Sharks and Bulls to win

In his weekly Super Rugby preview, Grunt editor Tank Lanning reckons the Sharks will have too much in the tank for the Stormers to handle.

A nice balance this week for those of us needing to manage the weekends so as to include tea with aunty Maizy in order to keep our place in the coital cot … Friday night completely free – so make the most of it, because on Saturday evening it’s four hours of coolerbox emptying while trying not to burn the boerrie as the Bulls bury the Force and the Sharks prove too hot to handle for the Stormers.

And on Saturday morning, you can earn those beers by taking in the Cheetahs trying to defy all odds against the Chiefs while on a spin bike at the gym …

Friday 01 Mar

08:30 Blues vs Crusaders, Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)

A first look at the Whitelock brothers masquerading as the Crusaders … Against a Blues side that surprised this fat prop against the Canes last week. There is indeed life after Pat Lam it seems! And at Auckland Park this will be a big ask for the Saders. But my word it’s tough to bet against Fruean, Dagg, Carter, Ellis, Read, Franks and Crockett – especially given that they are not shy of winning on the road! Crusaders not shy of a slow start to this tournament though, so going with the home side.

My prediction: Blues by 5

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.

Bench: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Bryn Hall, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.

Crusaders: Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.

Bench: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Tom Marshall.


10:20 Waratahs vs Rebels, Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)

To be honest, I am more interested in the referee, who I played against when playing for Cascais in Portugal about 100 years ago!

My prediction: Tahs by 7

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Tom Kingston, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Kane Douglas, Mitchell Chapman, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

Bench: John Ulugia, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola.

Rebels: James O’Connor (c), Lachlan Mitchell, Mitch Inman, Rory Sidey, Richard Kingi, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson.

Bench: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Jordy Reid, Jarrod Saffy, Nic Stirzaker, Angus Roberts, Tom English.


12:20 Reds vs Hurricanes, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

The problem with not watching the Aussie snoreathons as that I have no idea how well or badly the Reds played last week. I do know that the Canes scored a few sensational tries in going down to the Blues though. Reds are probably favourites, but I am a sucker for Taylor and Smith – who insists he was not concussed even though he cannot remember what colour undies he wore on the day!

My prediction: Canes by 9

Reds: Aiden Toua, Dom Shipperley, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, Ed O’Donoghue, Rob Simmons, James Slipper (captain), Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes.

Bench: James Hanson, Albert Anae, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Radike Samo, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris, Luke Morahan.

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks.

Bench: Motu Matu’u, Reg Goodes, James Broadhurst, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Reynold Lee-Lo.


Saturday 02 Mar

08:35 Chiefs vs Cheetahs, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistants: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

There is an upset in every round is there not? Might as well be the Cheetahs this week … But alas. As good as their comeback was against the Sharks last week, with Goosen eventually deciding to play a little, and get his backline away, I can’t see them pulling off the miraculous against the defending champs – who looked pretty damn good last week! Johann Sadies is going to have his hands full against piping hot stepper Tim Nanai-Williams, as will Goosen against Cruden. Sarel Pretorius is back in the mix, but he is more inclined to go it alone rather than hand the good ball to Goosen, hence him being either “Shit or Champagne”. Philip van der Walt continues where he left off last season, and that path is toward higher honours. But this is a bridge too far for the Bloem boys.

My prediction: Chiefs by 14

Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Bundee Aki, Asaeli,  Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu, Fritz Lee, Sam Cane, Liam  Messam (c), Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Afeaki, Hika  Elliot, Pauliasi Manu

Bench: Rhys Marshall, Ben Tameifuna, Craig Clarke, Tanerau Latimer, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Charlie Ngatai, Patrick Osborne

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.

Bench: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.


17:05 Bulls vs Force, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistants: Lourens van der Merwe, Sieg van Staden
TMO: Johan Greeff

I have a feeling this game will put the Kings win into perspective … Although, that said, last week’s win over a less than impressive Stormers side was not hugely convincing or entertaining. Mapoe moves to centre, where he has done well it must be said, but it would have been a fantastic opportunity to give Jan Serfontein a run. Instead we get Sampie Mastriet … Morne Steyn to boss possession and territory and the Force to fold under the pressure in the second half.

My prediction: Bulls by 28

Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Mornè Mellett.

Bench: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouchè , 22 Jan Serfontein.

Force: TBA


19:10 Sharks vs Stormers, Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistants: Jaco Peyper, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

The icing on the cake this weekend? Although I expect another dull kickfest filled with errors sadly. But it will be a bruiser. Having brought in Deysel to take on Elstadt, It looks like John Plumtree is expecting the same sort of game. Although the likes of Coetzee and Kankowski will be trying their damndest to move it around a little, hoping to bring their backs into the game. A lot might come down to the lineouts, and if the Stormers reproduce last weekend’s effort in that department, they will take proper pain. The Stormers scrum also looked shaky against the Bulls, hence the change that see young Frans Malherbe brought in to tame the Beast. Big call, and certainly a hinging point of the match. Probably fair to give Jantjies another run, and without the kicking duties (Pietersen will take those), he might be freed up to turn it on as a carrier and distributor. I am yet to be convinced that he is a good fit for the defensive minded Stormers though. Stormers a bit of a work in progress it seems, and quite a lot of work still to be done.

My prediction: Sharks by 7

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Francois Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Bench: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Odwa Ndungane

Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Nic Groom, 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. Steven Kitshoff

Bench: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Don Armand, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Peter Grant, 22. Gerhard van den Heever