S15 Preview: Round 16, Part One
It is the last full round of Super Rugby before the June break, and things kick off with two trans-Tasman clashes on Friday.
It is the last full round of Super Rugby fixtures before the June break, and things kick off with two trans-Tasman clashes on Friday.
The first stop is in Christchurch where both the Crusaders and the Waratahs will be looking to bounce back from derby losses away from home last week.
From there we hop across the ditch to Canberra and the clash between Jake White's Brumbies and the Hurricanes who are coming off a bye last week.
Whilst there is the threat of teams taking their eye off the ball just ahead of the Test window, we are still calling two home wins to get things started this weekend.
We take a closer look at Friday's match-ups!
Crusaders v Waratahs
(AMI Stadium, Christchurch - Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT)
The Waratahs can move past the Crusaders on the log by beating them at AMI Stadium, and if they do manage to pull it off then they certainly deserve their spot in the top six.
The Crusaders went down to the defending champion Chiefs in Hamilton last week, and with the Blues level on log points with them they will be fired up to deliver at home.
The Canterbury side are currently 10 points behind the log-leading Chiefs, and that gap will widen further if they go down to the Waratahs as the Chiefs have a bye and will claim a free four points.
They face a Waratahs side who are coming off their first-ever loss to the Rebels last week, but the Sydney side won three consecutive games before that defeat and certainly cannot be taken lightly.
Coach Michael Cheika's team is definitely not short on Wallaby quality and should provide a test for the All Black heavy Crusaders pack up front, so the set-pieces should present some intense battles.
The Crusaders have won seven titles, and part of that success has been their ability to up their game in the second half of the season, so they will be determined to bank these points at home with a complete performance.
The Waratahs have shifted captain Dave Dennis to the back of the scrum where he will be in direct opposition with Crusaders skipper Kieran Read in just one of a few crucial match-ups.
In the backline Tahs fyhalf Bernard Foley will have his work cut out for him up against Dan Carter, but perhaps the most intriguing comparison will be between the fullbacks with All Black star Israel Dagg squaring off with exciting Rugby League convert Israel Folau.
Prediction: The Waratahs will be competitive but they will not have enough to upset the Crusaders who should win at home by about ten points.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Jimmy Tupou, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Robbie Fruean, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Pat McCutcheon, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Berrick Barnes , 22 Drew Mitchell.
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Richard Kelly, Shane McDermott
TMO: Glenn Newman
Brumbies v Hurricanes
(Canberra Stadium, Canberra - Kick-off: 19.40; 09.40 GMT)
After putting the Blues away in Auckland last week, the Brumbies return to Canberra to face what should be a revitalised Hurricanes side coming off a bye.
Although the Brumbies cannot displace the Chiefs at the top of the standings this weekend, this remains an important match for them with the Reds breathing down their necks at the top of the Australian conference.
Jake White's team found themselves in a similar position last year only to fall away at the end of the season and narrowly miss out on the play-offs, so they will be determined to continue their impressive home record.
They face a Hurricanes side that have been boosted by the return of their captain Conrad Smith, and although the Wellington team have not been very consistent this season they certainly have the ability to take any team apart on their day.
The visitors will have their work cut out for them up front against a Brumbies team that can grind it out with the best of them, so they will have to make a big step up in the set-pieces if they want to compete.
Whilst much is made of the dangerous Hurricanes backline, which can be lethal if given free reign, they are unlikely to pose much of a threat from their own half so halfbacks TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett will have to show that they can match the Brumbies' accurate kicking game.
The home side will use their committed defensive system to try and put the Hurricanes under pressure in their own half, thereby neutralising the attacking threat of players like Smith, Perenara and All Black steam train Julian Savea.
If they are allowed to impose themselves physically on the visitors and gain some momentum, then they could run away with it as they certainly have some players of their own who know their way to the tryline.
Prediction: The Hurricanes are capable of playing some impressive attacking rugby, but they will be worn down by this tough Brumbies team who should have enough at home to win by about seven points.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Clyde Rathbone.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (captain) 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 James Marshall.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Matt O'Brien (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
By Michael de Vries