Will an industrial scrum and an iron clad lineout be enough to get the Sharks passed the Saders? Take in the weekend’s teams, times, refs, Superbru radar, odds and Tank Lanning’s predictions.
“If everyone just accepts that in this competition the first and second placed teams always contest the final, and that the winner always comes out of those two teams, then we might as well scrap the playoffs because then they are a waste of time,” said Jake White after their win at Newlands 2 weeks ago.
Yes he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when saying this, but perhaps he has a point? Given how badly the odds are stacked against his Durban boys, the whole escapade Down Under just seems a smidgen futile. And while the coach has gone on to suggest that records and trends are there to be broken, White is the first coach to haul out the history books when defending selections or decisions.
History, the odds, and the stats all say this particular mountain is too high, and while I thought there was a chance of an upset in the quarters, I cannot see either the Crusaders or Waratahs getting derailed at this stage of the tournament.
The Crusaders have won 5 of 6 home games against the Sharks since 2006, though that single defeat did come earlier this season in that crazy game that saw the Sharks playing with 14 men for most of it. It is not surprising to see that the Sharks have made (31) and received (30.4) more kicks from hand per game than any other side. That is the game they play. Yet they have also averaged the most turnovers conceded per game (16.5) in this year’s tournament! The Crusaders will look to pounce on that turnover ball, and having conceded fewer penalties than any other team, an average of 9.5 per game, their aim will be to make it tricky for Pat Lambie to get free kicks into touch. Which is definitely something the returning Sharks pivot will be aiming to do given that Stephan Lewies tops the charts for lineouts won (77) and lineout steals this season (10). The Crusaders’ opponents have a Super Rugby low lineout success rate of 78% though, while their own lineout success rate of 88.8% is actually marginally better than the Sharks. The Crusaders also have a better scrum success rate than the Sharks, meaning young Thomas du Toit and Jannie du Plessis are not going to enjoy the free ride they got last week. And if looking to pull a rabbit out the hat, the visitors will want to be particularly vigilant toward the backend of the game, because in the final quarter of matches, the Crusaders’ points difference is +62 to the Sharks’ +24. In a nutshell, the Crusaders are simply never out of a game!
In Sydney, it also looks an Everest like mountain for the Brumbies, who’s goal-kicking (63%) and scrum success rates (76%) remain the lowest in the tournament. The Waratahs have been attacking machines, topping the charts for most carries, metres, offloads, passes and clean breaks per game. They have averaged fewer missed tackles per game (14.5) than any other side and averaged fewer kicks from hand (16.3) per game than any other side. The Brumbies, on de udder hand, rank last for average turnovers won, just 5.8 per match, while the Waratahs have averaged more points scored (30.1) and fewer conceded (17) than any other side in this campaign. These Tahs look unstoppable this year!
To the weekend then …
Saturday, July 26
09:35 – Crusaders vs Sharks, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Mike Fraser
Tank’s prediction: CRUSADERS to beat Sharks by 9
SuperBru Community: CRUSADERS (62%) to beat Sharks by 3
OddsChecker: CRUSADERS (4/11) to beat Sharks (11/4)
Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Pat Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Thomas du Toit
Bench: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. S’bura Sithole, 23. Tonderai Chavhanga
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Bench: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
11:40 – Waratahs vs Brumbies, Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, James Leckie
Tank’s prediction: WARATAHS to beat Brumbies by 12
SuperBru Community: WARATAHS (86%) to beat Brumbies by 6
OddsChecker: WARATAHS (2/5) to beat Brumbies (5/2)
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Bench (from): 16 Paddy Ryan, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Tolu Latu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitchell Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 24 Matt Carraro, 25 Mitchell Chapman
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Leon Power, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Bench: 16 Ruaidhri Murphy, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe.