Welcome to the Super Rugby Round 1 ultimate preview, your one stop shop for details about the scintillating weekend of rugby ahead. No more will you have to stumble blindly though cyberspace looking for precious morsels of information upon which to base your tips and fantasy selections. Each week Green and Gold Rugby will be your destination for all the latest teams, changes, match history and anything else we deem useful for you as you make those valuable picks and selections. What of Round 1? Well I’m glad you asked…
Friday 18th February, 2011
Hurricanes vs. Highlanders @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 5:35pm EDST
Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14. Julian Savea, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Tyson Keats, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Jack Lam, 6. Mark Reddish, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. James Broadhurst, 3. Michael Bent, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalger. Reserves :16. Dane Coles ,17. Neemia Tialata ,18. Faifili Levave ,19. Serge Lilo ,20. Chris Eaton,21. Daniel Kirkpatrick ,22. Andre Taylor
Piri Weepu is an obvious absence, and is not expected to be back until around round 8. Karl Lowe is also on the injured list for the Canes, and should come back around the same time as Weepu. Rodney So’oialo was expected to be named on the bench but picked up an injury against the Brumbies so will have to wait another week to start his season.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 James Paterson, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Kade Poki, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 David Te Moana, 2 Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh [c]. Reserves: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Tuineau, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Siale Piutau.
The Highlanders have had a shocking pre-season in terms of injuries, losing key signing Colin Slade and All Black forward Tom Donnelly. Slade is expected to be gone for 4 weeks, Donnelly for 6. They have also lost Kurt Baker and hooker Mo Schwalger.
Recent History: Canes 5 – 0 Highlanders. That said, with the exception of 2006 every game has been bloody close, with an average margin of just 3.5 points. The closest game was last year’s fixture where the Canes won 33-31 in a Dunedin cliffhanger.
Players to Watch: For the Canes its winger Hosea Gear, who had a dynamite Spring Tour in the black jersey and scared the living shit out of both his opposite numbers and every non-All Black fan around the world. Can he pick up where he left off? I reckon he can and if the Canes get a roll on he could really do some damage out wide. For the Highlanders its pivot Lima Sopoaga, who makes his Super Rugby debut after starring in the 2009 NZ Schools side. He’s just a kid playing behind a fairly shithouse forward pack so don’t expect too much, but he is certainly one for the future.
Odds: Hurricanes $1.17, Highlanders $5.20
Rebels vs. Waratahs @ AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7:40pm EDST
Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Cooper Vuna, 11 Luke Rooney, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 Gareth Delve (vc), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Hoani Macdonald, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson. Reserves: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Danny Cipriani, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau
Adam Freier has a back injury and will be out for a couple more weeks it seems. Julian Huxley has had limited training but has been picked to play at the back. There are a few unfamiliar names to Australian fans in the forward pack, with imports from NZ (Robinson, Sommerville, O’Neill, Macdonald), England (Lipman) and Wales (Delve) making up the bulk of the pigs.
Waratahs: 15. Kurtley Beale 14. Lachie Turner 13. Rob Horne 12. Tom Carter 11. Drew Mitchell 10. Berrick Barnes 9. Luke Burgess 8. Ben Mowen 7. Phil Waugh [c] 6. Dave Dennis 5. Kane Douglas 4. Dean Mumm 3. Al Baxter 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Sekope Kepu. Reserves: 16. Damien Fitzpatrick 17. Benn Robinson 18. Sitaleki Timani 19. Chris Alcock 20. Brendan McKibbin 21. Daniel Halangahu 22. Ryan Cross.
Cliffy Palu is the only absence for the Tahs, and will be out for a few more weeks after injuring his hammy in the last trial. Rob Horne and Benn Robinson have recovered from injury to take their places, despite limited trial time in the case of Horne, and no trial time in the case of Fat Cat. Kudos to big Tom Carter for playing his 50th in blue.
Recent History: None. Although it is worth noting that the last two teams to debut in Super Rugby, the Force and Cheetahs, both lost their first encounters.
Players to Watch: The Rebels are throwing up a few interesting selections, but without doubt the player with the most ‘buzz’ is Cooper Vuna, who has apparently been tearing it up in trial matches and has already been mentioned as a World Cup bolter. It hope he can deliver on the big stage, as the Rebels will be desperately needing some momentum in the midfield. For the Tahs I’m going with Ben Mowen, who has been handed the task of filling in for Cliffy Palu at 8. Much has been said about his off-season weight gain (he put on 12kg to now weigh 114kg), and I am looking forward to seeing if this added bulk brings about a positive on-field result.
Odds: Rebels $3.35, Waratahs $1.33
Saturday 19th February, 2011
Blues vs. Crusaders @ Eden Park, Auckland, 5:35pm EDST
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16 Tom McCartney/Ash Dixon, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Sherwin Stowers
The only big absence for the Blues is Luke McAlister, who is out for a couple of weeks after being concussed in the trial against the Chiefs. Worth noting is the triumphant return of Daniel Braid to NZ domestic rugby after a successful stint with the Reds.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Tu Umaga-Marshall, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read [c], 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: 16 Francis Smith, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tom Marshall/Tyler Bleyendaal.
The Crusaders are missing three big names- Richie McCaw, Sonny-Bill Williams and Zac Guildford. SBW will be back in action next week, Guildford the week after that, and McCaw in round 5 or 6. It will also be a big day for the Whitelock family, with three brothers paying in the starting XV.
Recent History: Crusaders 4 – 1 Blues. The Crusaders have held the upper hand of late, with a 33-20 win last year at home being the most recent example. The Blues, though, did win on the one occasion the sides clashed in the first round.
Players to Watch: The bloke I’m looking forward to seeing most in this game is the Blues’ Ali Williams. After a long stint on the sidelines with a dodgy Achilles he has recently returned to fitness during a stint with Nottingham and is apparently ready and raring to go. He is looking to push for a World Cup spot and this would be good time to start. On the other side of the equation I reckon Matt Todd is the man to watch. Filling Richie McCaw’s boots is no easy task, but this bloke has been an NPC standout for the last couple of seasons and now gets a few weeks to prove his worth in the big league.
Odds: Blues $2.05, Crusaders $1.78
Brumbies vs. Chiefs @ Canberra Stadium, Canberra, 7:40pm EDST
Brumbies: 15. Pat McCabe, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Robbie Coleman, 11. Francis Fainifo, 10. Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8. Ita Vaea, 7. Julian Salvi, 6. Mitchell Chapman, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Ben Hand, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Salesi Ma’afu, 18. Stephen Hoiles, 19. Colby Faingaa, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Matt Toomua, 22. Andrew Smith
The major loss for the Brumbies has been Rocky Elsom, who will miss at least 4 weeks. Stephen Hoiles is starting from the bench after recovering from injury, and is expected to play the last 20-30.
Chiefs: 15. Mils Muliaina [c], 14. Tim Nanai-Williams, 13. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Tana Umaga, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Stephen Donald, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Fritz Lee, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Romana Graham, 4. Craig Clarke, 3. Nathan White, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 1. Ben May. Reserves: , 16. Toby Smith , 17. Daniel Perrin , 18. Hayden Triggs , 19. Scott Waldrom , 20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow , 21. Jackson Willison , 22. Lelia Masaga.
The Chiefs have a long injury list. Richard Kahui is out for at least four weeks, with Hika Elliot, Issac Ross and Mike Delany also on the sidelines for short periods with minor ailments. Colin Bourke is out for at least 8 weeks.
Recent History: Brumbies 3 – 2 Chiefs. These teams have been very evenly matched, with the margin going over ten points only once. The Brumbies chalked up a 30-23 win at home last year. It is worth noting that the Brumbies have only lost one first round game in the last five years, whilst the Chiefs have only won one (which was by one point over the Sharks last year).
Players to Watch: I’ll be watching Matt Giteau closely this weekend. Having revealed the worst kept secret in Rugby (that he is heading to Toulon next year), he now takes on both the captaincy and the 10 jersey with all eyes watching. With a few new faces in the backline he will need to step up and steer the Ponies home. For the Chiefs I will be looking at Tim Nanai-Williams. He has been making big waves in the NZ domestic scene, and will no doubt have plenty of attacking opportunities playing alongside Mils and Sivi at the back.
Odds: Brumbies $1.74, Chiefs $2.11
Sharks vs. Cheetahs @ Shark Tank, Durban, 2:05am EDST
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie Du Plessis, 2. Bismark Du Plessis, 1. John Smit (c), Reserves: 16. Beast Mtawarira, 17. Eugene Van Staden, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Keegan Daniel, 20. Conrad Hoffman, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Adrian Jacobs
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
The Cheetahs have lost both of their back row giants, with Heinrich Brussow out for a couple of weeks recovering from knee surgery last year, and Juan Smith out with a calf strain for an undisclosed period.
Recent History: Cheetahs 3 – 2 Sharks. Believe it or not the Cheetahs have won two on the trot against their South African counterpart, the last game being a 25-20 away win in Durban. Games tend to be high scoring affairs, with an average of 42 points scored in total.
Players to Watch: The player in the Sharks lineup that I want to see is the battleship himself, Bismark Du Plessis. Missed the Tri-Nations through injury, and returned on the Spring Tour to rave reviews. On his day he is easily the best hooker in the world, and he will be hoping to dominate the Cheetahs scrum as part of the Sharks sizeable front row. In the Cheetahs lineup the name that stands out to me is the battleship’s opponent, Adrian Strauss. Without Smith and Brussow the Cheetahs are going to need someone to step up big time, and it has to be this guy. A wealth of experience at Super level and a handful of Springbok caps to boot, it’s up to him to get this very inexperienced Cheetahs side home.
Odds: Sharks $1.21, Cheetahs $4.50
Lions vs. Bulls @ Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg, 4:10am EDST
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Derrick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (capt), 4 George Earle, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Wikus van Heerden, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Burton Francis, 22 James Kamana.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp. Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
The reigning champs start their title defence without the services of Francois Hougaard and Jaco Pretorius, who both have stress fractures. Both should return next week however. Zane Kirchner has been named despite battling a rib injury through the week.
Recent History: Bulls 5 – 0 Lions. Unsurprisingly the Bulls have been totally dominant over the Lions, winning each of their past 5 encounters comfortably with the exception of a 7 point away win in 2009. They restored order in 2010 with a 51-11 home drubbing.
Players to Watch: For the Lions I will be watching crafty halfback Jano Vermaak at work. He has been one of the Lions standout players in the past two seasons, and will look to push for a spot in the Boks World Cup squad. He has the ability to spark the backline into action, and seems to be one of the few Lions who knows how to tackle. In the defending champs corner I reckon it will be a big weekend for Gurthro Steenkamp. After easily usurping Phil Waugh’s record as the ugliest man ever to play test rugby, he has set about becoming one of the world’s premier loosehead props. Expect him to make mincemeat of the Lions pack, and be a wrecking ball in defence.
Odds: Lions $5.75, Bulls $1.14
Sunday 20th February, 2011
Reds vs. Western Force @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 5:40 EDST
Reds: 15. Peter Hynes, 14. Rod Davies, 13. Will Chambers, 12. Anthony Faingaa, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia; 8. Leroy Houston, 7. Ed Quirk, 6. James Horwill, 5. Rob Simmons, 4. Van Humphries, 3. James Slipper, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Ben Daley. Res: 16. James Hanson, 17. Greg Holmes, 18. Scott Higginbotham, 19. Beau Robinson, 20. Ben Lucas, 21. Mike Harris, 22. Aidan Toua.
The Reds are firing on all cylinders for the first round, with no injuries to speak of. James Horwill moves to the side of the scrum to allow Van the Man and Rob Simmons to make up a sizeable second row.
Force: 15. Cameron Shepherd, 14. Nick Cummins, 13. Mitch Inman, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 11. David Smith, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Richard Brown, 7. David Pocock, 6. Matt Hodgson, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 4. Ben McCalman, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Ben Whittaker, 1. Pek Cowan, Reserves: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Kieran Longbottom, 18. Sam Wykes, 19. Tevita Metuisela, 20. James Stannard, 21. Alfie Mafi, 22. Rory Sidey
Recent History: Reds 3 – 2 Force. This two share an interesting history, as the side with home ground advantage has won every time. And each win has been convincing- the average margin has been a whopping 26 points, with last year’s 50-10 blowout (in favour of the Reds) the biggest of the lot.
Players to Watch: For the home side I can’t go past Digby Ioane. Having missed the bulk of the international season with injury, the human wrecking ball is back and by all accounts better than ever. Last year he was a key man in an electric backline, and combines with Quade Cooper as well as tomato sauce combines with a meat pie. I can’t wait to see him in action. Of the boys from the West I will have my eyes on Mitch Inman. Coming off a stellar first season for the Force in 2010, he faces a huge test marking Will Chambers in midfield. If he can get the Force moving forward and shut down the dynamic Reds centres, then his odds for a smoky World Cup jersey will shorten considerably. If he is off his game then Quade Cooper will make him pay dearly.
Odds: Reds $1.25, Force $4.00
Note: All of the teams are listed in convenient table form on our Ruggapedia. Add it as a favourite as it will be updated as teams are released and late changes are made. It’s at: https://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/forum/showwiki/2011+Super+Rugby+Season
Also, the odds come from our friends at Centrebet.com. If you want to invest or just look around, have a look: http://affiliates.centrebet.com/processing/clickthrgh.asp?btag=a_6570b_2547