Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Round 4, part 1
After watching all the games this weekend (bar the Sat morning 6:35am Brumbies vs Cheetahs game) it looks like that the kiwi sides are currently leading the way both with early form and the style of rugby on display.
The Crusaders have historically been slow starters in the competition but could well have had a 3 from 3 record at the moment, such was the toitness of their derby games. As it stands the Highlanders and Chiefs are the teams to beat, with the Crusaders closely behind. The Hurricanes managed 2 out of 3 on their away trip and the Blues bounced back to beat the highly fancied Bulls at Loftus.
Worrying times you say… probably… but fear not, it is early days, we have got to keep calm, keep our composure, there is no need to storm the field and throw bottles at heads! We still have much rugby to be played, much beer to be consumed and maybe later in the season, some good old-fashioned streaking.
The performances of the officials are once again talking points with SANZAR ref boss, Lyndon Bray saying that Keith Brown ballsed up the scrums in the Brumbies vs Cheetahs game, Steve boozer Walsh erred in not giving a penalty to the Bulls for a late tackle at the end of the Blues game and Lions coach, John Mitchell slating the assistant refs and publicly saying that the TMOs need more power. You may call sour grapes but Mitchell has a point, if the technology is there, use that SHITake.
Onto this week’s matchups and let’s hope for a game where we don’t have to constently shout abuse at the officials.
Super Rugby Round 4 Fri 16th Mar 2012
Chiefs vs Brumbies
The Chiefs forwards have stepped up and are giving their exciting back line the go forward ball they enjoy with centre Sonny Boxer Williams in particular looking very solid. This week Richard Kahui moves to wing and Liam Messam shifts to No 8 but they could start SBW at prop and still win this one against a very average looking Brumbies side.
The Brumbies were very lucky to scrape a win last week against the Cheetahs but credit to them for hanging in there and securing the win at the end. Christian Lealiifano moves from centre to flyhalf but with no other changes (at time of writing), captain Ben Mowen will be hoping his side can lift their game and improve their defense in order to blunt the rampant Chiefs. Don’t count on it though.
Venue: Baypark Stadium, Tauranga
Kick-Off: 8:35am (SA Time)
Chiefs vs Brumbies Prediction: Chiefs by 10-20
Stormers vs Blues
The Blues managed to win against the Bulls with little possession or territorial advantage and are incredibly skilled at taking their chances and pouncing on mistakes. Their discipline has been letting them down however and Rene Ranger has been banned for 2 weeks for a late tackle on Bjorn Basson. In other changes, Jerome Kaino has been ruled for the next 6 weeks with a shoulder injury and Michael Hobbs has gone home for the funeral of his father, ex All Black captain and Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs.
The Stormers welcome back Peter Grant and will be looking to him to spark their exciting but as yet flaccid backline. The Stormers recently signed contracts with a good handful of their young players and the future looks bright for the Cape side. The big question is can they figure out how to score some tries…
The forwards are looking the best they have in years and their rolling maul and lineouts are second to none. Their defense is always good and if they can be more patient, accurate and imaginative on attack they may well be SA’s best chance at Super Rugby glory this year. Expect them to punish the Blues ill-discipline and secure another home win (besides all the local support for the Blues side).
Venue: DHL Newlands Stadium, Newlands
Stormers vs Blues Prediction: Stormers by less than 10
Hurricanes vs Highlanders
The Hurricanes smashed the woeful Force last week and will be very pleased with their wins away from home so far. They, like the Blues may not dominate territory or possession but they certainly take their chances and are lethal on the counter. They are back at Wellington and have a very good home record against the Highlanders who are coming off a quality win against the Waratahs.
The Highlanders are mixing up their game well and with captain Adam Thomson putting in another man of the match performance last week will be quietly confident heading into this derby cracker. When they decide to rest Thomson may well be key as they will need his services in the business end of the tourney. This should be a close hard-fought battle and while the Canes looked good against the Force, they will find this Highlanders side a far tougher prospect.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-Off: Sat 17th Mar 8:35am
Hurricanes vs Highlanders Prediction: Highlanders by less than 5