Super Rugby 2013: Preview and Predictions – Round 16, Part 1
Round 16 you say? Only 4 rounds before the play-offs, you say? The Cheetahs are lying 4th on the log, you say? You shut your mouth! I know right? Cray cray to the max and no mistake!
Last week’s action dished up a mix of Test match style Kiwi and SA derbies; a grind it out in SHITake conditions, old school victory in Auckland; a satisfying comeback win with an inexperienced side at Newlands and the Force vs the Highlanders.
My team of the week goes to the Chiefs who outplayed a very good Crusaders side with patience, accurate kicking, clever attack and solid defence. They are going to be incredibly hard to beat if they get a home semi and final, just sayin.
Before we look ahead to this week, here is an update on the punishment dished out by SANZAR to Graham Henry for insulting the assistant refs, calling the TMO blind and saying a couple of the calls were ‘Bullsh*t’ at a press conference. He has been told to apologise.
Er…what? Publicly. Oh ok, wait… what? That’s right, tell an assistant on the side lines he should go back to club rugby, $25,000 fine. Tell the rugby world via the media far worse, no fine but be required to apologise. Sounds fair. Oh no wait, it doesn’t.
SANZAR bias aside, let’s not let it ruin our days. Let’s rather look to the weekend, where almost every game is a must win situash.
Super Rugby Round 16, Friday 31st May 2013
Crusaders vs Waratahs
The Crusaders have only lost to the Waratahs once at home back in 2004 and will be quietly confident of maintaining that impressive record this week. They lost to the Chiefs in Hamilton but gave up two easy tries to charge downs and will know that even with the loss, are well on track for the play-offs but do need this win at home. Kieran Read is back to his usual fine form and the Saders forward pack and scrum in particular has been very impressive and should set the platform for their dangerous backs.
Losing to the Rebels last week sucked the big one for Michael Cheika’s Sydney crew and they absolutely have to win on Friday. Wycliff Palu is out and Pat McCutcheon comes in at flank with captain Dave Dennis shifting to 8th man. Berrick Barnes has been dropped to the bench and Rob Horne takes his place in the midfield. Cam Crawford gets a start on the wing and Brendan McKibbin starts at srumhalf. The Waratahs will struggle to get their running game going against the awesome Crusaders defense and should lose this and effectively be out of the running for the play-offs. Shame.
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-Off: Fri, 9:35am (SA time)
Crusaders vs Waratahs Prediction: Crusaders by 5-12
Brumbies vs Hurricanes
Jake White is a wily old fox and will have learnt from his mistakes last year where the Brumbies blew a shot at the top of the Aussie table. They will head into this game doing what they have been doing best and will make as few personnel and tactical changes as possible. They play the Rebels at home next week and then their last game against the Force in July, so will know that a win here all but ensures a top 3 finish.
The Hurricanes are at last chance saloon and are lining up the whiskeys.
They welcome back centre Conrad Smith, hooker Dane Coles and flank Brad Shields, with giant lock James 2 metres tall, 122Kgs heavy Broadhurst coming in for good measure to boost the forward pack. The Canes have had an up and down season but are very capable of an upset, especially with their returning players, not to mention having guys like Julian Savea in their side. However, the kicking and defensive nous of the Brumbies, plus home crowd advantage should mean a tight victory to White’s free roaming feral horses.
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Brumbies vs Hurricanes Prediction: Brumbies by less than 7
Highlanders vs Blues
The Highlanders struggled for the whole game against the Force and then finally snuck a tiny lead with 3 mins to go. All they needed to then do was kick off and defend, simple really but their wing decides to rather tackle the man in the air as he catches the kick-off. Wow. Words fail. The Highlanders are capable of beating the Blues but they won’t.
The Blues were frustrated by the Brumbies but are still nicely placed on the log and a win here will keep them tied on points with the Crusaders, although they do have a tricky SA tour at the end of the June to contend with. They have a good record against the Landers and should win this with room to spare. Pretty embarrassing if they don’t it must be said.
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am
Highlanders vs Blues Prediction: Blues by 5-12