And then there were four! And at last we are rid of the Aussies …
Rugby 365 came up with a few interesting numbers this week that would have made the Crusaders and Stormers sleep a little easier … Suggesting that it is the team that tops the Super Rugby table that most often takes the cup, but if any team can upset the applecart it is the men from Canterbury …
Of the four teams in this year’s semis the Crusaders have been there most often.
The 2012 semifinalists in previous semifinals:
Crusaders: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Sharks: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2012
Stormers: 1999, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012
Chiefs: 2004, 2009, 2012
That is 11 times in a row for the Crusaders!!
A table of all semifinalists would look like this:
6: Bulls, Brumbies, Blues, Hurricanes
5: Stormers, Waratahs
3. Highlanders, Chiefs
And the Semifinal Winners:
3: Sharks, Bulls
1: Highlanders, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Stormers, Reds
Bottom line is that it is this weekend’s away sides that have not only appeared in more knockout matches, but also performed best in those matches. They also happen to be the sides going into the weekend with the much talked about, and much needed momentum … But will it be enough to get them wins away from their respective fortresses?
Chiefs v Crusaders, Hamilton – 09:35
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistants: Jonathan Kaplan, Keith Brown
TMO: Garratt Williamson
The Chiefs have rightfully beefed up their front row to take on Franks, Flynn and Crockett, but I am not sure there is enough beef in the whole of Waikato to stop that juggernaut!
The Chiefs have been consistent this year – something that has not always been a trademark – but in the final two weeks of the tournament they came unstuck against the Saders and Canes, and just seem to have lost a little of that “Gees” … The key question is will the break have done them good or bad?
This against a side that has not only done the business before (as per the stats above), is finding it’s feet at the perfect time, and carrying some magnificent momentum into the clash. The loss of Kieren Read is a biggie, and McCaw is no number 8 in my book, but he has now played 3 games in that position, gaining some invaluable experience. It’s almost unfair for a provincial team to have the Franks brothers and both McCaw and Dan Carter on the payroll!
Sportingbet will give you 7/5 on the Chiefs and 5/8 on the Crusaders, and the only fault I can find in that is that they might have gone a little low on the Crusaders!
My prediction: Crusaders by 9
2012: Crusaders won 28-21, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 24-19, Napier
2011: Crusaders won 25-19, Napier
2011: Crusaders won 34-16, Tauranga
2010: Crusaders won 26-19, Hamilton
Chiefs: 15. Robbie Robinson, 14. Tim Nanai-Williams, 13. Andrew Horrell, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8. Kane Thompson, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Brodie Retallick, 4. Craig Clarke (captain), 3. Ben Tameifuna, 2. Mahonri Schwalger, 1. Sona Taumalolo
Bench: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Ben Afeaki, 18. Michael Fitzgerald, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Jackson Willison, 22. Lelia Masaga
Crusaders: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Adam Whitelock, 13. Robert Fruean, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Zac Guildford, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Richie McCaw (captain), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Luke Romano, 3. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Wyatt Crockett
Bench: 16. Quentin MacDonald, 17. Owen Franks, 18. Tom Donnelly, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Sean Maitland
SATURDAY, JULY 28
Stormers v Sharks, Cape Town – 17:05
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistants: Jaco Peyper, Marius Jonker
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Well, if you believe everything you read, my pre game scorecard has the Sharks to win by 3, but Ross Tucker suggests docking them between 8 and 10 points because of the travel, meaning it’s the Stormers by about 6!
Sportingbet will give you 13/20 on the Stormers and 3/2 on the Sharks, meaning, like me, they actually do not have a clue as to who is going to win this game.
This game is actually just too damn close to call. It’s the Bok front row and extraordinary back row of the Sharks against the top lock pairing and centre combination of the Stormers. The Sharks carry the momentum, with their defence on offer last weekend against the Reds suggesting that they are now a side that can not only score tries, but perhaps more importantly for Saturday, also keep them out!
It all depends on how they have handled the monumental travel schedule, and the bumps and bruises from the game in Brisbane while the men from Cape Town were turning a chop. The fact they arrived in the Cape a day earlier than they would normally do suggests that they have embraced the travel, and as such, I am going to go with the side sporting the better pack …
My prediction: Sharks by 4
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Deon Fourie, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Don Armand, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gerhard van den Heever
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Odwa Ndungane, 22 Riaan Viljoen
The Sportingbet tournament odds at the time this was published:
Stormers v Chiefs 7/2
Stormers v Crusaders 13/8
Chiefs v Sharks 6/1
Crusaders v Sharks 2/1
CLICK HERE to have a dabble …
And the Currie Cup 1st division fixtures:
19:00 Border vs Pumas – BCM Stadium, East London
19:00 SWD vs Boland – Outeniqua Park, George
14:05 Valke vs Leopards – Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
15:00 Griffons vs EP – North West Stadium, Welkom