PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round Eight - Part Two
Firstly there is the Australian derby between the Brumbies and Reds, two teams that are desperate to stay in the hunt – having lost ground on the table-topping Rebels in the conference race.
The Rebels are well ahead on 20 points, followed by the Waratahs (14), Reds (13) and Brumbies (nine).
Then we have the South African derby, which pits the conference-topping Lions (20 points) against the Stormers – who share second place with the Sharks (13 points).
The weekend's action is completed when the Jaguares host the Crusaders.
We take a look at the weekend's last three matches!
Saturday, April 7:
Brumbies v Reds
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 19.45; 09.45 GMT)
The game is about how the team performs, but the Brumbies will be looking to Wallaby legend David Pocock for inspiration.
The return of Pocock was one of the few positive for the Canberra-based franchise in their loss to the Waratahs last week.
Perhaps Pocock's greatest asset to the Brumbies is his personality.
Driven by the pursuit of excellence, his work ethic alone is a source of inspiration for teammates.
He leads by example and he offers a positive outlook to all situations.
That mindset will be vital for the Brumbies going forward, knowing they need to improve results and quickly.
Brumbies forward Tom Cusack admitted that it will require an immense physical effort if they are to overcome the Reds.
He spoke of the team's failure to cope with the defensive pressure they were put under and said some of the tries the Tahs scored came off Brumby mistakes.
"We are looking at a very physical game," Cusack said of this week's derby.
"We have to assert ourselves as a forward pack.
"We have fallen short of that task [this season].
"In most of the games we have shown that we have the capability to be one of the strongest packs in the competition, so it is a matter of maintaining it for 80 minutes."
The Australian teams will battle it out for the Rod Macqueen Cup which currently sits in the Brumbies' hands
2018: Reds won 18-10, Brisbane
2017: Reds won 16-15, Brisbane
2017: Brumbies won 43-10, Canberra
2016: Brumbies won 43-24, Canberra
2015: Brumbies won 29-0, Brisbane
2015: Brumbies won 47-3, Canberra
Prediction: The Reds have won their last two games against the Brumbies, and will be looking for a third consecutive win against them for the first time in Super Rugby history. The Brumbies have lost their last four Australian derbies, their worst run since 2011, they've never lost five such games on the bounce. Conversely, after losing 10 Aussie derbies in a row, the Reds have since won three of their last five domestic battles. The Brumbies (18.6) and Reds (18.8) are the only two sides to average fewer than 20 points per game this season. Wharenui Hawera has landed eight of eight penalty goals this season yet missed four of five conversion attempts. The Brumbies have a realistic chance of winning on their home ground, but our money is on the Reds to win by eight points.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Matt Lucas, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Liam Wright, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jordan Petaia.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Lions v Stormers
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 17.15; 15.15 GMT)
The Lions and Stormers have been disappointing, to put it mildly, in the last month.
The Lions have lost three of their last four matches, including going down to the Crusaders in a repeat of last year's Final.
The Stormers have lost four of their last six matches – all four defeats away from home.
It is against that backdrop that both outfits will look for an important win.
The Lions have another reason why winning is vital.
They are looking to protect their 19-match unbeaten run against South African opposition.
The last South African side to tip them over was the Stormers (22-19) in February 2015.
Lions loosehead Jacques van Rooyen has a hardened philosophy to add an extra edge to his motivation for South African derby matches.
"When your opponent sits on the bus driving away from the game‚ he must remember your name," Van Rooyen said.
"As an old man, he must still be talking about you.
"That one big tackle‚ or that one scrum where you popped his rib."
Swys de Bruin's Lions team, who will enter the match with the comfort of knowing that they have a bye next week before their Australasian tour, welcome back the hard-running Ruan Combrinck.
The Lions coach, De Bruin, is delighted with the timely return of Combrinck.
"I am very excited about Ruan," De Bruin said.
After almost a year he is back, and he has trained very hard.
"We have won four and lost three, so it is one of those games in which we need to go for maximum points at home."
The Cape side travels to Gauteng for the second week in a row, where they will seek their first away win this season.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said his team will give everything at Emirates Airline Park.
"This match is a great opportunity for us as a team and we are looking forward to the challenge."
2017: Lions won 29-16, Cape Town
2016: Lions won 29-22, Johannesburg
2015: Lions and Stormers drew 19-all, Cape Town
2015: Stormers won 22-19, Johannesburg
2014: Stormers won 18-3, Cape Town
Prediction: The Lions have won their last two games against the Stormers; they had previously earned just one win in 13 games against the Cape Town squad. The Lions have lost back to back matches for the first time since February 2015, that run lasted three matches. The Lions have however won their last 17 South African derbies and have not lost such a match on home turf since the Stormers turned them over in February 2015. The Lions have averaged five tries per match this season, the best rate of any side in the competition. Stormers' Siya Kolisi has missed more tackles than any other player this season (21), teammate Raymond Rhule (19) is second on the list. Given the Lions recent firm, they are obviously vulnerable. However, we think the Lions will win by 12 points.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Francois Mostert (captain), 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Stormers: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 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 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Craig Barry.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Jaguares v Crusaders
(Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires – Kick-off: 18.40; 21.40 GMT; 08.40, Sunday, April 8 NZ time)
There is great excitement in Buenos Aires, and indeed Argentina, as the defending champion Crusaders pay their first visit to this country for a match.
The Jaguares regard this as their most important match of the season – their 'Final'.
It will be Jaguares' last home match until May 19, when after a long tour of Australasia, they will host the Bulls.
However, for now, their focus is on achieving their dream of victory over the most successful team in Super Rugby history.
The Crusaders may be without the services of key players like Kieran Read and Richie Mo'unga, but they will still field a world class outfit.
Coach Scott Robertson made two changes, and one positional change, to his forward pack – from the side that edged the Lions 14-8 last week.
The Crusaders' latest Super Rugby centurion Luke Romano has been promoted to the starting line-up and will partner Sam Whitelock.
In the loose forwards Tom Sanders moves from the bench to the starting side and will wear the No.6 jersey, while Heiden Bedwell-Curtis moves to No.8.
In the backs, Tim Bateman has been named at centre in place of Jack Goodhue, who has returned home to New Zealand with a hamstring injury.
On the right wing, Manasa Mataele earns the starting spot this week, off the back of strong performances in recent rounds.
On the bench, Otago prop Donald Brighouse comes into the reserves, after Oliver Jager was forced to withdraw from the remainder of the tour through injury.
Meanwhile, Pete Samu has made a successful return from injury, joining the team in Buenos Aires; Samu will wear the No.20 jersey on Saturday.
Finally, after making his debut against the Bulls in Christchurch two weeks ago, Braydon Ennor could also run on to the park in Argentina this weekend – the 20-year old has been named on the bench.
2016: Crusaders won 32-15, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders earned a 32-15 win in Round 8, 2016, the only previous meeting between these two outfits. Indeed, the Jaguares are still hunting for their maiden win against New Zealand opposition, conceding 30+ points in all but one of their previous six such fixtures. The Crusaders have won 12 of their last 13 away games outside of New Zealand, including their last seven in a row. Pablo Matera has made 69 carries so far, the most of any player yet to score a try (fourth-most overall). The Jaguares have a cumulative points difference of +35 in the first quarter of their matches this season, the best of any side, however, they are the only side to have a negative points difference in each of the three remaining quarters. The Crusaders will have to be very bad on the day for the Jaguares to win. The Crusaders by at least 15 points.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 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 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Manuel Diaz, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Donald Brighouse, 18 Chris King, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Pablo Deluca (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)
Compile by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports