Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Semi Finals
Ahhh the semi-finals, a wonderful, joyous time. A time for giving, sharing and all day drinking. Some people say that it is disrespectful not to drink heavily all day on semi-final days and those people are right.
Last week, the Bulls disappointed, the Sharks pleasantly surprised, the Proteas face-smashed England in the first Test and Ernie Els won The Open. All in all a great weekend.
So here are, down to the last 4 teams in the tournament, two from SA and two from New Zealand, put that in your mouth and chew on it… delicious. The Bulls were average at best last Saturday and it should be worrying to Bok coach Heyneke Meyer that the players in the 8, 9 and 10 positions for the Bulls (and Boks) were so dire. Morne Steyn in particular had a nightmare game and looks shockingly far from his best.
The Reds were basically blown away by the Sharks in the first 20 mins and never recovered. They missed captain James Horwill and playmaker and chilled out entertainer Quade burglar Cooper and after losing replacement flyhalf, Ben Lucas to injury were never going to win with Will Genia shifted to 10. Still, nice try Reds, two claps.
Moving on though and two mahussive games this week, let’s strip down and dive in for a more intimate perusal.
Super Rugby Semi-Finals, 27 July 2012
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made a few changes to his side with prop Sona Taumalolo packing down next to Samoan
fighter hooker, Mahonri Schwalger. Tanerau Latimer gets the nod ahead of All Black Sam Cane on the flank and prop Ben Afeaki comes back off the bench.
The backline is unchanged with flyahlf Aaron Cruden controlling play for the Chiefs in what will be a fantastic contest against opposite number, Dan the man Carter. This may well be the last game in a Chiefs’ jersey for Sonny Boxer Williams so expect his bag of tricks and skullduggery set to Super Dazzle.
The Crusaders have made one positional change bringing in prop Ben Franks for his brother Owen, who drops to the bench. Kieran Read has still not recovered from a rib injury and his place will be taken once again by Richie McCaw. Captain Charming had an excellent game against the Bulls and dominated Pierre Spies in all facets. It is uncanny that he is still so good, especially playing out of position and his experience and leadership may well prove the difference between these two sides.
The Crusaders were impressive last week but how much of that was down to the Bulls being so poor? The Bulls scored two tries to one but gave away countless penalties and the Chiefs will need to be very accurate, especially at the breakdown if they are to avoid the same fate. I keep getting a feeling in my plums that the Chiefs will cause an upset but then again the Crusaders should have their number in the forwards…either way this is going to be an absolute cracker of a game between two quality sides.
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Craig Joubert
Chiefs vs Crusaders Prediction:
Chiefs Crusaders Chiefs Aaargh! Crusaders by less than 7
Stormers vs Sharks
The Sharks played their best game so far last week and huge respect to them for winning away from home in a play-off against all odds. Can they fly all the way back to SA and cause another upset though? Unfortunately, they have been hit by an injury, with U20 star Paul Jordaan making way for Meyer tackle, me?… I guesss Bosman. There are no other changes with Willem Alberts keeping his place at lock.
Alistair Coetzee has decided not to include Duane Vermeulen in the starting side as he says he is not 100% ready for finals rugby and fair play to him. Deon Fourie did exceptionally well at 8th man against the Rebels and will start again in the relatively unfamiliar posish. Good news for the Stormers is that Bok Eben massive guns Etzebeth comes back into the side to partner a fully fit Andries Bekker with Don Armand moving to the bench in place of Canadian, Jebb Sinclair.
The Sharks will come into this with plenty the momentum but discombobulated body clocks. They have proven to be very dangerous on the counter attack and will look to dominate in the forward battle. The Stormers on the other hand, have had a break and will be well rested. They have played mostly dull but effective, safety first rugby all year and have not lost at home this season mostly due to their defensive systems.
Look out for guys like Bismark, Pietersen, Daniel and Coetzee for the Sharks and De Villiers, Habana, Grant and Etzebeth for the Stormers. These are the form players and will be crucial for their respective teams. I reckon the travel and the Newlands faithful will be the difference between these sides but regardless it is fantastic to once again be assured of a South African side in the Super Rugby final. Well done SA Rugby, cyber 5!
Venue: DHL Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-Off: Sat, 5:05pm
Referee: Steve Walsh (I know, suuuucks)
Stormers vs Sharks Prediction: Stormers by less than 5-10