Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Playoffs
So here we are, play-offs time. Well done everyone on getting here! I personally know binge drinking every Saturday has not been easy and can you believe we have already managed over 100 Super Rugby games so far… whaaat??
I know right! Crazy, awesome and exciting , like Juliette Lewis in a bikini, holding some fruit. hmmmm, melons.
Last week I said there would be one Aussie, three Saffa and two Kiwi sides left in the tournament but I did not reckon the Brumbies would fail so miserably at the last hurdle, lose to the Blues without a bonus point and let the Reds sneak in. Embarrassing!!! Still, credit to Jake White and his team for making it so far and special mention to the Hurricanes for beating the Chiefs and giving themselves one last chance to qualify (and guaranteeing the Stormers top spot at the same time). Nicely done.
The Stormers were fairly average last week and made heavy work of the Rebels at home. It is quite incredible that they have not scored four tries this year but still managed to finish at the top of the overall log. Efficient but fairly dull rugga it must be said. Still they, like the Chiefs get to chillax to the max this week and watch four sides smash each other for the right to travel to either Hamilton or Newlands next week. Let’s leer longingly in to see who their opponents will be.
Super Rugby play-offs, Saturday 21 July 2012
Crusaders vs Bulls
The Bulls have been written off by pretty much everyone barring some die-hard Bulls fans and the players Moms and rightly so. It is a huge disadvantage to have to travel so far and then play in Christchurch and win against one of the best Kiwi sides and no team has done this and succeded in over 10 years.
The Crusaders are without the still injured Kieran Read, whose position is taken by Richie captain charming McCaw. In other changes, Wyatt Crockett comes in at prop and Sam Whitelock slots in at lock. In the backs, Robbie Fruean comes in at 13 with Adam Whitelock moving to the wing, making up an incredibly dangerous backline capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Incidently, what is up with all the Whitelocks in this side (George is on the flank and Luke is on the bench), does this family have a contract with Todd Blackadder or is it a code word for cyborg…
For the Bulls, Frans Ludeke has made only one change to the side that beat the Lions and has brought back lock Flip Van der Merwe. The Bulls have done well to get to the play-offs and if this game was at Loftus, I would say that they had a very good chance but alas it is in the rugby equivalent of Mordor. For a place in the semis they will need to play the best they have all season, defend better than they have all season and have all the 50/50 calls go their way. It is not impossible and they have the game and players to beat the Saders but it will be a huge upset if they do. I am hopeful but I would not bet on it, mostly because I can no longer get a line of credit with anyone.
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am
Crusaders vs Bulls Prediction: Crusaders by 5-10
Reds vs Sharks
The Sharks started off terribly last week but came out in the second half and dominated the Cheetahs but will need a far more convincing performance for the entire game this Saturday. They are without Springboks Pat I use clear for Men Lambie and Frans donkey boot Steyn which severely dents their chances but do welcome back Willem man mountain Alberts into the starting side, albeit at lock.
The Reds have yet to announce their team for Saturday but are without Quade burglar Cooper after the young rapscallion was banned for one game for a sketchy tackle on Berrick Barnes last week. They are thinking of appealing the ban but it may well be too late for such desperate shenans. The rest of the team should remain unchanged after they did the business against the Waratahs and full credit to them for scoring the four tries needed to top the Aussie conference.
The Sharks beat them this season at home but were losing badly before the Reds lost all of their back up flyhalves to freak injuries and had to rely on Will Genia taking the flyhalf reigns for the last quarter. It is very hard to win in Brisbane for visiting sides and the stadium should be packed. The Sharks will start as underdogs but tend to thrive in these pressure situations and are capable of an upset, especially given the form of players like JP Pietersen, Bismark du Plessis and the loose trio. They should have the upper hand in the scrums and if they can secure their lineout ball… who knows man, who knows.
I am going to go with my heart and this strange feeling in my plums and say the Sharks will win this thriller and travel back home to face the Stormers next week.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Reds vs Sharks Prediction: Sharks by less than 5