S15 Preview: Round Thirteen, Part Two
With time running out to make a move on the Super Rugby standings there should be plenty of intensity in the last four clashes of Round Thirteen, we take a look at the match-ups.
The Reds will be keen to pick up where they left off last week when they face the bottom-placed Lions before the focus shifts to South Africa for two intriguing match-ups to bring Saturday's action to an end.
The Cheetahs host the Sharks in Bloemfontein in what should be a spicy South African derby, and that will be followed by the duel between the Stormers and the Waratahs who will want to shake off their tags as two of the most boring teams in the competition.
The action draws to a close on Sunday afternoon in Perth when the Force and the Rebels slug it out in an attempt to avoid claiming last place in the Australian conference, which should bring a competitive edge to the match.
Reds v Lions
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Kick-off: 19.40; 09.40 GMT)
Things do not get any easier for the embattled Lions as they look for their first win since Round One in the den of the defending champions in Brisbane.
The Reds have started to look like a championship team again since being bolstered by a few players who have come back from injury in the last few weeks, and Saturday will see the return of the big fish Quade Cooper.
The Wallaby playmaker has not played since he limped off in the third/fourth place play-off at the World Cup last year, and although he was not expected back so soon there will not be any Reds fans complaining about that.
His team have shown an encouraging turn of form in recent weeks, and reminded everyone of what they are capable of by ending the Chiefs' unbeaten streak in fine style on Sunday.
Although they have gathered some momentum the Reds will know that they need to make the most of it to qualify for the play-offs, so it is likely that they will be lining the Lions up for a full-house of five log points.
The Lions have been looking to bounce back all season, but after the frustrating display against the Blues last week their confidence should be pretty low.
They should play like a team with nothing to lose, which coupled with the Reds' need for a bonus point should make for an entertaining and high-scoring affair.
Both teams should give it a go, but the Reds are far more consistent and will use their well-drilled pack to put them on the front foot before Cooper and co are given a chance to run amok.
2011: Reds won 30-25 in Johannesburg
2010: Reds won 41-26 in Johannesburg
2009: Lions won 31-20 in Brisbane
2008: 24-24 draw in Johannesburg
2007: Lions won 26-20 in Brisbane
Prediction: The Reds have far more momentum and quality in key positions, so although the Lions might produce a few stirring passages they are unlikely to sustain the threat for 80 minutes. Reds to win by about 15 points.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Eddie Quirk, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Chris F'Sautia, 22 Luke Morahan.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Ruan Combrinck, 22 James Kamana.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)
Cheetahs v Sharks
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
After two wins on the trot in Durban the Sharks will be keen to give their play-off prospects a further boost when they take on a frustrated Cheetahs team in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Cheetahs have been the nearly-men of the competition once again this season, with a host of narrow defeats holding them back, so they will be determined to show that they have what it takes to get over the line.
The only change to coach Naka Drotské's team comes at flyhalf with Riaan Smit coming in for Sias Ebersohn who has had his confidence shredded in the last few weeks since he stepped in for the injured Johan Goosen.
The battle between the two front rows should be a cracker with the incumbent Springbok combination from the Sharks that can be formidable at scrum-time up against the Cheetahs trio who have all proven themselves to be devastating ball-carriers.
The visitors will be full of confidence after dismantling the Force at Kings Park last week, but they will be aware of the attacking threats that the Cheetahs pose and will have to be accurate if they want to leave Bloemfontein in high spirits.
The Cheetahs will feel that they are a better team than their position on the log suggests, and if they hit their straps in front of their home crowd then they will be tough to hold back.
2011: Sharks won 23-18 in Bloemfontein
2011: Sharks won 24-9 in Durban
2010: Cheetahs won 25-20 in Durban
2009: Cheetahs won 31-6 in Bloemfontein
2008: Sharks won 33-14 in Durban
Prediction: Both sides have been erratic this season and will have plenty to prove so we appear set for a bone-crunching South African derby. The Cheetahs will be competitive at home and should provide some exciting rugby but the Sharks are in play-off mode so their big-names should get them a narrow victory by a few points.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl , 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rashivenga (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)
Stormers v Waratahs
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
The Stormers are the only team to have only lost one game so far this season, yet they are still under pressure to show that they are able to put the opposition to the sword.
Although they have churned out a series of gritty victories they are still yet to score four tries in a match, which has raised question marks over their prospects of winning the competition, so they will want to prove a point by putting together a complete performance in front of the Newlands faithful.
They face a Waratahs team who had their hearts broken by the Bulls in Sydney last week, and they will be desperate to make a statement in their first game on tour to show that they should not be in eleventh position.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee believes that the Waratahs have the best scrum in the competition, so his team are more than aware of the threat that the Sydney side pose off set-pieces. Rob Horne's try against the Bulls last week was a good example of how dangerous they can be with set moves off first-phase position.
The visitors have experienced Wallabies in key positions, and they should provide a good physical test for the vaunted Stormers defensive system which has won the Cape side a few games already this year.
Neither team is renowned for playing an expansive style, and the chances of some running rugby at Newlands on Saturday will be cut down even further thanks to the cold front that has just rolled into Cape Town.
It is likely to be an intensely physical affair, with set-piece dominance and an accurate kicking game the most essential ingredients to secure victory.
2010: Stormers won 25-6 in Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 27-6 in Cape Town
2009: Waratahs won 12-6 in Sydney
2008: 13-13 draw in Cape Town
2007: Stormers won 16-10 in Sydney
Prediction: Both sides will be out to bully the opposition, and the game could be swung on a crucial error so composure and discipline will be key. The Waratahs will be competitive but they do not have the spark required to break the home team open so we are backing the Stormers to grind out another victory by about five points.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Force v Rebels
(nib Stadium, Perth - Kick-off: 14.35; 06.35)
The Rebels travel to Perth full of confidence after recording the most significant victory in the franchise's short history against the Crusaders last week.
They face a Force team that had 50 points put past them in Durban last week, so the Rebels chances of recording their second win in Perth and doing the double over the Force this season are looking good.
Although the Force have blown hot and cold this season the senior players like Nathan Sharpe and David Pocock would have been stung by the manner of their capitulation last week so they should put in a determined performance in front of their home crowd.
The home team will play a far more direct game and look to use their quality forward pack to make life uncomfortable for the Rebels, with their all-Wallaby loose trio likely to gain the upper hand in the collisions.
The Rebels' forwards have surprised a few teams this year and have managed to build a decent platform to give the exciting backline some room to dazzle.
Both teams may be out of the running for a spot in the play-offs, but this will be no Sunday afternoon stroll as neither side wants to claim the Wooden Spoon in the Australian conference.
2012: Rebels won 30-29 in Melbourne
2011: Force won 27-24 in Melbourne
2011: Rebels won 26-25 in Perth
Prediction: The Force are back at home and will want to make up some ground on the Rebels who they trail by six log points at the moment, but the Melbourne side have hit some good form recently and have more game-breakers so we are backing them to snatch a win by a few points.
Western Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Salesi Manu, 17 Elvis Taione, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Alfie Mafi.
Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (captain), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Hugh Perrett, 20 Nick Stirzaker, 21 Stirling Mortlock, 22 James Hilgendorf.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina), Johan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
By Michael de Vries