PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 10 - Part Two
Last year's Kiwi road trip resulted in three defeats, including a 50-3 thumping from Crusaders, who Joseph's team meet Saturday in a match that pits the 2017 wooden spooners against the reigning champions.
Joseph's task the following week is arguably even more difficult – preparing his Sunwolves to meet the table-topping Hurricanes. In their only previous meeting in Tokyo last year the Hurricanes ran out 83-17 winners.
Saturday's action starts with the Crusaders versus Sunwolves encounter.
Next up the Reds host the Chiefs in Brisbane, the Bulls are at home to the Rebels in Pretoria, while the Sharks and Stormers meet in an all-South African derby in Durban.
The weekend's action is concluded when the Brumbies and Jaguares go head-to-head in Canberra on Sunday.
We take a look at the Saturday and Sunday matches!
Saturday, April 21:
Crusaders v Sunwolves
(AMI Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 19.35; 16.35 Japan time; 07.35 GMT)
The Crusaders, already unbackable favourites against the Sunwolves, received a boost with the return of All Blacks Owen Franks and Israel Dagg.
The pair, who boast more than 160 international caps between them, have both been sidelined since September last year, with utility back Dagg suffering a knee cartilage problem and prop Franks undergoing Achilles surgery.
Crusaders assistant coach Jason Ryan said the 30-year-old Franks played through intense pain last year and had been rewarded for dedicating himself to rehabilitation after his operation.
"People need to understand the injury he had – imagine waking up with a rock in your shoe and walking with it every day," he said.
"He is definitely better than he was. Just running from A to B, he's got more pop in him and is probably the strongest he's ever been."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said it is critical that the team's energy levels are up against the Sunwolves.
"They play a high-tempo, very Highlanders-like, game – given their coaching staff," he said of All Black and Japan international Jamie Joseph.
World Cup-winning All Black Piri Weepu likes the way Joseph has turbo-charged the Sunwolves' attack this season and believes the former Highlanders coach will tell his players to "have a crack" at the Crusaders.
"They'll definitely be chancing it," he told superrugby.co.nz.
"I'd have to go Crusaders [for the win], but it's definitely going to be a good game to watch."
2017: Crusaders won 50-3, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders ran out to a 50-3 victory in their only previous meeting with the Sunwolves, keeping the Japanese side scoreless in the second half of that fixture. The Sunwolves have lost six of their seven previous games against Kiwi sides, only beating the Blues last year, thanks to 34 unanswered second-half points. On their 2017 tour to New Zealand, the Sunwolves failed to score a first-half try in any of their three games, scoring exactly three points in the first 40 minutes of each of those fixtures. The Crusaders have won 18 of their last 19 home games, the Hurricanes the only side to pick up a win in that time (round 17 2016). Conversely, the Sunwolves have lost 17 of 17 away games in their short Super Rugby history, a two-point loss to the Lions in their last such game was the closest they have come to victory, however. It is simply a case of by how much the Crusaders will win by and we feel it will be at least 30 points.
Crusaders: 15 George Bridge, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Chris King, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.
Sunwolves: 15 William Tupou, 14 Hosea Saumaki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 James Moore, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintato Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Sam Wykes, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Cam Stone
TMO: Glenn Newman
Reds v Chiefs
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
Both teams are coming off disappointing defeats, but the Reds are currently on a horror run.
The Chiefs' (13-25) loss to the Hurricanes was only their second loss of the season and comes after a five-match winning streak.
The Reds, in stark contrast, are on a three-match losing streak and have lost four of their seven matches.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said they are "excited" to be back in Brisbane.
"It's been six weeks since we've had the opportunity to play at home, in front of our friends, family and fans," Thorn said.
"It's great to be back.
"It's a good occasion to return home to, with the opportunity to mark Queensland's 1000th capped match, while also recognising ANZAC Round and paying tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.
"It's been a disappointing couple of weeks for us, we felt we haven't played to our potential.
"Australian Super Rugby teams have had a terrible record against New Zealand teams in recent years [34 matches without an Aussie win against a Kiwi team, going back to May 2016], so there is a tough challenge in front of us but we're excited by the opportunity."
The Chiefs are ready for their first trans-Tasman clash of the season.
Coach Colin Cooper is aware of this weeks' challenge.
"Playing the Reds in Brisbane will be a tough assignment, and we've worked really hard with the leaders on having the right mindset," Cooper said. The Reds have a number of threats, with their loose forwards, midfielders and outside backs all big carriers of the ball.
"We need to put everything on the line for this game, with a bit of a break coming in the form of a bye next week."
Cooper is not discouraged about last weeks' loss to conference leaders the Hurricanes.
"Coming off a loss makes us more determined. We were disappointed with the conversion rate of the line breaks, but the good thing about that game is that there were opportunities, but we just didn't finish them."
2017: Chiefs won 46-17, New Plymouth
2016: Chiefs won 50-5, Brisbane
2015: Chiefs 24-3, Brisbane
2013: Reds won 31-23, Hamilton
2012: Reds won 42-27, Brisbane
Prediction: The Chiefs have won their last three games against the Reds, outscoring them 120-25 in that time. The Reds have lost their last eight games against New Zealand opposition, their last such victory coming against the Highlanders in April 2016. The Chiefs lost to the Hurricanes last time out but have not lost back-to-back regular season games since May 2015. James Tuttle has landed 10/10 penalty goals this season, no player has landed as many without missing at least one. Solomona Alaimalo tops the charts for metres made (683) and clean breaks (24) this season whilst no one has beaten more defenders than Damian McKenzie (42, also Akira Ioane). The Reds' losing streak looks set to continue, but it will be a close encounter – with the Chiefs winning by five points.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Izaia Perese, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 George Smith, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jordan Petaia.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai (co-captain), 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa'auli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Luke Jacobson, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Bulls v Rebels
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 15.05; 23.05 AEST; 13.05 GMT)
The Bulls chase a third win in a row for the first time since 2016, when they face a Rebels team looking for their first-ever win in Pretoria.
The Bulls' New Zealand coach John Mitchell warned his charges against putting too much value on their recent victories.
"We have a long way to go," cautioned the former All Black supremo – after wins against the Stormers and Sharks.
"By winning we are starting to win the hearts and minds of our supporters, which is vital because they have suffered for a long time."
A third win on the trot against the Rebels, who have lost their last two matches against the Hurricanes and Jaguares, would be a sign of progress for the three-time former champion Bulls – who last won the Super Rugby title in 2010 and whose best since was a lone semifinal appearance in 2013.
"We will be looking for consistency this week, and also to maintain the same level of performance," Mitchell said.
"The Rebels is a quality side and we will have to be good in our execution and on defence.
"We are back again at Loftus Versfeld and playing in front of our home fans. We have another opportunity to show that we are a team that play until the very end and that is an exciting opportunity for this squad," Mitchell added.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels said his team has bounced back from a disappointing loss last week, setting its sights on the Bulls.
The Rebels suffered a narrow (22-25) loss to the Jaguares and aim to make history on their two-match tour to South Africa – their first-ever win in SA.
"The guys were pretty disappointed with our performance against the Jaguares," Wessels said.
"That was a game we put ourselves into a position to win and we didn't.
"We felt we let ourselves down, [but] there's been good intensity this week and, if nothing else, we just want to play with the intensity that we have in previous weeks.
"To the boys' credit, they've reflected on that pretty honestly and that's the most pleasing thing."
2016: Bulls won 45-25, Pretoria
2015: Rebels won 21-20, Melbourne
2014: Bulls won 40-7, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 41-35, Melbourne
2011: Bulls won 47-10, Pretoria
Prediction: This will be the sixth meeting between the Bulls and Rebels, with the South African side has won four of the previous five iterations. The Rebels have never won in South Africa, failing to score a try in their last two such fixtures. The Bulls' last three home games against Australian sides have seen a total of 28 tries scored, crossing for 17 themselves and conceding 11. Will Genia has a competition-high eight try assists so far, averaging one every 55 minutes. Amanaki Mafi is the only player to make over 100 carries so far (101), he has also made the most metres of any forward (574, second most overall). The travel factor will be huge and in the last 20 minutes, the Rebels could be in trouble. The Bulls should win by 15 points.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Duncan Matthews.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman (captain), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos
Sharks v Stormers
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
It is a domestic derby, which makes it a very spicy encounter.
However, both teams are desperate to make up some lost ground on the table-topping Lions in the South African conference.
Centre Lukhanyo Am admits the Sharks will look to turn matters around against the Stormers, following the loss to the Bulls last week.
"We're looking to put a disappointing loss behind us," Am said, adding: "We tried to be positive this week and focussed on what we need to do for the game against the Stormers.
"Bouncing back, as the team showed after the Australian leg, will be the primary aim, to show what this team is capable of.
"This game could be our season-changer, we're looking to regain our confidence and consistency in this match. But there are no easy games and we'll need to bring our A-game on Saturday."
Knowing what this team is capable of producing, as evidenced in the matches against the Blues and Hurricanes, gives confidence to the players, but replicating it is something that shouldn't provide pressure; rather, motivation.
"We don't want to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves," Am explains, adding: "we know our standards and what we can do. But we do be hard on ourselves when we don't reach those standards."
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that after a much-needed bye, his side is determined to get back to winning ways on Saturday – following defeats to the Bulls and Lions.
"The break was good for the squad from both a mental and physical perspective," Fleck said.
"We returned refreshed this week, ready to take on the second half of the campaign.
"It is great to have some players returning from injury and it has been a good week of training so we are looking forward to the weekend."
2017: Sharks won 22-10, Durban
2016: Sharks won 18-13, Cape Town
2015: Sharks won 34-12, Durban
2015: Stormers won 29-13, Cape Town
2014: Sharks won 34-10, Cape Town
2014: Stormers won 21-19, Durban
Prediction: The Sharks have won their last three games against the Stormers, the last and only time they won more against them was a five-game streak from 2006 to 2010. The Sharks have lost seven of their last eight South African derbies, however, they one victory in that time did come against the Stormers. The Sharks have won an average of just 5.6 turnovers per game so far, the fewest of any side. Robert du Preez has the best goal-kicking success rate of any player to land 10+ goals this season (88 percent, 38/43). Jean-Luc du Preez has made 16 offloads so far, three more than any other player. Something is not well in the Stormers camp. They looked uncoached. The Sharks should win, by 12 points … perhaps even more.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (captain), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Sarel Marais, 23 Johannes Engelbrecht.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Marius Jonker
Sunday, April 22:
Brumbies v Jaguares
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 16.10; 06.10 GMT; 03.10 Buenos Aires time)
The Brumbies are desperate to avoid seeing their play-off prospects slip away from them, but current trends suggest their race is already run.
They haven't won two games in a row in Canberra since the 2016 campaign and haven't won consecutive matches anywhere this season.
It's a trend the Brumbies are desperate to change and they must topple the unpredictable Jaguares to do so.
The Brumbies have a run of three home games in a row that can make or break their season, with matches against the Jaguares, Crusaders and Melbourne Rebels.
Forwards coach Laurie Fisher said the players needed to be mentally tough to end the rollercoaster ride.
"We have to be more clinical," he said.
"It has been a mix of forced and unforced errors at the moment," Fisher added.
"We probably don't consistently work hard enough across the board to have the threats across the field the way we want.
"We just let ourselves down by mixing some very good with some not very good. Everyone will make mistakes, but we need to get the unforced errors out of the game, make less of them at important times.
"I think it's a matter of mentally pushing yourself to be in the right place at the right time, every time. I don't believe it's a fitness issue for us, it's more of a concentration thing.
"We want to be a better communicating side and organising ourselves on and off the ball, if we can activate ourselves with a bit more voice, it demands people get into better spots."
Jaguares loose forward Tomás Lezana feels it will require a 100 percent effort from all if they are to repeat last week's win over the Rebels.
"We must give everything and ensure we are 100 percent accurate in all aspects of our game," he said.
The Jaguares believe they have shown great improvement this year.
"The physical aspects of our game has greatly improved, while we are able to maintain our intensity."
2017: Brumbies won 39-15, Buenos Aires
Prediction: The Brumbies picked up a 39-15 win when they visited the Jaguares in Round 14 last season, the only previous encounter between these teams. The Brumbies are aiming to win back to back home games for the first time since winning their final four regular season home games of the 2016 season. The Jaguares have won three of their last five away games, all those fixtures coming in Australia. The Jaguares have the lowest scrum success rate (80 percent) in the competition this season and the second-lowest line-out success rate (79 percent). No player has made more tackles than Pablo Matera in 2018 (93, also Franco Mostert). The Brumbies have shown, at times, that they can compete with the best and look a good bet to win – by eight points.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nick Mayhew, 18 Mees Erasmus, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Michael Oakman-Hunt, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Andrew Smith.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Manuel Diaz, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Bautista Ezcurra, 23 Bautista Delguy.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), William Houston (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Compiled by Jan de Koning – additional reporting by AFP
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports