Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Weekend predictions …

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:
15: Crusaders
7: Sharks
6: Bulls, Brumbies, Blues, Hurricanes
5: Stormers, Waratahs
4: Reds
3. Highlanders, Chiefs
2: Cats

And the Semifinal Winners:
10: Crusaders
5: Brumbies
4: Blues
3: Sharks, Bulls
2: Waratahs:
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?

To the weekend (and predictions) then …
FRIDAY, JULY 27

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
 
Recent results:
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:

Grand Final Winner

Crusaders            7/4
Stormers             2/1
Chiefs                   7/2
Sharks                   5/1

Name the Finalists

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:

Friday 27th
19:00 Border vs Pumas – BCM Stadium, East London
19:00 SWD vs Boland – Outeniqua Park, George

Saturday 28th
14:05 Valke vs Leopards – Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
15:00 Griffons vs EP – North West Stadium, Welkom

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Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

10 Comments

  1. One has always got to take into consideration that the Stormers play with one man short (“Ghost Bekker”).

  2. There’s no way I will ever bet against the Stormers. We all know they won’t score 4 tries, but I give this to them by 12 points.

  3. I will go Chiefs and Stormers just to be different.
    I am also glad you chose the Sharks cause (esp this season) it means the Stormers will win. (LOL)

    If the Stormers can just hold their own in the scrums I think they might pull it off.
    Also Alberts at 4 is not that smart he is a better 7.
    The only reason for this is to accomodate Keegan because he is captain. But a loose trio of Coetzee, Alberts and Kanko would have been better.

    On the other hand the Stormers have no 8. It is a real blow that Vermeulen did not make it. I can understand AC’s choice but he brings so much grunt to the pack.
    And every time he comes up against Alberts he stops him dead.
    Like the Stormers did last season if you can stop Alberts, Coetzee Kanko from gaining meters you have the Sharks beaten. Kolisi and Etzebeth must play huge games.

    • Two massive IF’s there Generaal … Storm got bossed in the scrums, and both Alberts and Coetzee made yards with ball in hand …

  4. Tank I know you are also a SuperBru & Fantasy Sports man so in the spirit of Science in Sports Analysis I took it one further. .. Superport’s Super Fantasy Game allocates points on a number of bases including Running Meters Gained, Tackes, Knock on’s, Tackles Missed, Tries, penalies conceded, etc to name a few. So I took the liberty of comparing the Stormers Starting line Up with the Sharks Starting lineup with the following conclusion on Fantasy Points earned so far for the season: Starting Lineups: Stormers 2294 Sharks 2281. If you break that down further position vs position you have a player count on starting lineup of: Stormers 10: Sharks 5. If you go one step further and add the bench players which is a bit tough since not both numbers off the bench plays the same position so I compared shirt numbers here Stormers 2 Sharks 5 hence conclusion out of full squad of 22 Stormers 12 Sharks 10… interesting reading indeed… based on the analysis, the home ground advantage and the jetlag factor which is another scientifically proven fact I am going Stormers by 13 !! Will be a humdinger, however in the interest of SA rugby and being a Stormers fanatic GO STORMERS!

    • And the best thing about that … Rugby is played on grass and not paper :) No science can match the passion and guts shown by the Sharks

  5. Both are 50/50….I flipped a coin :-)

  6. Blah Blah Sharks score tries Stormers don’t score any tries wara wara.

    Sharks been trying the NZ counter attack rugby all season long and its finally working for them at the right time.

    The Stormers are setup exactly to combat that counter atracking style. Their biggest winning margins was against teams coached by Kiwi’sl Crusaders would be a exception because they can take anyone on at their own game and beat them at it.

    It is easier to score tries from turn over ball and call it attacking rugby but is it considering you have less possession and you score against a unorganized defence. But what happens when the opposition give you that ball, has no intention of retaining it but are fanned out over the field knowing 60 percent of all penalties come from the Breakdown?

  7. Not bad tank. You were only wrong twice.