S15 Preview: Round 10, Part Two
The key word on Saturday is 'desperate'. Yes, in every one of the day's four Super Rugby encounters there is a desperate team involved.
The key word on Saturday is 'desperate'. Yes, in every one of the day's four Super Rugby encounters there is a desperate team involved.
It starts when the two-time defending champion Chiefs host the Crusaders in Hamilton, the latter hovering just outside the play-off zone and anxious to add to their two-match victory run and keep their march up the points table going.
Then there is a quick hop across the Tasman Sea where the fifth-placed Waratahs will meet a desperate Bulls team (eighth) in Sydney - the latter looking for their first win on their Australasian tour.
The day's two remaining matches are both all-South African derbies.
The table-topping Sharks team will be at home to a Cheetahs side sitting in second last place and looking for their first win since February.
The weekend's action is completed when the Stormers, in last place and also having recorded their only win of the season back in February, will host the energetic and try-hungry Lions at Newlands.
Jan de Koning looks at Saturday's matches!
Saturday, April 19
Chiefs v Crusaders
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - Kickoff: 19:35; 07:35 GMT)
This could easily be the game of the weekend - two of the most exciting and successful teams in the history of the competition.
Yes, the Chiefs may have had a few slow starts and looked a touch off their game. However, the manner in which they came back late in the games to secure two draws in South Africa showed just how much fight is left in them.
And some of the 12 tries they scored in their last three games had pure class written all over them.
The Crusaders also did something no other team has done this year - crossed the Indian Ocean and scored back-to-back victories.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted that match is shaping as a huge derby, with these two teams having built up a great rivalry in recent seasons.
"The Crusaders are a bloody good side with good players that we respect," Rennie told the Waikato Times.
"It is a big occasion being the 100th match by Lats [Tanerau Latimer] for the Chiefs and the boys rate him highly so they are keen to front for him."
The Crusaders are still hurting from having lost to the injury-plagued Chiefs in the opening round - when Tyler Bleyendaal missed five penalties in the first half and Tasman wing James Lowe snaffled a late intercept try.
Strong messages were spoken by the Crusaders senior players before they left South Africa and their preparations this week are likely to be of Test match intensity.
''We only really have one training day which is Thursday,'' Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson told The Press newspaper.
''That physical spike is a bit psychological and a really key step for getting ready for that test match against the Chiefs.
"Some of the players spoke after the game of what we probably have to do because of the travel, the short turnaround and the nature of the derbies we have been having against them.
''Anything short of our A-game is going to be disappointing.''
2014: Chiefs won 18-10, Christchurch
2013: Chiefs won 20-19, Hamilton (semifinal)
2013: Crusaders won 43-15, Christchurch
2013: Chiefs won 28-19, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 20-17, Hamilton (semifinal)
2012: Crusaders won 28-21, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 24-19, Napier
Prediction: The Chiefs have won four of the last five against the Crusaders. In those four victories, the Chiefs were limited to fewer than 20 points on each occasion. The Crusaders' goal-kicking success rate (65 percent) is the lowest in Super Rugby so far this season. The Chiefs have averaged more metres (511) and off-loads (14) than any other team this season. We feel the Chiefs will be up for it and travel fatigue may catch up with the Crusaders, giving the home team a win by less than 10 points.
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordan Payne.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Tom Taylor, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Adam Whitelock.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Waratahs v Bulls
(Allianz Stadium, Sydney - Kickoff: 19:40; 09:40 GMT; 11.40 SA time)
The Israel Folau sideshow may again come back to haunt the Waratahs, given that all the talk the past fortnight has been about one individual and not the team.
In fact Waratahs attack coach Daryl Gibson went public with his view that their attack has become too reliant on the high-profile Rugby League convert.
"Without Israel we're probably not as threatening," Gibson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
He added that while they are still creating opportunities, it is just that they are not finishing as well.
"That's been evidenced by the fact we haven't scored many tries in the last few weeks," he said of a three-match streak that produced two defeats and just three five-pointers.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted that Waratahs will be every bit as desperate as his team to end their poor run - with the Bulls winless since they beat the Sharks almost a month ago.
With the Waratahs also having lost last week, it will be two determined outfits going head-to-head.
"We have identified a few areas where we feel we can work on and gain momentum to get the ball carriers over the gainline," Ludeke said in a teleconference call from Sydney.
"That is vital for us this week, to get front-foot ball. We want to create the same opportunities as we did last week, but must just finish them off."
The Bulls mentor spoke of the home team's ability to maintain the ball for long periods very well and have a sound defence - which puts the Waratahs second on the list of least tries conceded.
"We know we are up against a tough defensive line," Ludeke said, adding" "It is also going to be tough among the forwards - we are up against a Wallaby front row."
2013: Bulls won 30-19, Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 27-24, Sydney
2011: Bulls won 23-17, Pretoria
2010: Bulls 48-38, Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 20-6, Sydney
2008: Bulls 16-13, Pretoria
Prediction: The Bulls have won all eight of their meetings with the Waratahs since 2006. The Tahs have been beaten by fewer than seven points in just three of those matches, every other game seen a greater points difference between the sides at full-time. The Waratahs have averaged more carries (129.3) than any other side so far, while the Bulls have averaged the fewest metres (299). The New South Wales outfit have produced fewer kicks from hand than any other team so far, while the Bulls have produced the most. Only the Sharks (eight) have conceded fewer tries than the ‘Tahs (13) in this campaign. The Bulls are due a good performance on tour and this may well be the game where they break their duck. The Bulls to win by about five points.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Matt Carraro.
Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Phillip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 William Small-Smith, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Morné Mellet.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Sharks v Cheetahs
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
There is a good reason why they are top of the standings.
It may sound like just another cliched uttering from a bored coach, but in that brief sentence from Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie a lot of truth is contained.
Having lost just once in seven outings - of which five were at home - the Sharks have leaked just eight five-pointers, the only team who have managed to keep their 'tries conceded' column down to single digits.
They also do the basics well and keep things simple.
"They are a very good team and have the ability to smother you, choke you to death," Fourie told this website.
"They know what they want to do and how to do it - this is, without doubt, our toughest game of the season."
The advantage for the Cheetahs is that they themselves in a situation where they don't have much to lose - sitting in second-to-last place on the standings and out of the running for a top six finish.
Maybe that will take some pressure off and they will finally produce the quality game that made them such a huge threat last year.
However, they are unlikely to opt for a willy-nilly approach, as that will again contribute to the high error count that has cost them so dearly this season.
"We will play a bit more constructive, look better after our possession and retain the ball better," Fourie said, adding: "We need to put pressure on the opposition by holding onto the ball - we need to force them to score points through their own hard work, not from our errors."
Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White also believes the Cheetahs are not a soft touch, but have the ability of knock over any team if they cut down on their error count.
"If you look at last year [when the Cheetahs reached the play-offs], this year they've been a bit unlucky when they've turned the ball over," White told a media briefing in Durban.
"Every team tries to get the balance right. Teams who defend all the time try to improve their attack and vice versa.
"You know they are dangerous with ball in hand, but there are opportunities to score against them because they are so attack orientated.
"But the most important thing for us is that it is an opportunity for us to play against another team with a different style.
"The Reds have a unique style, the Bulls have a unique style, the Waratahs have a unique style and this Cheetahs side obviously has a style that suits them and works for them. But they probably haven't had the reward they want."
2013: Cheetahs won 12-6, Durban
2013: Sharks won 29-22, Bloemfontein
2012: Sharks won 34-15, Durban
2012: Sharks won 34-20, Bloemfontein
2011: Sharks won 23-18, Bloemfontein
2011: Sharks won 24-9, Durban
Prediction: A 12-6 win for the Cheetahs last year ended a five-match losing streak in this fixture for the Bloemfontein side. The Sharks have averaged more turnovers conceded (17.6) and won (9.7) per game than any other Super Rugby side this year. The Cheetahs' ruck success rate (90 percent) is the worst in all three conferences so far. The Cheetahs have shipped more points (37.9) and tries (4.4) per game than any other side so far. The Sharks have conceded fewer points (16.1) and tries (1.1) per game than any other team. The Sharks have averaged more penalty goals (4.9) and points (29.4) per match than any other team. Don't expect a flood of tries, but there will be drama aplenty - with the Sharks winning by about 10 points.
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Johannes Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 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 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Riaan Smith, 23 Raymond Rhule.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)
Stormers v Lions
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
There certainly will not be a lack of desire at Newlands on Saturday.
The problems facing these two teams are poor execution - which is why the Stormers have scored just 10 tries in seven games and the Lions 11 in eight outings.
Stormers mentor Allister Coetzee spoke a lot about 'systems' this week. But rather than belittle him for cliched utterances, he should be applauded for not hitting the panic button.
Already one coach has fallen on his sword this season - well Hurricanes mentor Mark Hammett will at the end of the season - but Coetzee has remained true to his charges and still back them.
He knows they are just one win away from regaining the confidence that can make the bottom-laced Stormers a threat to any side.
The Lions may be sitting pretty in the top 10 on the table with three wins more than the Stormers, but they are coming off two defeats.
Still, the Stormers are wary of the visitors' ability to "strangle" teams with their kicking game.
"They play off a good set-piece, so obviously there are times where they hold on to the ball and even from contestable kicks you get an opportunity to play from turnover possession," Coetzee told a media briefing in Cape Town.
"We are just focusing on the next game and our processes to get right. There are good things that we need to make sure stays in place and there are the work-ons that we need to get right."
Lions captain Warren Whiteley is adamant his team has not lost any of their drive, despite the losing streak since they came back from their bye at the end of last month.
"I don't think we have lost any intensity, the willingness, the heart and the fire is still there," Whiteley told a media briefing in Johannesburg.
"It is just individual decision making, and you might put it down to experience or getting too excited and running from our own half."
Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers admitted the need to get another win on the board is their biggest driving force.
"The pressure is always there, being at the bottom of the log the pressure will be there as well," De Villiers said.
"That is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in and we need to get out of there.
"I don't care what the Lions think or do, for us it is not about the Lions. It is about what we need to do and what we need to rectify.
"They will come and be positive playing at Newlands, they beat us by 24 points the last time we played so I am sure they will back themselves, but we have got our own motivation."
Lions coach Johan Ackermann said his charges viewed the match against the Stormers in Cape Town as their first match on tour.
"We are looking forward to this one, and we want to see if we can correct what we did wrong in the last two weeks and get the confidence back up there," said Ackermann.
"We know it is not going to be easy, we've got a bye next week where the players will have a few days where they can recover and spend time with their families.
"So, I expect them to have a full go on Saturday and then we can reassess on Monday before the tour."
2014: Lions won 34-10, Johannesburg
2012: Stormers won 27-17, Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 24-19, Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 33-19, Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 19-16, Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 26-13, Johannesburg
Prediction: The Lions have lost eight of their nine against the Stormers but did beat their South Africa rivals earlier this year (34-10). The Stormers have averaged fewer points per game (15) than any other team this season. The Lions and Stormers both have scrum success rates of 91 percent this season, higher than any other side. However, the Stormers' line-out success rate (75 percent) is the lowest so far. Only the Stormers (10) have scored fewer tries than the Lions (11) this year. This is a tough game to call, but perhaps the Lions will be a bit more adventurous and sneak a win - by less than seven points.
Stormers: 15 Peter Grant, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Devon Williams, 23 Jaco Taute.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Jacobus Jonker.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa) Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)