It’s week 8 of what has to be the longest rugby tournament in the history of the sport, and there are two Aussie derbies to make the viewing schedule a whole lot more manageable …
It borders on the ridiculous that the 3rd placed Brumbies have the same number of points as the 7th places Crusaders, but that is what you get when you negotiate a tournament structure to suit the buyers of the TV rights …
Four good games for us Saffers, though … Just a pity two of them will happen while sucking on a coffee or gym water bottle instead of an ice cold pigs ear …
It does not get much lower than losing to the Rabble, and with Pat Lam breaking down at a presser and skipper Mealamu giving his new recruit Piri Weepu grief for spending too much time at the buffet, this once great Blues side is at an all time low. That said, the Sharks performance against the Canes was straight out the bottom draw, and while they welcome back Pat Lambie, they are still without the omni-physical Bismarck du Plessis. With both sides playing for survival, this might not be pretty, and it really could go either way …
My prediction: Blues by 5
Blues: 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Bench: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 George Moala.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Bench: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Frederic Michalak.
Force v Waratahs, Perth – 13:40
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZL)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (AUS), Julian Pritchard (AUS)
T.M.O: George Ayoub (AUS)
My prediction: Waratahs by 9
Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Rory Sidey, 13 Nick Cummins, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Bench: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Cameron Shepherd, 22 Patrick Dellit.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Bench: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Jono Jenkins, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
SATURDAY, APRIL 14
Crusaders v Stormers, Christchurch – 09:35
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZL)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (NZL), Mike Fraser (NZL)
T.M.O: Kane McBride (NZL)
The “Jimmy McCracken” of the weekend! Carter vs De Villiers should be fun now that the former has been shifted out to inside centre to make space for Tom Taylor at flyhalf. It’s a bold move from coach Blackadder, but does make sense as Carter is struggling with his kicking (never thought I would ever utter those words) and shores up the defense a little in the mid field. Speaking of defense … The Storm are the epitome … And while it does not always look pretty, they seem to have evolved a little and now have the ability to strike from the turnovers their ultra physical defense tends to cause. The visitors will miss the counter attack skills of Gio Aplon on said strike power though. In a battle of the boot, the lineout might be a decider, so going with the visitors …
My prediction: Stormers by 3
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Bench: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Ryan Crotty, 22 Tom Marshall.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gio Aplon/JP du Plessis.
Brumbies v Rebels, Canberra – 11:40
Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (AUS), Damien Mitchelmore (AUS)
T.M.O: Steve Lesczcynski (AUS)
My prediction: Brumbies by 7
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Fotu Auelua, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ruaidhri Murphy.
Bench: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Andrew Smith.
Rebels: 15: Kurtley Beale 14: Lachlan Mitchell 13: Mitchell Inman 12: James O’Connor 11: Mark Gerrard 10: Danny Cipriani 9: Nick Phipps 8: Gareth Delve 7: Jarrod Saffy 6: Luke Jones 5: Hugh Pyle 4: Alister Campbell 3: Rodney Blake 2: Ged Robinson 1: Nic Henderson
Bench: 16: Luke Holmes 17: Lawrie Weeks 18: Michael Lipman 19: Tim Davidson 20: Richard Kingi 21: Julian Huxley 22: Lloyd Johansson
Cheetahs v Chiefs, Bloemfontein – 17:05
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (RSA)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (RSA), Stefan Breytenbach (RSA)
T.M.O: Shaun Veldsman (RSA)
The Lions are proper bottom feeders this year, but the Cheetahs put them away with ease, grabbed a few excellent scalps overseas, and are playing some sensational rugby. Johann Goosen has grabbed all the headlines, but Sias Ebersohn, who gets his first start this year, is no slouch. They are up against a side with the best defense record in the tournament on Saturday though! It’s the second week on the road for the Chiefs, who misfired in Perth but still managed to pull off a win, so it will be tough for the travelers. Messam vs Brussow will get the beers flowing, and go a log way to deciding the match, as will Ebersohn and Strauss vs Kahui and SBW. A game that could easily go either way …
My prediction: Chiefs by 5
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie Le Roux, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip Van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Bench: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Philip Snyman
Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Leila Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clark (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Bench: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 22 Robbie Robinson.
Lions v Bulls, Johannesburg – 19:10
Referee: Garratt Williamson (NZL)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (NZL), Christie Du Preez (RSA)
T.M.O: Johann Meuwesen (RSA)
This should be Bulls by plenty … But it’s a proper Currie Cup derby – unlike the translucent Aussie stuff – and the Bulls are messing around a little with Engelbrecht getting s start ahead of his roomie Sadie, and giving Steenkamp a run at lock. One has to feel for John Mitchell given the injury list that he is dealing with, but the end result is that this is a competent Currie Cup side playing against a Super Rugby title contender. Interesting to see the ridiculously injury prone CJ van der Linde bracketed on the bench for the Lions. I would make him play 3 full games of Vodakuk before letting back into the Super Rugby realm, but beggars can’t be choosers I suppose …
My prediction: Bulls by 16
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 James Kamana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Bench: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse/CJ van der Linde, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Christo le Roux, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Lionel Mapoe.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Dewald Potgieter, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Johann Sadie
So it’s a “Dentist appointment” on Friday morning for the Sharks, a post gym protein shake (or greasy brekki and coffee, depending on the Friday night) for the Storm, a cold beer while the fire burns down for the Cheetahs, and then post rare rump steak in garlic butter Brandy and Coke for the big weekend derby … And plenty of time to earn those pink tickets! Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy …