Not quite the full five on Saturday, but still a tough day’s viewing … Grunt editor Tank Lanning runs his ruler over the Super Rugby weekend, making a few predictions …
The Sharks get time off to attend the East Coast Tens at Kings Park, but the rest of us have to secure pink tickets for at least 4 games on Saturday … Probably 5 given that the 5th is a cracker alert between the Chiefs and Blues. Nice early start for the Kings which you should be able to do with ease if you keep Friday night tidy. Chiefs vs Blues on a gym bike, Bulls vs Jake over your wife’s shoulder at the coffee shop, and then full tilt for the Cheetahs and Stormers games as you juggle the fire, braai times and coolerbox! Skip one for the Aussie derby on Sunday that is for sure … Earning you a pink ticket for next weekend as you hide the Easter eggs!
To the weekend, then …
Friday 29 March
08:35 Highlanders vs Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Bookies say Highlanders, Bru’s say Reds. Highlanders off a loss to the Chiefs, Reds off a win over the Bulls. It’s grasshopper hamstring stuff to start the weekend. Hore and Woodcock back which will be good for the home side, but not sure Nonu is working in Otago. Backing Genia and Smith to edge Smith and Slade.
My prediction: Reds by 3
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Buxton Popoalii, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Bench: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma’afu Fia, 18 TJ Ioane, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Bench: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Aidan Toua, 22 Rod Davies.
Saturday 30 March
05:35 Hurricanes vs Kings, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistants: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
More gutsy defence from the Kings no doubt, and perhaps a little spoiling to keep the score down, but it is just a case of guessing by how much they will go down. I have gone a little high in recent times, so am toning it down a little. Still think there is a biggie coming at some stage though.
My prediction: Hurricanes by 19
Hurricanes: Andre Taylor; Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Brad Shields; Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush; Ben May, Dane Coles, Ben Franks.
Bench: Ash Dixon, Reggie Goodes, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, Rey Lee-Lo.
Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Hadleigh Parkes, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Bench: 16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Elric van Vuuren
08:35 Chiefs vs Blues, Bay Park Stadium, Mt Manganui
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Cracker alert! Two Kiwi sides going head to head normally makes for a game worth brewing a pot of coffee for – only because it is at 08h35, although I hope a few brave souls will make that a “Karoo Koffie”. The Blues will come off and destroy a side at some stage, but I do not see it happening against the defending champs, even without Kerr-Barlow. Kahui looked like he had never missed a game last week and his battle with Ranger will be special.
My prediction: Chiefs by 7
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith
Bench: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Patrick Osborne
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moage; Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua; Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick; Angus Ta’avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney.
Bench: Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O’Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison
10:40 Brumbies vs Bulls, Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistants: Angus Gardner (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Jakes Brumbies will be burning after taking that pasting from the Stormers last week, but having travelled this week, it is not an ideal week for introspection. The Bulls, though, are on a bit of a downhill spiral and chose an ultra conservative approach last week that cost them. With Jan Serfontein in the run on XV this week, they would be better served to let the ball do a little more talking. An injury fest leaves them a smidgen light at lock, but I think they will be competitive. Competitive enough to win the game? Perhaps not …
My prediction: Brumbies by 2
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jurgen Visser, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Bench: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter.
17:05 Cheetahs vs Rebels, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistants: Lourens van der Merwe (SA), Stefan Breytenbach (SA)
TMO: Johan Greeff (SA)
My oath but the Rebels were “Rabbled” by the Sharks last weekend, and now having had to handle a post match brawl in the team bus that saw Vuna and Beale sent home, they just cannot be in a good space. But from such adversity often comes a better team understanding and spirit – if handled well. The Cheetahs are back from an amazing tour, but will have the flight in their legs. New Kiwi grass in Bloem seems to have them pretty excited about the surface, hopefully purpose built for the likes of Le Roux and Rhule to weave their magic. Brussow is on fire in a loose trio that is looking particularly slick, so going to back the home side again.
My prediction: Cheetahs by 12
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 2 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Bench: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuisen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Rebels: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Gareth Delve (captain), 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Bench: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Rory Sidey, 23 Tom English.
19:10 Stormers vs Crusaders, Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistants: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Linston Manuel (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
The Crusaders will miss the golden trio of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, but perhaps Reid the most at Newlands … He was in commanding form against the Kings last week, making 13 ball carries for a gain of 108 metres, winning 5 of the Crusaders’ 11 lineouts and stealing 2 throws off the Kings’ lineout. To my mind, he is the best player in the world at the moment. But the Stormers have issues of their own – playing a natural tighthead against perhaps the best in the business in Owen Franks, and losing lineout and scrum kingpin, Tiaan Liebenberg. If the Stormers lineout goes AWOL on Saturday, so could the scoreboard! But they were properly potent against the Brumbies last week, with Jantjies adding some very nice touches to a more attacking outlook, and I see them carrying that form into Saturday.
My prediction: Stormers by 3
Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Gerhard van den Heever, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain), 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Pat Cilliers
Bench: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Don Armand, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Damian de Allende, 22. Jaco Taute
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Johnny McNicholl, Tyler Bleyendaal, Willi Heinz, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.
Bench: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Jordan Taufua, Andy Ellis, Adam Whitelock, Zac Guildford.
Sunday 31 March
07:05 Waratahs vs Force, Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Waratahs: Israel Folau; Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell; Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin; Pat McCutcheon, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (captain); Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani; Paddy Ryan, John Ulugia, Benn Robinson.
Bench: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Mitchell Chapman, Jed Holloway, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
My prediction: Waratahs by 9