest that are going to be a tough challenge, as they have been every time we play them,” said coach Leon MacDonald.
“Teams often galvanize for the first game back from South Africa as we did last week against the Hurricanes and the following week is a challenge.
“We adjusted our training accordingly and we will need to produce a performance of quality, aggression and accuracy if we hope to get a positive result.
“Both sides have a history of playing attractive and open running rugby and I am sure we will both enjoy the rare opportunity to play in the late afternoon. It’s a fantastic chance for families to come along and enjoy what should be a terrific match.”
Lions defence coach Sean Erasmus said his team is determined to put the record straight after back-to-back defeats in Australia.
“The Blues have exciting players on the edges and I am sure they will play to their strengths,” Erasmus said.
“We are a proud group and don’t take lightly to the performances this season. We have put in a lot of hard work.”
Head to head
Prediction: Three of the last four Super Rugby games between the Blues and Lions have been decided by a margin of exactly three points on the day, with the Lions picking up three wins in that period. Each of the Blues’ last six Super Rugby games has been won by the away team on the day, with the Auckland side having lost both of their home games so far this season. The Blues are undefeated in their last four Super Rugby games against South African opposition. The last time they went longer without defeat against such teams was a five-game win streak across the 2004 and 2005 seasons. The Blues have had an average of two of their line-outs stolen by their opponents per game this Super Rugby season, the joint-most of any team alongside the Sharks. The Auckland side have managed one line-out steal of their own per game in reply. Elton Jantjies (Lions) has made 11 kicks in play which have been retained by a teammate this Super Rugby season, more than any other player in the competition. Form suggests an easy win for the Blues and we think 15 points or more.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Thomas Faiane (captain), 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Jacob Pierce, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Joe Walsh, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Aaron Carroll/Sam Caird, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa.
Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Manuel Rass 12 Daniel Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ruan Vermaak, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Andries Coetzee.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Sunwolves v Crusaders
(Lang Park, Brisbane – Kick-off: 15.35; 14.35 Japan time; 17.35 NZ time; 05.35 GMT)
The Crusaders are not disrespecting the lowly Sunwolves, but it is an ideal opportunity to rest some of their frontline players.
“It is out of our hands,” coach Scott Robertson said of the decision to move the match from Tokyo to Brisbane – due to the on-going Covid-19 outbreak.
“Japan would have been great,” Robertson said, adding: “The Sunwolves crowd had been exceptional.”
The Crusaders coach has made a host of changes for the trip across the Tasman Sea.
Robertson rested All Blacks Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue – with scrumhalf Bryn Hall to Captain the side.
“We have great depth in our squad,” he said.
“Every time someone has been given an opportunity they have taken it.
“It’s really exciting to give these players an opportunity this week,” Robertson said.
“We’re fortunate to have a great group of young players coming through, who all have big futures ahead of them.
“They’ve been training really consistently in our environment and we look forward to seeing them take their opportunity on Saturday.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Crusaders have won both of their previous two Super Rugby games against the Sunwolves by a combined score of 83-14. However, this will be the first time that the Japanese side have hosted the Crusaders. The Sunwolves have lost four games and conceded 216 points this Super Rugby season since their Round One win against the Rebels, managing to score just 51 points in reply in that period. The Crusaders have led at half-time in each of their last six Super Rugby games played away from home. However, they’ve managed to pick up only three wins in that stretch. The Sunwolves have missed 38 tackles per game this Super Rugby campaign – nine per game more than any other team and endure the lowest tackle success rate of any outfit in the 2020 campaign (76.4 percent). Codie Taylor (Crusaders) has made 40 successful line-out throws from 42 attempts in the 2020 Super Rugby season, his 95 percent success rate is the second-highest of any player to have made at least 10 throws. It is not who but by how much. The Crusaders by 30 points or more.
Sunwolves: 15 James Dargaville, 14 Siosaia Fifita, 13 Keisuke Moriya, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Tautalatasi Tasi, 10 Garth April, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jake Schatz (captain), 7 Mitch Jacobson, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Michael Stolberg, 4 Ben Hyne, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Efitusi Maafu, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Jarred Adams, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Brendan O’Connor, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Shogo Nakano, 23 Yoshizumi Takeda.
Crusaders: 15 George Bridge, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Faingaanuku, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Bryn Hall (captain), 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Sione Havili, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Ere Enari, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Reds v Bulls
(Lang Park, Brisbane – Kick-off: 18.15; 10.15 SA time; 08.15 GMT)
The return of Wallaby strike weapon James O’Connor adds another string to the Reds bow for a game they are already favourites in.
However, Reds head coach Brad Thorn said it is going to require a team effort – not a one-man show.
“The Bulls are always a tough opposition,”Thorn said.
“They got their first win last week and will be full of confidence heading into this game.
“We took plenty of positives from our performance in Christchurch [a 20-24 loss] last week and we look forward to a tough contest against the Bulls,” Thorn added.
Bulls coach Pote Human will be hoping his team can build on last week’s impressive 38-13 win over the Highlanders.
“The players put up their hands last week and have been rewarded for their efforts,”he said of a team that shows minimal changes.
“The combinations worked well and the bench complemented the efforts of the starters.
“Our scrums were good as were our line-outs but there is always work to be done especially in terms of discipline.”
The Reds have led or shared the half-time lead in all six games this season, but have just one win to their name to sit 10 points behind conference leaders the Brumbies.
It makes their clash against the Pretoria-based Bulls vital, ahead of four consecutive games against conference rivals.
“Fundamentally we got a lot of things right, created a lot of opportunities,” assistant coach Jim McKay said.
“We need to be able to finish our line-breaks better … we need to be more ruthless, patient and precise.
“Hopefully that’ll get us on the other side of the ledger.”
Head to head
Prediction: Each of the last 13 Super Rugby meetings between the Reds and Bulls have been won by the home team on the day. The Reds have won their last six home games on the bounce against the Bulls, with four of those wins coming by seven points or fewer. The Reds have won six of their last seven Super Rugby games at home against South African opposition. However, their only defeat in that stretch came in their last such fixture (29 February 2020 v Sharks). The Bulls have won only two of their last 12 Super Rugby games in Australia, despite having held a half-time lead on four occasions in that span. The Reds have made an average of 15 clean breaks per game this season – the most of any team. However, only the Brumbies (5) have conceded fewer clean breaks per game than the Bulls (7) this campaign. Only the Crusaders’ David Havili (14) has made more offloads this Super Rugby season than the Bulls’ Warrick Gelant (10). Gelant’s four offloads in Round Six were more than any other player and his most in a game since making four against the Kings in 2017. This might be a lot closer than what most pundits think. We say the Reds will sneak is – by three or five points.
Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor 9 Scott Malolua, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Scott-Young, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Ian Groenewald , 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ryno Pieterse, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Sharks v Stormers
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 15.05; 13.05 GMT)
Sharks No.8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe has cautioned his teammates against complacency ahead of their crucial all-South African derby against the Stormers in Durban.
Not only are the Stormers missing three injured Springbok forwards, but the teams have had some very contrasting fortunes in recent weeks.
The Sharks are coming off an impressive 33-19 win over the Jaguares, while the Stormers had a bye in Round Six after losing 14-33 to the Blues at Newlands the week before.
“They have a lot of talented young players ready to fill the gaps,” warned Notshe, who has starred for the Durban side this season after leaving the Stormers to get more game time.
Flank and reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit misses the clash between leaders Sharks and fifth-place Stormers because of a thigh injury.
Captain and loose forward Siya Kolisi (knee) and hooker Bongi Mbonambi (hamstring) were injured in the season-opening victory over the Hurricanes.
Stormers coach John Dobson said that his team is determined to bring plenty of energy to the contest following their bye.
“The bye was a good chance to look at our game and we want to see some growth in a few different areas on Saturday,” Dobson said.
“South African derbies are always tough games and we are looking forward to the different challenges we will face this weekend,” he added.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt was cautiously optimistic.
“I’m very happy with the team’s consistency,” Everitt said, adding: “It’s something that we all – players and management – spoke about and were quite open about what we want to achieve as far as that’s concerned.
“The guys have put it together for six weeks in a row, they need to do it for another two and then we can have a break and go again.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Sharks have won five of their last seven Super Rugby games against the Stormers. They’ve shared one win apiece in their last two meetings with both games seeing neither side score 20 points or more. The Sharks have won three of their last four Super Rugby games at home, including both of their home games thus far in 2020, including a come-from-behind win against the Bulls in Round 1. The Stormers have won five of their last seven Super Rugby games against fellow South African opposition, including their two such fixtures so far in 2020. The Sharks have made 16 clean breaks within the opening 10 minutes of games this Super Rugby season, more than any other team in the competition and 11 more than the Stormers (5). Ruhan Nel (Stormers) has scored three tries, made six clean breaks and gained 168 metres from just 12 carries across his last two games away from home in Super Rugby. The Sharks will have homeground advantage and likely to sneak the game by a single score – five points.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 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 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Madosh Tambwe
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Rikus Pretorius, 23 Sergeal Petersen.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Jaguares v Highlanders
(Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires – Kick-off: 18.40; 21.40 GMT; 10.40, Sunday, March 15 NZ time)
The Highlanders’ already tough task was complicated even further through the loss of All Blacks Aaron Smith and Liam Coltman.
Both are being rested as part of the contentious All Black protocols.
With only one win to date in the season, and on the back of a disappointing 13-38 loss to the previously unsuccessful Bulls last week, will have to do it tough this week.
The Jaguares have, after a strong start to the competition, dropped to a 50-50 success rate in their six games.
On home turf, the Jaguares can point to eight wins in their last nine games.
However, they haven’t beaten the Highlanders in their two encounters in South America.
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said his side would look to set the record straight after last week’s horror show in Pretoria.
“It is just a reflection of where we are at, at the moment,” Mauger said.
“We are doing some good things and putting ourselves in good positions but just not finishing the job,” he added.
“But we will battle on. The boys have been learning and kept working hard. But we are certainly not finding our groove yet.
“A bit of that is growing pains. It is not through a lack of effort or intent. The boys are very thorough in their reviews and the learning from each game.”
Head to head
Prediction: This will be the third meeting between the Jaguares and Highlanders in Super Rugby, with the Highlanders winning the previous two meetings, including a 34-8 win when they met in Argentina in 2016. The Jaguares have won eight of their last nine Super Rugby games on home turf. Their only defeat in that span came against the Hurricanes after the Argentinians had led 10-9 at half-time on the day. The Highlanders have led at half-time in four of their last seven Super Rugby games played outside New Zealand. However, they’ve managed just two wins in that span.’The Jaguares have scored 61 points in the final quarter of games this Super Rugby season, the most of any team, while only the Chiefs (8) have conceded fewer points in this period than the Argentine outfit (14). Josh Dickson (Highlanders) has won six line-outs per game on his team’s own throw this season, the second-most of any player in the competition behind the Sunwolves’ Mike Stolberg (6.6). The Highlanders will almost certainly put up more resistance than last week, but without key figures like Smith and Coltman this may be a bridge too far. The Jaguares by 12 points.
Jaguares: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Francisco Gorrissen, 5 Lucas Paulos, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Lucio Sordoni, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Manuel Diaz, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Bautista Pedemonte, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Santiago Chocobares.
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Ngane Punivai, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tima Fainga’anuku, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Will Tucker, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Michael Collins, 23 Josh McKay.
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)
Sunday, March 15:
Brumbies v Waratahs
(Bruce Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 16.05; 05.05 GMT)
Milestone matches have a habit of turning out to a big letdown.
However, record-setting Kurtley Beale says there’s nothing better than an old-fashioned derby to snap a labouring team out of its funk as he looks to end his distinguished Australian rugby career with a bang.
Beale will equal retired former state and national teammate Benn Robinson as the NSW Waratahs’ most-capped Super Rugby player in Sunday’s must-win clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
And he believes the milestone match – in which he’ll go head-to-head with fellow Wallabies fullback hopeful Tom Banks – is the perfect opportunity to reignite both his own campaign and the Waratahs’ flagging season.
“Every derby game you want to be up there in the face of your opposite number,” Beale said ahead of his 148th Super Rugby appearance in the sky blue jumper.
“You want to put your best foot forward for the team first and foremost but, secondly, it does become personal no doubt.
“I know Banksy has already spoken about the opportunity and he’s up for the clash and no doubt from one to 15 boys will be into it.”
With just one win in five games, the Waratahs are languishing 13 points adrift of the pace-setting Brumbies (four wins in five games) in the Australian conference, but Beale isn’t giving up hope of playing finals football once more before likely heading to France next year.
“Obviously this year has been a bit of a tough start, some changes that have taken a bit of a slow time to adjust to,” he said.
“But I feel like we’re not far off and what’s important for my role is to continue working hard and rubbing off on the young guys coming through, and making sure that we’re driving the right standards around the group so we can actually achieve something that we’re all very proud of at the end of the year.”
Head to head
Prediction: The Brumbies have won six of their last seven Super Rugby games against the NSW Waratahs, including their last three on the bounce. They have never previously won four in succession against the NSW Waratahs in the competition. The Brumbies have won their last four Australian derbies in succession in Super Rugby, as many as they had won in 13 derbies prior. The NSW Waratahs have lost seven of their last nine Super Rugby games away from home, including their last three in succession by an average margin of 23 points. The Brumbies have outscored their opponents by 42 points within the opening quarter of games during the 2020 Super Rugby season to date, the most of any team in the competition. Jack Maddocks has crossed for six tries in four games against the Brumbies, including four tries in his last two games; although, this will be his first appearance against the ACT side since joining the NSW Waratahs. This may get ugly for the Waratahs, as the Brumbies look a good bet to win by 15 points at least.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Tom Wright.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Jack Dempsey , 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Rob Simmons (captain), 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Pat Tafa, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 James Ramm.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
Compiled by Jan de Koning; with additional reporting by AAP & AFP
* Stats provided by Opta Sports