Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Round 7, part 2
You know what’s great about long weekends… everything! Happy Easter and all that. May your bunnies be as awesome as Hugh Hefner’s.
Some mouth-watering matches coming up on Saturday with a top of the table clash between the unbeaten Stormers and ever impressive Highlanders, followed by what should be an entertaining bottom of the table clash between the Cheetahs and Lions.
One of these sides may well drop out to make way for the Kings in yet another demonstration of SARU ballsing up a situation which should have been dealt with ages ago. There is still a small chance that Super Rugby will be expanded to 16 teams next year but don’t count on it. Either way there will be a lot riding on this game.
Lastly, we have the Bulls hosting the Crusaders. Set quality levels to 11.
Super Rugby Round 7, Fri 6th of April
Force vs Chiefs
The Force finally showed that they are able to compete at this level with a polished performance against an injury plagued Reds side last week and will be keen for more of the same against the Chiefs. They do play better at home but are coming up against a side in tip-top form.
The Chiefs were dominant against the Waratahs last week and Sonny Boxer Williams and Richard Kahui are probably the best centre pair of the tournament at the moment. The Chiefs forwards need to maintain the high standards they have set so far and if they can provide good front foot ball, the Force will struggle to contain the Chiefs backline, especially with Lelia Masaga coming back into the side.
Venue: NIB Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: Fri, 1:40pm
Force vs Chiefs Prediction: Chiefs by 10-20
Highlanders vs Stormers
The trip from SA to Dunedin is a bit of a ball ache to put it mildly. Jet lag will be a factor and could well be the difference between the sides especially if it close heading into the last 15mins. The Stormers have stuck with lock Elstadt at flank to provide some muscle up front but they will need to be at their best on the ground to blunt the Highlanders, who have been exceptional at the breakdown this season.
The Highlanders looked very slick against the Rebels after half time but started slowly. They will need to get ahead early if they are going to beat this Stormers side, who have proven very adept at defending a lead. They pride themselves on their scrum and if they can match the physicality of the Stormers pack, could possibly sneak a win at home. The Stormers have yet to show a knack for scoring tries but as yet have not really had to. Expect a close game between two very good sides with the Stormers unbeaten run coming to an end.
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am
Highlanders vs Stormers Prediction: Highlanders by less than 7
Cheetahs vs Lions
The Cheetahs have been more impressive in their overseas tour than they have ever been in Super Rugby. They are playing with pace and skill that is probably surprising themselves. Heinrich Brussouw is playing himself into some excellent form, which is great news for the Bokke but not as good for the Lions. Captain Adriaan Strauss is surely one of the hookers of the tournament and with Johan Goosen backing up his reliable kicking with solid defense, clean outs and an eye for the gap, the Lions will find this side very hard to stop.
The Lions are still desperately trying to get their first choice side back but as yet are still without more than half of them. The good news is that Elton Jantjies is back and the Lions will be hoping he makes an immediate impact. Last week the Lions led the Crusaders at half time but then faded badly in the second half. They were sloppy on attack and conceded too many turnovers. John Mitchell has been begging, pleading and praying for more accuracy from his young side but they have as yet failed to deliver. Unfortunately it may be asking too much to expect them to beat the Cheetahs in the form they are in.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Cheetahs vs Lions Prediction: Cheetahs by 5-10
Bulls vs Crusaders
The Crusaders were fairly average last week against the Lions, especially if you consider their usual lofty standards. They may have yet to reach the highs of previous years but with Dan Carter back will be looking to make up for lost time this weekend. They have had some success at Loftus and have a fully fit team, so do not be surprised if they push the Bulls close.
The Bulls managed to come away from the Stormers game relatively unscathed and have named an unchanged side. They are thankfully back in blue and will know that they need to win all of their remaining home games to try to finish top of the SA conference. Chilliboy Ralepelle has been on fire lately, as has Juandre Kruger and it is in the scrums and lineouts that the Bulls will look to dominate. If they can get the edge in the set pieces and Morne is on song with his kicking, they will win this one relatively comfortably.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Bulls vs Crusaders Prediction: Bulls by 5-10