PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 12 - Part One
WINNING AND LOSING STREAKS: Cliches can be irritating, but they also hold tremendous value.
One of the most used cliches - one with real value - goes like this: 'Winning is a habit, but so is losing.'
Friday's action is all about teams with streaks - winning and losing.
The Chiefs, coming off a bye, have won six of their last seven matches.
They are at home to a Jaguares that has overcome a sluggish start to the season and have jumped up to seventh in the standings on the back of a three-match winning streak.
The other Friday match is more one of contrasts.
The Rebels, after an impressive three-match winning start to the season, are struggling to stay in the play-off race after losing their last four matches and of their last six.
They host a Crusaders team sitting pretty at the top of the standings on the back of a five-match winning streak.
We take a look at the Friday matches!
Friday, May 4:
Chiefs v Jaguares
(International Stadium, Rotorua - Kick-off: 19.35; 04.35 Buenos Aires time; 07.45 GMT)
The questions: How long will the Jaguares' winning-streak last?
One of the most inconsistent teams in the competition, they have struck a rich vein of form on their Australasian tour - with the Rebels, Brumbies Blues their victims.
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper has had some additional time in the bye week to look at the Jaguares.
"This will be a really tough game," Cooper said.
"From a win against the Brumbies, to beating the Blues in Auckland, is a great feat.
"They are showing their worth.
"We certainly have been analysing them and getting ready for the attack that they are going to bring.
They're strong in their set piece and defensively we will be tested."
Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson "backed his coach and said the side are aware of the confidence the Jaguares would bring to the game.
Having secured their first win in New Zealand, the Jaguares were on the verge of their best season in the competition.
Matson said it was not surprising that the Jaguares had been so impressive in recent weeks.
"We've seen them perform like this in their national jersey and in previous games as well, but I think the last two weeks in particular, on the road, in Canberra, a tough place, and then at Eden Park clearly they're a team in a stream of form," he said.
The ability of dynamic Jaguares fullback Joaquin Tuculet, a rival for Damian McKenzie for his elusiveness, was something Matson was wary of.
"I think anytime you've got a fullback that you kick the ball to, that's a bit of a ghost, but on the back of that our training week has been really focused intensively, we've put a lot of time in today around our kick-chase to make sure we cannot give him too many opportunities," he said.
2016: Chiefs won 30-26, Buenos Aires
Prediction: The Chiefs escaped with a 30-26 win in their only previous encounter with the Jaguares despite trailing by one point at half-time in that fixture. The Chiefs have won 20 of their last 22 games against teams from outside New Zealand, including their last 10 such games on the bounce. The Jaguares have won their last three games on the bounce, never before have they won a stretch of four or more. The Chiefs have made the most (17) and conceded the fewest (eight) clean breaks of any team in the competition this season. Emiliano Boffelli has scored nine tries in his last 10 games for the Jaguares, including five tries in his last five appearances. The Jaguares' dream run will come to an end. The Chiefs will win by 12 points.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Lachlan Boshier/Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Luke Jacobson/Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Levi Aumua.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Javier Manuel Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Shane McDermott
Rebels v Crusaders
(AAMI Park, Melbourne - Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
The Rebels believe they can bounce back and end their four-match losing streak.
However, they are well aware that toppling the Crusaders will require a special effort.
The Crusaders come into the match after dispatching the Brumbies 21-8 in Canberra last weekend, continuing the Australian sides winless streak of 36 matches against New Zealand opposition.
"The Crusaders are obviously a good side," Rebels coach Dave Wessels said.
"We'll need to be playing at our best and have a little luck fall our way.
"Our goal from the start of the year has been to make the people of Melbourne proud and we feel these two things are a recognition from the community that we're heading in the right direction.
"Although we're well aware of just how much work is still to be done."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said the second half of the competition would be a test for all Australian sides, because he felt their lack of depth would be exposed.
After a good start to the season where they headed the Australian Conference for several weeks, the Rebels' progress has slumped.
"The depth of the squad is always tested and that's the most critical thing in Super Rugby," he told Australian media.
"If you've got the ability to go three or four deep in a position and still find ways to win, you're a chance.
"The next two or three weeks, there are some games where we'll see if there's still a gulf or if it's been bridged by the Australians.
"I know they're hungry and we need Aussie rugby to be really strong," he said.
Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia, back from injury, believes the Rebels are ready to take on the defending champion Crusaders.
He said if they can get the 'little things' right they can come away with the win.
"I honestly believe that if we play well and cut down the penalties and makes sure our defence stands up we're every chance of getting a win," he said.
"They play a really good brand of rugby - they can play free-flowing rugby and are very good at their set piece so it's going to be a huge challenge for us."
The Rebels have suffered four consecutive losses and return from their South African tour with their season in free-fall - they now sit seventh on the table after a hot start saw them at the top of the ladder.
"Our defence needs to get a hell of a lot better.
"When we've won games we've scored tries but we've also sometimes conceded 20 points so coming up against the better teams we won't be able to get away with that."
If they are to arrest that streak, Genia believes the key will be limiting first flyhalf Richie Mo'unga.
"Richie is exceptional and he's next in line for that All Blacks jersey alongside Beauden [Barrett].
"He's one of the key reasons they won the competition last year and he will bring a different dimension to their attack.
2017: Crusaders won 41-19, Melbourne
2016: Crusaders won 85-26, Christchurch
2015: Rebels won 20-10, Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 25-19, Melbourne
2013: Crusaders 30-26, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders have won four of their last five games against the Rebels, including their last two, across which they've scored 126 points. The Rebels have lost their last six games on the bounce at home against teams from New Zealand by an average margin of 26 points per game. The Crusaders have won their last seven games in a row in Australia, their longest ever winning streak in the country. The Rebels have gained fewer than 400 metres in three of their last four games; prior to that period, they had gained 498 metres or more in seven consecutive games. Manasa Mataele has made 19 clean breaks this season, the second most of any player, and has scored five tries in his last three appearances for the Crusaders. The Rebels have lost their mojo. They could be at the wrong end of a big hiding. The Crusaders to win by 20 points.
Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman (captain), 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Fereti Sa'aga.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Tom English, 23 Semisi Tupou
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Will Houston, James Leckie
TMO: Ian Smith
Compiled by Jan de Koning, additional reporting by RugbyPass
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports