This is the Super Rugby Ultimate Preview, your one-stop shop for everything you need to know for those all-important tips or fantasy transfers. As always the Brown Hornet is on board, providing his well thought-out tips for each fixture.
Friday 22nd April
Blues v. Rebels @ Eden Park, Auckland 5:35pm AEST
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Chris Lowrey, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Lachie Munro.
IN: Stanley, Williams, Woodcock, Morland
OUT: McAlister, Haiu, Mailau, Manu, Smylie
A couple of changes for the Blues, with McAlister benched after copping a knock against the Tahs and veterans Tony Woodcock and Ali Williams returning from injury..
Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (vc), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Alister Campbell, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake. Reserves: 16 Heath Tessman, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Hoani McDonald, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Luke Rooney.
IN: Huxley, Mortlock
OUT: Kingi, Hilgendorf, Byrnes, Taumoepeau
Huxley and Mortlock return from injury to bolster the Rebels backline, with Kingi and Hilgendorf the unfortunate victims.
Recent History: No history
Last 5: Blues WWWxW, Rebels LWWxL
Hornet’s Tip: The Blues were mighty impressive last week against the Tahs and ran in five superb tries in the first half. They were outscored in the second half, but by then the sting had gone out of the game. They are playing terrific attacking footy and their defence isn’t too shabby either. The Rebels, by contrast, were not mighty impressive in their spanking at the hands of the high-flying Highlanders. Their defence was terrible, especially in the midfield, and that is absolutely not the area where they will want to slip up this week. It’s hard to see anything other than a Blues victory and I’m tipping them by 15.
Odds: Blues$1.03, Rebels$13.00
Saturday 23rd April
Crusaders v. Highlanders @ Trafalgar Park, Nelson 5:35pm AEST
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Andy Ellis (c), 8 Joe Wheeler, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Sonny Bill Williams, 22 Sean Maitland.
IN: Marshall, A. Whitelock, Ellis, Wheeler, MacDonald, Crockett, Poff
OUT: Maitland, Williams, Fotuali’i, Read, Flynn, B. Franks, McCaw
Todd Blackadder is resting plenty of frontline troops this week, and FANTASY PLAYERS MUST TAKE NOTE. Out go Maitland, SBW, Fotuali’i, Read, Flynn and Franks, with McCaw and Carter both out injured. Andy Ellis takes over the captaincy.
Highlanders: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 James Paterson, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Ben Smith, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 Telusa Veainu.
IN: Robinson, Paterson, Brown, Hardie, Donnelly, Schwalger, Boys, Romans, Saunders, Veainu
OUT: Poki, Treeby, Slade, Thomson, Soakai, Rutledge, Mitchell, Cowan
Jamie Joseph says to Blackadder ‘anything you can do, I can do better’, and takes out seven frontline players in Poki, Treeby, Slade, Thomson, Soakai, Rutledge and Cowan. Admittedly Slade is gone due to a season ending jaw injury and Thomson, Treeby, Soakai and Poki succumbed to minor ailments, but it is an impressive list of exclusions all the same.
Recent History: Crusaders 3 – 2 Highlanders. This is the second meeting of these two sides this season. The Crusaders comfortably took the Round 5 clash in Dunedin 44–13..
Last 5: Crusaders WWxWW, Highlanders LxWWW
Hornet’s Tip: What a cracking game this promises to be, although it’s a shame a lot of the main attractions are either injured or riding the pine. The Crusaders just keep bulldozing through all who come before them and have skilfully adapted their game to suit the circumstances each week. They really couldn’t be any more impressive than they’ve been so far. The same goes for the Highlanders, frankly. Completely unheralded at the beginning of the season, they’ve done more or less the same that the Cru have managed. The two teams match up very well, especially in the pack. Out in the backs, it’s fair to say the Cru have the edge, with the pace and skills of a still-effective midfield and Dagg scything in from fullback. That’s why I’m tipping them to win this weekend, but only just. Cru by 4.
Odds: Crusaders$1.12, Highlanders$6.40
Reds v. Waratahs @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 7:40pm AEST
Reds: 15. Ben Lucas, 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 12. Mike Harris, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia; 8. Scott Higginbotham, 7. Beau Robinson, 6. Radike Samo, 5. James Horwill (c), 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Guy Shepherdson, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Ben Daley. Reserves: 16. James Hanson, 17. Greg Holmes, 18. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19. Leroy Houston, 20. Liam Gill, 21. Will Chambers, 22. Dom Shipperley.
IN: Lucas, Shepherdson, Houston, Shipperley
OUT: Davies, Slipper, Schatz
The Reds lose a couple of key men with injury – Rod Davies and James Slipper. Lucas and Shepherdson step up in their abscence.
Waratahs: 15. Lachie Turner, 14. Tom Kingston, 13. Ryan Cross, 12. Tom Carter, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Kurtley Beale, 9. Luke Burgess, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Phil Waugh (c), 6. Ben Mowen, 5. Sitaleki Timani, 4. Dean Mumm, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson. Reserves: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Al Baxter, 18. Kane Douglas, 19. Dave Dennis, 20. Pat McCutcheon, 21. Brendan McKibbin, 22. Daniel Halangahu.
IN: Carter, Palu, Waugh, Timani
OUT: Halangahu, Anesi, McCutcheon, Dennis, Douglas, Alcock, O’Connor
Carter, Palu and Waugh all return from injury (thank Christ), with Timani replacing Douglas.
Recent History: Waratahs 5 – 0 Reds. The Reds will still be smarting after their 30-6 thumping at ANZ Stadium in Round 2, and will be out to break the hoodoo this weekend.
Last 5: Reds WWWWW, Waratahs LWWWL
Hornet’s Tip: Another potentially mouthwatering match-up. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the Tahs outmuscled the Reds in February. The Reds have smartened up their game considerably and have a fantastic balance between solid forward play and that electric backline, expertly guided by Genia and Cooper. They have also been able to adapt their game to suit their opposition and will be a lot cannier this time round. The Tahs are sort of going sideways at the moment. They’ve had a few good wins, some not-so-impressive ones and some lamentable efforts (like the first 40 against the Blues last week). They will need to be super-switched on against the Reds at the breakdown and the line-out, to say nothing of the job they’ve got ahead of them containing the white-hot Reds backline. I think this will be an arm wrestle, but the Reds are playing the better footy right now and should take it — but only by 5.
Odds: Reds $1.54, Waratahs $2.51
Force v. Bulls @ nib Stadium, Perth 10:05pm AEST
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 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 (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling. Reserves: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Danie Russouw, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Flip van der Merwe, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
IN: Du Preez, Stegmann, van der Merwe, van der Westhuyzen
OUT: van den Heever, Kuün, Ndungane
Francois Hougaard returns to the wing and FdP takes back the 9 jersey. Stegmann comes back in to the XV in place of Kuün.
Recent History: Force 2 – 3 Bulls. The Force have a fairly good record against the reigning premiers, with wins notched in 2007 and 2008. The Bulls won in Perth last year 28–15.
Last 5: Force WLLLW, Bulls xLWWLL
Hornet’s Tip: A battle between two battling teams. The Force eked out a win in Canberra last weekend by doing just enough of the right things at the right time. They are going to have to do much better this week, as they won’t have it all their own way in the line-out and the breakdown will be a massive clash. Also, there are still worries about the lack of attacking firepower out in the backline. The Bulls are probably feeling pretty stuffed after a long road trip where they’ve come up with not a great deal to show for it. They will try to blow the Force off the park in the forwards and keep the scoreboard ticking away through Steyn’s boot. This will be a fairly dour struggle I suspect, as neither team is exactly lighting it up in attack. I’m tipping the Bulls by 3.
Odds: Force $2.21, Bulls$1.68
Sunday 24th April
Sharks v. Hurricanes @ ABSA Stadium, Durban 1:05am AEST
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Lwazi Mvovo, 13. Stefan Terblanche (c), 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Ross Skeate, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Eugene van Staden, 2. John Smit, 1. Tendai Mtawarira . Reserves: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Gerhard Mostert, 19. Keegan Daniel, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. Odwa Ndungane.
IN: Mtawarira, Skeate, Botes, Lambie, Mvovo, Burden
OUT: B. du Plessis, Mostert, Daniel, Potgieter, Ndungane
Plenty of changes for the Sharks, the main ones being the return of prodigal son Patrick Lambie and the absence of titanic hooker Bismark du Plessis.
Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Jayden Hayward, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9. Tyson Keats, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jack Lam, 5. James Broadhurst, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalger. Reserves: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Michael Bent, 18. Jason Eaton, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Chris Eaton, 21. Beauden Barrett, 22. Andre Taylor.
IN: Jane, Tialata
OUT: Taylor, Bent, Ngatai
Only a couple of changes for the Canes, with Cory Jane returning to the side after the birth of his child.
Recent History: Sharks 3 – 1 Hurricanes. The Sharks have been pretty dominant of late against the Canes, with a 2008 13–13 draw and a 2006 Canes win the only blots in the copybook. Last year they took it out 29–26 in Wellington.
Last 5: Sharks LLLWx, Hurricanes – LLLLW
Hornet’s Tip: In spite of losing a few, the Sharks haven’t been too bad this season. They’ve got a big bruising pack and some backs who are quick and skilfull. They are playing at home, which is always a bonus, and they are coming up against a team who really aren’t playing that well. The Hurricanes have had a poor season by their standards and even though they won last week, this will be a tall order for them. Their pack will really have to front up and neutralise the threat that the Sharks’ big boys like Alberts, Beast and Sykes present. They’ve got a great set of backs, so if they get some decent ball you never know. I’m gonna go with the Shorks though, by 8.
Odds: Sharks $1.26, Hurricanes$3.90
Lions v. Chiefs @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg 3:10am AEST
Lions: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies La Grange (c), 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Wikus van Heerden, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute.
IN: van der Merwe, Cilliers, Bezuidenhout, Marutlulle, Buys
OUT: de Villiers, Adriaanse, Maku, van Schalkwyk
Three changes in the tight five for the Lions, with de Villiers, Adriaanse and Maku making way.
Chiefs: 15. Mils Muliaina (c), 14. Lelia Masaga, 13. Richard Kahui, 12. Dwayne Sweeney, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Stephen Donald, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Fritz Lee, 7. Scott Waldrom, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Craig Clarke, 4. Romana Graham, 3. Ben Afeaki, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 1. Toby Smith. Reserves: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Nathan White, 18. Hayden Triggs, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Taniwha Kerr-Barlow, 21. Tim Nanai-Williams, 22. Save Tokula.
IN: Donald, Waldrom, Clarke, de Malmanche, Triggs, Cane, Tokula
OUT: Delany, Latimer, Ross, Elliot, Umaga
Stephen Donald returns in place of Delany, while Waldrom comes in for the injured Latimer.
Recent History: Lions 2 – 3 Chiefs. This clash has been fairly tight over the years, but also very high-scoring: the historical average is 68 points per game. Last year’s 72–65 Chiefs win set the record for most points and least tackles made in a match.
Last 5: Lions LLLLL, Chiefs WLLxL
Hornet’s Tip: Another game between two battlers. The Lions have won just a solitary game this season, but they’ve been close on a number of occasions. They’ve shown signs of improvement under John Mitchell, but don’t really have a lot to show for it. The Chiefs have lived up to their usual reputation of putting in some good performances, followed by some pretty tragic ones. It’s a real head scratcher, this. Can I tip a draw? With one arm twisted, I’m going with the Chiefs by 5.
Odds: Lions$2.32, Chiefs $1.62
The Bet: A last-minute try to the Hurricanes blew our multi-bet, and instead of rolling in fistfulls of cash we are now sitting on just an $8 profit. Fuck you, Cheetahs. This week is a tough betting week, but I have a pretty good tip in the ‘festival of hate’ at Suncorp: forget Round 2, this game is going to be a tight, brutal encounter. With Carter, Palu and Waugh back the Tahs will be there to play, and I can see them just edging this one in front of a packed house at Suncorp. Am I biased? In a word, yes. But the Tahs always lift for this one, and recently the Reds have done the opposite. So:
Take the Waratahs 1-12 at $3.35 with Centrebet
Come and get me.