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S15 Preview: Round Six, Part One

Wed, 20 Mar 2013 18:34
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Kings will want to put their off-field issues behind them
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The first five rounds of Super Rugby this season have been very competitive, and there are some more tough calls to make this week.

This is illustrated by the only match on Friday between the Chiefs and Highlanders, who are on opposite ends of the New Zealand conference but should still be fairly evenly matched.

On Saturday the Kings will look to put all of their off-field issues behind them in their first-ever away game in Christchurch where they will face a big hurdle in the form of the Crusaders.

From there the focus shifts to Brisbane where both the Reds and the Bulls will be out to bounce back from disappointing defeats last week.

We take a look at the first three matches of Round Six:

Friday, March 22

Chiefs v Highlanders
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)

The defending champions return home after earning seven points out of a possible ten on their South African tour, and they will be aiming to extend the Highlanders' winless streak this season.

The Highlanders started the season with three straight defeats at home, and will be in search of some revenge against the Chiefs who beat them in their opening match in Dunedin.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made a few tactical changes to his forward pack to keep them as fresh as possible after the trip back home, but they retain a strong core and will be keen to make it a season double over the Highlanders.

If the Chiefs forwards can establish the same kind of dominance over the Highlanders as they did in Dunedin, then it will be hard to stop their dangerous backline.

The Highlanders have not clicked yet, but they will be desperate to make a statement after their difficult start, so expect total commitment from them.

Coach Jamie Joseph brought in a number of ageing stars, and they have yet to deliver thus far, so he will need a big performance from them as seek to avoid falling off the pace this early in the season.  

Prediction: The Highlanders will come out all guns blazing, but the Chiefs are a well-rounded team that will win this by about five points.

Teams:

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshal, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Romana Graham/Fritz Lee, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 August Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Richard Kahui/Patrick Osborne.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (captain), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.

Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand

Saturday, March 23

Crusaders v Kings
(AMI Stadium, Christchurch - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)

In another week where the focus has been off the field, the Kings face their first Super Rugby away game against the seven-time champions in Christchurch.

There is no doubt that the foreign player sideshow would have distracted the Kings in their preparation for this match, which would be a massive challenge no matter the circumstances.

The Crusaders really hit their stride in a dominant performance against the Bulls last week, and the Kings will need more than their plucky defence if they are to avoid a heavy defeat.

If Dan Carter is able to keep the tough Crusaders pack camped in opposition territory then they will eventually make the visitors pay, so the challenge for the Kings will be to take the game to their hosts.

The Kings will be charged up after losing two teammates this week, but focus and accuracy may be more helpful than fiery aggression against the ruthless Crusaders.

The Crusaders will confront them in the set pieces and look to force the visitors into playing off the back foot in order to build the kind of pressure and momentum that broke the Bulls.

The Kings will not have any pressure on them, as few will expect them to trouble the Crusaders on their home track, so they can play with freedom and look to express themselves.

The Crusaders will be hunting a bonus point, and if they are careless on attack then the Kings will jump at any opportunity to counter-attack, as they showed against the Chiefs last week.

Kings coach Matt Sexton used to play for the Crusaders, so he will have them prepared for the uncompromising style that has brought the hosts so much success over the years, but it will be up to his inexperienced charges to get the job done on the field.

Prediction: The Kings will give it everything as usual, but will not be a match for the Crusaders who should win by at least 20 points.

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Zac Guildford.

Southern Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 11 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Daniel Adongo, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Elric van Vuuren.

Referee: Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
Assistant referees: Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Reds v Bulls
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Kick-off: 18.40; 08.40 GMT)

Both the Reds and the Bulls will be looking for a much-improved performance when they square off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

The Reds suffered their first defeat to the Force at their home fortress last week, and will be keen to put that tryless outing behind them with a win against a wounded Bulls side.

The Bulls came away from Christchurch last week with more than their pride dented, with a collection of various injuries seriously testing their depth, so they will need the new players to find their feet quickly.

The indifferent form of flyhalf Quade Cooper is quite a concern for the Reds, who will be hoping that he is able to find some confidence up against the relatively inexperienced Louis Fouche.

The battle up front will be key, and although the Bulls should have the upper hand in the set-pieces, the Reds are likely to target the breakdown in an effort to catch the bulkier Bulls out on the ground.

The Reds were blown off the park at Loftus Versfeld last year, so they will be keen to make their home advantage count against a Bulls side lacking experience.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has named a number of hungry young players in his team, and will be counting on their enthusiasm to expose a misfiring Reds side.

Prediction: The Bulls will have a full crack, but the Reds would have been jolted by their loss last week and should win this one by about five points.

Teams:

Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Curtis Browning, 20 Nigel Ah Wong, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

By Michael de Vries

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