SR Preview: Round 13, Part One
SR Preview: Round 13, Part OneSHARE
It all starts in Suva, where the Crusaders and Chiefs go head-to-head in a repeat of last year's historic match.
From the freezing conditions in New Zealand, both teams were met by a wall of humidity in Fiji.
However, it is not just the weather that will be sweltering.
The intensity that both teams are promising will ensure there is no place for the faint of heart.
In the only other Friday match the Stormers will look to end a four-march losing streak when they host the Blues in Cape Town.
In Part One of the preview we look at the Friday matches!
Friday, May 19:
Chiefs v Crusaders
(International Stadium, Suva – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 NZ time; 07.35 GMT)
New Zealand referee Mike Fraser finds himself unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight of what is meant to be a celebration of the game.
There has been plenty of talk about revenge, after the Chiefs 'bullied' the Crusaders into submission in the inaugural Suva challenge last year.
The Chiefs managed up upset the Crusaders' rhythm with their brutal approach.
The Crusaders have made it clear they will respond in kind this year.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson felt discipline will be a key.
"There will definitely be a fine line with the intensity of it and the Chiefs like to live on that line," Robertson told stuff.co.nz.
"We have got a good ref, Mike Fraser, who can read situations," he added.
"If it [bullying tactics] crosses that line he will deal with it. So we are happy with his ability to back his instincts."
There will also be some intriguing head-to-head battles in the park.
Top of that list will be All Black second row teammates Sam Whitelock, back from a two-week foul-play suspension, and Brodie Retallick.
He will have to keep a cool head and the coach again pointed to discipline as a key.
"Everybody's trying to pull him back," he said of Whitelock.
"He's an energetic man and really clear on what he wants."
2016: Chiefs won 23-13, Suva
2016: Chiefs won 27-21, Christchurch
2015: Chiefs won 26-9, Christchurch
2015: Chiefs won 40-16, Hamilton
2014: Crusaders won 18-17, Hamilton
2014: Chiefs won 18-10, Christchurch
Prediction: The Chiefs have won their last four games against the Crusaders by an average margin of 14 points and have not lost the first meeting between these teams in a season since 2011. The Chiefs have restricted the Crusaders to fewer than 20 points in each of their last six games when hosting them, winning all but one of those six with only a one-point loss in Round 10, 2014 blemishing that record. The Chiefs are undefeated against fellow New Zealand opposition this season, netting three wins so far and restricting their opponents to single digits in the opening half of each game. The Chiefs have won 16 of their last 17 games at home on a Friday night, including each of their last seven, while they haven't lost at home on a Friday against the Crusaders since Round 17, 2012. The Crusaders have won three of their last five games away from home against fellow New Zealand opposition despite leading at half-time only once in that span; in fact, they'll be looking for consecutive wins in such fixtures for the first time since 2014. The Chiefs (2.1) are the only team in the competition to steal an average of two or more line-outs per game this season. No team moves the ball around the park more than the Crusaders, who's 161 passes per game are nearly eight more than any other team in the competition. The Chiefs have conceded a league-low 19 tries this campaign, not conceding more than six in any single quarter; though the Crusaders are one of only two teams in the competition (Hurricanes) to have scored 10 or more tries in every quarter. James Lowe has scored four tries in his last five games against the Crusaders and has found the try line in two of his last three home games against New Zealand opposition. David Havili has gained 818m and beaten 44 defenders this season, ranking in second for both categories among all players for this campaign. The Chiefs have had the wood on the Crusaders the last few years, but that could all change – the Crusaders to edge a thriller by five points.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Peter Samu, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Paul Williams
TMO: Shane McDermott
Stormers v Blues
(Newlands, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT; 05.00 NZ time, Saturday, May 20)
The Stormers are hoping that home ground 'advantage' will help them end the horror show that has been the last month – four defeats, as well as having coughed up 184 points and 28 tries.
However, they will need to replicate their pre-tour form – when they overpowered the Chiefs – rather than the capitulation they produced against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes in New Zealand.
Coach Robbie Fleck said they need to learn from the lessons handed to them on tour.
"The Blues team [has] a lot of big names," Fleck told a media briefing in Cape Town.
"They have a lot of players with [the] x-factor.
"Defensively we are going to have to be sharp to contain them."
However, the most statement was when he said: "We need to take the lessons learnt from the tour an put them in place."
The Blues, in stark contrast, are coming off a three-match winning streak.
Despite their relative good form Blues assistant coach Steve Jackson said they are facing a tough battle against a team that is better than their results suggest.
"It is a tough place to come and play and win," he said of Newlands.
Head coach Tana Umaga spoke of the challenge if their travel schedule.
"We have planned for it and we do have a number of players coming back from injury for us, and some hopefully ready to be considered back in New Zealand next week," Umaga said.
"The Stormers at Newlands are a formidable challenge for us.
"We've played well for the last month and need to continue to improve every game as we look to produce an 80-minute performance."
2015: Stormers won 27-16, Cape Town
2013: Blues won 18-17, Albany
2012: Stormers won 27-17, Cape Town
2011: Stormers won 28-26, Auckland
2010: Stormers won 33-21, Auckland
Prediction: The Stormers have won four of their last five games against the Blues, with a one-point loss in Round 12, 2013 the only blemish on that record. The Stormers have won four of their last five games at home, though a 29-16 loss in their last home fixture sees them looking to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time since the 2011 semifinal. Only three times in the last 11 seasons have the Blues won their opening game of a South African tour, though they'll be looking to string two together after a 34-18 win against the Kings in Port Elizabeth in Round 11 last season. Opposition teams beat an average of just 15.6 defenders per game when facing the Blues, the lowest against any team in the competition. Sikhumbuzo Notshe has crossed for four tries in his last three games on home soil for the Stormers, including a hat-trick in Round 6 against the Cheetahs. The Stormers at home are far more formidable than the rabble that toured. They should win by 12 points.
Stormers: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Alister Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports & sportguru.info