Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Round 9, part 1
This week, new Bok coach, Heyneke Meyer announced his management team and (as many have long suspected) the important roles are filled with (future ex) Bulls coaches.
Johan van Graan is the new forwards and attack coach, Ricardo Loubscher is back line coach, John McFarland is the defensive coach and Bazil Carsils is the conditioning coach. All in all a quality back up staff. Some may fear that this will lead to a Bulls style of play by the Springboks and it certainly looks like it will.
My question to you, fellow Bok fans, is this such a bad thing? The Bulls play Test Match type rugby, they respect territory and possession, are relentless on defense and punish teams with accurate kicking. They are not too shabby at smashing teams with well crafted tries but appreciate the right to play wide after multi-phase play.
A big problem with Pieter de Villier’s tenure as coach was the inability of his back-up staff to buy into one style of play. Dick Muir pushed for a run at all costs, game, Gary Gold favoured the more traditional forward based game and of course PdV basically did what the senior players and the horoscopes told him to do.
Heyneke Meyer, with the technical savvy of Rassie Erasmus (recently appointed General Manager: high performance) in his corner, can build and evolve the Bok game within a solid structure. For the first time, perhaps ever, there is forethought and a will to develop a common playing style, country-wide, across all age groups (the All Blacks have been doing this for years btw). Possible good times ahead but only if the provincial coaches buy into it and put national interests before their own… what are the chances?!
Enough Bok talk though, let’s get back to matters at hand, Super Rugby awesomeness! A far better situation for me on SuperBru this week with only the Stormers letting me down with a gallant but limited showing against a quality Crusaders performance. The Chiefs continued their recent dominance with their sixth win in a row and the Bulls, Sharks, Brumbies and Waratahs all picked up solid victories. Let’s have a look at the this week’ match ups.
Super Rugby Round 9, Fri 20th April 2012
Highlanders vs Blues
The Blues were far more impressive last week but still went down to the Sharks. They looked enterprising on attack but gave away two intercept tries which came about due to constant defensive pressure. Players like Ma’a Nonu and Rene Ranger created scoring opportunities but impatience and handling let the Blues down. They certainly have the players to win this but are just not gelling as a team.
The Highlanders are coming off a bye and will be keen to get back to winning ways after their most recent loss to the Stormers. They should be favourites at home but need to beware of a team that have nothing to lose. Crrritical times! Expect a typical kiwi derby with the Highlanders having the edge in the forwards and picking up an important win.
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-Off: 9:35am (SA time)
Highlanders vs Blues Prediction: Highlanders by less than 10
Reds vs Stormers
The Reds happily welcome back two of their injured flyhalves and coming off a bye will be ready to come out, guns blazing, both barrels loaded. They have been fairly average this season but know that they need a victory to get them back to the top half of the log and will be very tough to beat, especially at home.
The Stormers were unlucky to lose both their locks in the first half last week but still managed to come away with a bonus point in Christchurch. Personally I feel they kicked poorly and far too often. I have no problem with a kick and chase game but when it is badly executed, it basically sucks ass and is painful to watch, especially when no-one is chasing. Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker are out injured with Duane Vermeulen taking over the captaincy. Eben Etzebeth and Gio Aplon have recovered sufficiently from their injuries to start and Bryan Habana, showing some good form lately, moves to centre.
The Stormers should be favourites for this game but will need to be more accurate on attack and keep an eye on the offside line they are constantly flirting with, on defense.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Reds vs Stormers Prediction: Stormers by less than 7
Hurricanes vs Crusaders
The Crusaders will come into this with confidence and momentum after last week’s victory. They are only 2 points behind the Hurricanes and a win away will see them ease into that all important 6th place on the log. Newby flyhalf, Tom Taylor was lethal with the boot and scored all 31 points last week. Todd Blackadder should opt for the same back line, which can be deadly if given time and space, supplied by their quality forward pack.
The Hurricanes have surprised many with their performances so far. Most pundits expecting them to struggle after losing so many of their stalwarts but they have shown an almost uncanny ability to score tries with very little possession or territory. Beauden Barrett has been very good at flyhalf so far and captain Conrad Smith is proving to be an inspirational leader. Whether the Hurricanes will score the same kind of runaway tries against a toit Crusaders defense is the question.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am
Hurricanes vs Crusaders Prediction: Crusaders by 5-10