Super Rugby Preview – First round play-offs

Massive congratulations to the 6 teams who have qualified for the play-offs. Extra special Maverick thumbs up to the Reds and Stormers for finishing at the top of the combined conference log. The reward of course being pants parties with cheerleaders the all important home semi final games.

To avoid any confusion and to settle arguments with mates over who will play the Reds and Stormers respectively, here it is: the Reds will play the lowest ranked qualifier and the Stormers will play the highest ranked qualifier.

So if by a miracle the Sharks do beat the Crusaders they will face the Reds and then with Shitake loads some luck, we may well have a Stormers vs Sharks final at Newlands in 2 weeks time… here’s hoping.

Both games this weekend are in New Zealand which means no mid afternoon rugby games for us SA fans but if you are looking for something to watch, why not have a gander at the quality that is on display at Wimbledon and more specifically Wimbledon women’s tennis. You’re welcome.

Onto the Supe Rugby ‘quarter-finals’ and what should be two excellent games in NZ.

Blues vs Waratahs

The Blues have had a mixed bag of results and form shown this season and will need to build on their recent performances to beat a Waratahs team on the up and up. The Blues won 31-17 the last time these two met in April but have been less than impressive since then.

Alby Mathewson returns as scrumhalf and flank, Daniel Braid comes into the side, albeit off the bench. Rene Ranger is still out injured but with Joe Rokocoko, Jared Payne and Lachie Munro at the back they certainly have pace out wide and game breakers aplenty.

The Waratahs have been smashed once again by injuries. This time losing Al Baxter, Tatafu Polota-Nau and flyhalf Daniel Halangahu, who has been in very good form lately. Kurtley tache Beale moves from fullback to flyhalf in his place. Beale has been one of the players of the season so far and the Tahs chances of a win will rely heavily on his magical dancing feet to once again create space for his outside runners.

Phil hunchback Waugh will captain the side and after announcing his retirement earlier in the week will be keen on finishing off his last season with at least 2 more games. This will be close but the Blues should just edge a depleted Tahs side at home.

Venue: Eden Park, Auckland

Kick-Off: Fri, 9:35am

Prediction: Blues by a tache hair

Crusaders vs Sharks

The Crusaders looked very composed in their last game against the Hurricanes and newcomers to the team, like Matt Todd, playing in Ritchie McCaw’s place, have made a big impact this season. Sonny Boxer Williams is back for this crucial game and the Sharks will not forget how he almost single-handedly destroyed them at Twickenham earlier in the year. The Saders last defeat was to the Cheetahs and no doubt the Sharks will have watched that game a few times recently but the Saders will be much better and full of confidence at their adopted home of Nelson.

The Crusaders have quality all over the park and All Blacks Dan the man Carter and Brad I will throw you to the ground Thorn are in fine form. Todd Blackadder has proven to be a wily coach and the Crusaders will be favourites for this game.

The Sharks surprised almost everyone by beating the Bulls last week in a game where they looked like they would have beaten any team on the day. They were immense on defense and ruthless on attack. It was their first full 80min performance in ages and if they had played like that all season would surely have had a home game this week.

Frederic Michilak was excellent at flyhalf and varied his game well, which allowed young Pat baby face Lambie to shine at fullback. JP Pietersen is in fantastic form as is Bismark, the Beast, Alberts and Deysel. Even old man river Terblanche is looking good! The most obvious stumbling block will be the travel factor and history has shown how hard it is to fly across the world for a play-off game and be at your best. Can the Sharks lift themselves to that same awesome level for this game? Will Pat Lambie ever look older than 13? Let’s hope so.

Venue: Trafalgar Park, Nelson

Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am

Prediction: Hate to say it but … Crussaders by less than 7

rennton

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~ by bowlphilosophy on June 23, 2011.

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