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S15 Preview: Round Four, Part One

Thu, 06 Mar 2014 07:27
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Too early to talk of 'desperation'
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It is too early to talk of 'desperation', but some teams are already in need of a win or face the possibility of becoming Super Rugby also-rans.
 
The Hurricanes, hosting the Brumbies in their first home game of the season in Wellington on Friday, is one side looking for their first win of the season.
 
They came close (a one-point loss) against the Stormers in Cape Town last week.
 
However, this is a key game for the Hurricanes, who are facing last year's beaten finalists - a Brumbies side fresh from a comprehensive 27-14 win over the Western Force, after a loss to the Reds in Week One.
 
The big news coming out of Canberra is the knee re-construction surgery that will rule star Wallaby flank David Pocock out for the rest of the season.
 
The Reds and Cheetahs, Friday's only other game, also features two teams bitterly disappointed with their performances the previous week.
 
The Reds suffered and embarrassing 5-32 demolition at the hands of the Waratahs, the Cheetahs equally disappointing in their 14-35 loss to the Rebels.
 
It is also a game that will be marked by the loss of a key players - the Cheetahs' Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen having been sent home from tour to recover from yet another neck injury.
 
Jan de Koning looks at Friday's matches!
 
Friday, March 7:
 
Hurricanes v Brumbies
(Westpac Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT; 17.35 AEDT)
 
The Hurricanes return home after a winless two-match South African tour, looking to bounce back against the Brumbies in Wellington.
 
This is indeed a key fixture for the Hurricanes, who will hope not to lose any more ground on the leaders, after collecting a solitary losing bonus point in the opening weeks of the competition.
 
The Brumbies, after losing at home to the Reds (by one try to three, 17-27), beat the Force (27-14) in Perth last week.
 
The men from Canberra came rushing out the blocks against the Force, quickly establishing territorial dominance and scoring tries to lock Scott Fardy, fullback Jesse Mogg and left wing Robbie Coleman. The Force fought back, but the Brumbies were always on top.
 
Improved accuracy will be a key theme for the Hurricanes against the Brumbies. 
 
In their last match against the Stormers, the Hurricanes took two of their chances brilliantly late in the first half - when scrumhalf TJ Perenara and inside centre Hadleigh Parkes put boot to ball to create back-to-back tries for wings Julian Savea and Cory Jane.
 
There was an improvement in their set-pieces - although the scrums still appeared a bit rickety -  and their defence was committed.
 
However, the number of opportunities not converted proved costly - with the Stormers scoring a late converted try to win by a point.
 
As is traditional with the Australian teams, and in particular the Brumbies, the Brumbies will bring a fast-paced game and a high tempo to Wellington for this match.
 
Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett is poised to become just the second player after David Holwell to score 400 career points for the Hurricanes. Holwell scored 676 points in his 76-game Super Rugby career and Barrett is now on 399 points.
 
Captain and centre Conrad Smith is set to play his 99th Super Rugby match for the Hurricanes.
 
The big news ahead of this match is the loss of star Wallaby flank David Pocock, who had to undergo re-constructive knee surgery again and will miss the rest of the Brumbies' campaign.
 
Captain Ben Mowen said his side would use it as motivation in Wellington.
 
"We're going to speak as a group and make sure this performance is a pretty special one," Mowen told AAP.
 
"If you lose a guy like that, you want to make sure he knows how much he means to the boys."
 
Coach Stephen Larkham said the Brumbies must lift to win in Wellington.
 
"They've had a fair bit of travel like us, but they'll be reeling after two very close losses in South Africa and will most certainly be feeling refreshed at home," Larkham said.
 
"The Hurricanes have a number of very good players back this year and they've had a few days to readjust to being back in Wellington. I expect them to be a totally different side at home, irrespective of the travel factor."
 
Recent results:
2013: Brumbies won 30-23, Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 37-25, Wellington
2011: Brumbies won 17-16, Canberra
2010: Hurricanes won 23-13, Canberra
2009: Hurricanes won 56-7, Wellington
2008: Hurricanes won 33-15, Canberra
 
Prediction: The Brumbies have the worst tackling success rate (81 percent) this season, while the Canberra-based side also conceded the most turnovers - 41 errors in two outings. The Hurricanes have scored just 27 points so far, a lower average than any other side. They have also scored just two tries. The Brumbies, who have won the last three Super Rugby contests between the sides, are also a competitive team playing away from home. Last year they won five, drew one and lost three of their regular season matches on the road. We feel there is more pain to come for a Hurricanes team under pressure, with the Brumbies likely to win by at least 10 points.
 
Teams:
 
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Adam Hill, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Marty Banks.
 
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Jean-Pierre Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Locky McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffman, 23 Lionel Cronje, 22 Pat McCabe.
 
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
 
Reds v Cheetahs
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Kick-off: 18.40; 08.40 GMT; 10.40 SA time)
 
Two teams coming off bitterly disappointing performances, which meant they both had plenty to work on this week.
 
The biggest disappointments for the Reds, who were outscored by four tries to one by the Waratahs, was that they conceded 22 turnovers and missed 11 tackles.
 
However, Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie was quick to point out that his own team - who missed 42 tackles and conceded 24 turnovers against the Rebels - will have to lift their game considerably.
 
"We all know there are no easy matches and you can knock over any team on any given day if you are switched on and you execution is good on the day," Fourie told this website in an interview from the team's training base on the Gold Coast.
 
"The Reds may have been on the wrong end of a big hiding from the Waratahs, but in my book the Waratahs are one of the top teams in the competition this year.
 
"While that result may have surprised some people, the Waratahs are one of the better teams this year."
 
The other big factor is that the Cheetahs have never beaten the Reds in Brisbane.
 
However, they are hoping for a another 'first', of which there have been many in the last two years - such as reaching the play-offs for the first time last year and beating the Bulls for the first time two weeks ago.
 
"We want to make amends for last week and get back on the winning track," he said, adding: "We have to win at least two of our [remaining] tour matches.
 
"Obviously we want to win all three and if we want to make amends for that home loss to the Lions [in Week One] we simply have to win all our remaining tour matches."
 
While the Waratahs were able to cut the Reds to ribbons with their off-loading game, coach Richard Graham dismissed any concerns about his side's defence - pointing to statistics they have missed the least amount of tackles in the competition.
 
But they will need to muscle up more with dominant first-up tackles, particularly on bullocking skipper Adriaan Strauss and elusive Springboks wing Willie le Roux, and also work hard to cover on the inside.
 
"They're definitely a side who innovates and are happy to try things anywhere on the field so we have to mentally engaged at all times," Graham said.
 
The Cheetahs opted for a "marathon video session" earlier this week to address their own shortcomings.
 
"We had some brutally honest discussions," Fourie told this website.
 
"The attitude of everybody has been great at training this week - you can see an obvious difference in how the players trained this week.
 
"We know we have to make an enormous step up - we have to lift our game, lift our intensity and everybody realise the importance of the situation."
 
The Cheetahs also suffered another costly blow with steamrolling prop Coenie Oosthuizen forced home with a career-threatening neck injury.
 
Coach Naka Drotské has replaced the tighthead with Nicolaas van Dyk in one of three changes, while also starting Hennie Daniller at fullback and moving Le Roux to the wing.
 
Recent results:
2013: Cheetahs won 27-13, Bloemfontein
2011: Reds won 41-8, Brisbane
2010: Reds won 31-10, Bloemfontein
2009: Reds won 22-3, Brisbane
2008: Cheetahs won 29-14, Bloemfontein
2007: Reds won 23-13, Brisbane
 
Prediction: Despite their heavy Round Three loss to the Waratahs, the Reds still have the best tackling success rate in Super Rugby so far (92 percent). However, the Queensland outfit also average the least amount of time in possession (11 minutes 47 seconds). The Reds have conceded 30 penalties in two outings, a higher average than any other team. In contrast the Cheetahs have missed more tackles than any other side (70) so far, their average of 23.3 misses per game is also a competition high. No doubt defence and discipline will be key and there is a suggestion the Cheetahs 'shot their bolt' last year and they may be in for more heartache - the Reds to win by 10 points or less.
 
Teams:
 
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Ben Tapuai.
 
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Rynhardt Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
 
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Matt O'Brien (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)
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